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March 2013, Volume 2, Number 3

Embracing chaos theory as part of enterprise IT strategy

When it comes to enterprise IT strategy, the basic model most shops have used to guide provisioning and operations is broken. It’s based on the ideal of straight-line extrapolation, which is belied every year by chaos theory and Moore’s Law, as well as less-obvious industry shifts and capriciousness in customer demand. But old habits die hard—especially habits so tied to our natural desire for rational, gradual change. Both real and fictional situations are often breezily explained through chaos theory. Few are genuinely familiar with the gnarly math of complex systems, but something like the butterfly effect (“A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, and we get a hurricane off the coast of Florida”) captures the imagination. Chaos is now a staple of pop culture. But people don’t really like chaos itself. We like things that are smooth, regular and symmetrical. Things that are orderly, straightforward and consistently play out in predictable ways. But the world doesn’t work that way—at least, not for long, and not in general. ...

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