The future is a fabric – look at Sonos for a clue

I like music, always have, but I’m no audiophile, I guess few people really are nowadays, but I do like listening to a wide variety of loud music and VERY loud films

Buying the components

Growing up I always used to have separates in my music system, so I could choose the best Amp, the best CD Player and the most suitable speakers for my environment. It was expensive, very manual, but I would argue that each of the components made a difference, if I wanted it louder I could change the Amp, bigger room then I could change or add speakers. I could scale each component always ensuring I got the ‘best of breed’ that was most appropriate for my needs. (Buy it, build it with best of breed components and manage it yourself manually). The traditional way that we’ve built IT infrastructures, this has a lot of limitations though.

I needed something a little more portable, something for the kitchen, so I also bought a Bose Sound dock, it was good, very good, everything in one neat little box and it sat in my kitchen for many years. It was also very limited though, I had to physically connect my iPod to it and I couldn’t simply add more if I wanted to extend the system around my house and play music in different rooms. I ended up with music silos, much like the technology silos in many companies data centres.


When I moved into my new house there was a big seperates system in place, albeit they had added little automation panels on the walls of all of the main rooms, so now I could have my ‘best of breed’ components but with a level of automation that I didn’t have before. (Buy it, have best of breed components with a level of Automation, I think of this like a Converged Infrastructure). Pretty simple to run and to manage, still best of breed and for my home theatre system this is what I still run as for me this is a workload that really benefits from this approach.

Enter Sonos


The Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) of the Music world. Aside from my home theatre, I ripped out the system described above as soon as I moved in, I wanted to be able to manage everything from my iPhone and use the Sonos Software as the virtualisation layer to integrate iTunes, Spotify, Rdo and many many more music streaming applications and I was prepared to make small compromises to get this. I was happy to use the Hyperconverged Sonos systems as the building blocks for my music. Technically are they the best speakers? Probably not, do they have the best amplifiers in them? Probably not, are they cheaper? Definitely not. But they are very good and the convenience of being able to add Sonos nodes in different rooms of different sizes that all function as a single cluster, being able to run many many different music streaming apps on the Sonos virtualization layer and the ability to run all of this through a simple and elegant iPhone app that manages everything for me meant I was happy. Sonos for me is the HCI of the music world (This post is in no way funded or sponsored by Sonos)

The real benefit is not the hardware, albeit it’s pretty good, it’s the Fabric, I still have my best of breed system for my home cinema, in fact I just upgraded it and I was happy to pay more in order to get the advantages that it offers. When I watch a film I want to hear the details of what’s happening all around me, I want the sofa to shake and my teeth to rattle when there’s an explosion, but I also want it be be a part of my Sonos Fabric so that I can stream music to it and control it through a single clean interface. How long will I continue to buy this way? I don’t know, I’ve just upgraded so I won’t be changing any time soon, but when the time comes I’ll be open to new approaches, sound bars and subs, but for now in my opinion these are not as good, however technology moves fast.

For me this is where Generation 2 of HCI is positioned, it’s kind of where IT is moving to and people love it. Aside from my Cinema system, don’t spend time telling me that your speakers have a higher output or better tweeters because I DON’T CARE, or that your AMP has more input and output connections because again, I DON’T CARE. This is just my maybe odd view of the world and I know that no analogy stands up to too much scrutiny, but I think it’s a viewpoint worth considering in the discussion around the evolution of IT albeit one from outside of the world of IT infrastructure.

When I think about IT imperatives, those areas that most companies I meet with are focused on, Modernise, build a Next Generation Data Center and harness the Hybrid Cloud they tie in very well to the above, I continue to modernise my cinema system with best of breed components and am always looking for new features that will improve this, I’ve taken a Next Generation approach for the rest of my house with my Sonos system which has given me have a fabric that allows me to be able to store my music in the Cloud or stream from MaaS (Music as a Service providers) across all elements of my environment.

I started by saying the future is a fabric, however with NetApp this fabric for your Data Centre exists today and is just getting better and better with every software release, every technology innovation and the increasing strength of our partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft and others.

Is it time you stopped buying a product and focus on building a fabric?


  1. I like the analogy, well done Matt. And now this HCI from Sonos is connecting to Alexa from AWS and gets voice-controlled. It’s all about API’s.

  2. … Taking SONOS as an example… you do make a point. But – and here’s the strong objection from my side:
    If “The Fabric” is going to ignore real security threats the way SONOS does… I strongly oppose against it.

    Sonos is constantly defining darkness as state of the art – and trying to hide. Something I really hate.

    1. No analogy stands up to too much scrutiny, you’re absolutely right to be concerned about security and we take this very seriously in our Data Fabric, we’re well down the path of implementing encryption with on box and off box key management and have a strong ongoing roadmap for this. Your local SE can give you an update under NDA to see what our next steps are…Matt

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