Software is becoming the key driver in enterprises, in their push towards greater efficiencies. Even in the backdrop of the downturn in technology, one of the first areas which will recover is enterprise software. Enterprises have made investments in computing and communications, providing enough horsepower to their various departments and connecting all their branches and offices. However, information still sits in silos. What is needed is just-in-time information, aggregated from disparate databases and delivered to a corporate portal customised for each employee.
The key trends in software going ahead are:
Web Services: Companies are looking at using standards like XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI to create “Software Lego” which can be put together from components across the web, to enable applications to talk to each other. (See an earlier Tech Talk on Web Services for more details).
Integrated Suite: What has happened with the desktop productivity applications is likely to happen with enterprise applications. Just as companies like Microsoft and Lotus combined a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications into an integrated suite, so too are companies like Oracle looking to do with ERP, CRM and SCM applications. The promise: enter data once, no need to spend on middleware to glue silos of information together. While this may not be easy to implement in the bigger enterprises who already have many software systems already in place, it is very much applicable to the smaller and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Open Source: Linux and Apache have made headway on the server side in various organizations. In the coming years, more Open Source applications are likely to make their way into enterprises.
Subscriptions: The shift in the coming years is from packaged software to subscriptions. This is being driven by ASPs. For example, Oracle offers a Small Business Suite (powered by NetLedger) which comprises offers accounting, sales force automation (SFA), customer support, and Web store and order management. The price: $99 a month for one website and two users, with each additional user joining at $50 per month.
Real-Time Computing: Applications need to become event-driven, moving away from from the time-tested request-reply formula. Software needs to deliver the information needed in real-time to support decision making. Writes Kevin Werbach in Release 1.0:
Realtime enterprise computing promises that business applications and processes running across the Internet will deliver the performance of software on local desktops. As companies deploy Web-services architectures to link applications and systems, they and their users will want the same interactive experience they expect from traditional tightly coupled systems. The current Web page metaphor requires time for pages to reload whenever something changes. Realtime applications respond immediately to your actions.
Delivering realtime computing requires new technology. Truly interactive Web applications will need an asynchronous event-driven messaging environment to communicate between browsers, devices and other endpoints. That means replacing or augmenting the request/response transport paradigm of the Web’s hypertext transfer protocol.
The critical elements of realtime computing are interactivity, reliability and security. The Internet gave up these characteristics in exchange for simplicity, compatibility and extensibility; the challenge now is to marry realtime qualities with the best aspects of the Net. The initial benefit will be cost reduction, but this development will ultimately lead to more decentralized, more responsive businesses, where participants see and interact with decisions as they happen.
This is the vision of the software-powered Real-Time Enterprise. It does not matter where the enterprise in – this is what it needs to become to stay competitive and thrive in global markets. In tomorrow’s column, we will examine how the software industry can innovate to reach out to enterprises in emerging markets.