TECH TALK: Disruptive Technologies: The Software Utility

The information complexity in the world is increasing. Thanks to the Internet, there is more information available than ever before – both at the consumer level and in enterprises. Writes Andreas Stavropoulos in (August 21, 2001):

The world of information they are asked to manage is becoming more complex all the time. For one, handheld and mobile devices proliferate; whether they’re hanging from our belts or tucked in a coat pocket, chances are most of us have come to depend on cell phones, PDAs and an assortment of “smart” gadgets to keep us plugged in to the information flow.

For another, the velocity of information has greatly increased as new software packages and, more importantly, new business processes are implemented to cope with real-time data availability. The challenge of maintaining such real-time information views–that is, ones that are complete, current and consistent across different IT systems–is significant: It often requires a major overhaul or rebuilding of a business’s information infrastructure.

At the same time, the “walls” of enterprises are falling: Software-enabled horizontal and vertical intra-enterprise collaboration cuts across traditional functional silos. Business partners, sellers and customers are allowed selective access and control over the enterprise’s resources, linked by collaborative commerce, supply-chain optimization, applications, and so on.

While Blade Servers are enabling the creation of the computational utility, Web Services are helping build out the software utility. The first step towards this is the Application Service Provider (ASP) who offers software on subscription rather than a large upfront payment. ASPs bring down the entry barrier in terms of cost and deployment time by offering a standardised, one-size-fits-all product.

This change is illustrated by Adobe’s decision to use for its sales force. Says Business Week (August 27, 2001):

Late last year, when the economic ice storm howled into Silicon Valley, software maker Adobe Systems Inc. had been toying with the idea of buying a $10 million system for managing its sales operations. Instead, to hold down costs, it signed up with an Internet company, Inc., which provides 200 salespeople with up-to-the-minute information about their customers and sales activities via any Web browser. The cost: a mere $50 per person per month. Setup time: a couple of days. “It was something we could use immediately and very inexpensively,” says Bruce R. Chizen, Adobe’s chief executive.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.