One problem is we look at technology developments is our immediate past as we have seen some of the darlings of yesterday go bust. This leads to skepticism about the future. But even as enterprises rethink on technology investments, the pace of technology improvement and innovation has not slowed. Look beyond the bigger IT companies and one finds a whole new universe of companies experimenting with ideas that they whole will become the next, new things. Only time will tell whether concepts like the Semantic Web, Weblogs, tablet computers, web services, community wireless networks built around WiFi and peer-to-peer become tomorrows hits.
Some of the important drivers for the new technology infrastructure are:
Linux: Linux is a proxy for the open-source software revolution. A story in Business Week (May 15) on Linux wrote: What’s emerging now is an operating system — the software that runs a computer’s basic functions — that’s more reliable, consistent, and businesslike, approaching older and more robust forms of Unix in scalability and stability. Steady improvements to the code have come as big tech players such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have thrown significant research dollars at improving open-source software. In short, the Linux movement is not only growing up but it’s also going mainstream. It is, in fact possible, to build clients (desktops) and servers in the enterprise entirely out of open-source software. We should keep this point in mind as we target new users in new markets.
P2P: Napster may be dead, but the technology segment it pioneered is very much alive and throbbing. Writes Dan Gillmor in the San Jose Mercury News (May 14):
Peer-to-peer continues to infiltrate the tech landscape. It simply makes sense to make more efficient use of capabilities — of devices and people — at the edge of networks. Consider the content-addressable Web being introduced at the conference today by a Minnesota-based company, Onion Networks. It makes clever use of the P2P concept, enabling people at the edge to distribute large files much more easily and cheaply.
Here’s a rough description of how it works: Say you have a video you want lots of people to see. You configure your server computer with some of Onion’s capabilities. When someone downloads your file, that person’s own computer becomes a site where other people can go to download the same file. The more people who get the video, the more widely it’s distributed — with the Onion software keeping track — and the less load you’ll see on your own computer.
Wireless Communications: In one corner of the wireless ring are the mobile phone companies with their huge investments in 2.5G and 3G technologies. In the other corner are the upstarts looking to create wireless community networks using unlicenced spectrum in the 2.4 and 5.7 Ghz bands. Either way, a ubiquitous envelop of high-speed connectivity is forming which ensures that we are always connected, wherever we are.
Storage: One of the more dramatic trends has been the dramatic fall in storage costs and corresponding storage space available. Desktops come with 40 GB or more of disk space. We will shortly reach a point where it will be possible to capture everything that we know and experience in our life on a single hard disk. More interestingly, the disk can travel with us. Already, a significant percentage of IT spend in enterprises goes towards storage and its management.
Security: As more of the information in an enterprise is online and available, it is extremely important to protect it from unauthorised access. Security at various levels in hardware, software and communications is one of the key challenges facing companies as they build out the new technology infrastructure.
Google: It may seem surprising that a search engine finds its way on a list of enterprise software trends. But, after Outlook, Google may rank as the next most used tool. By making it easy to search for information on the Internet, Google has reduced the need to keep local copies of lots of interesting information around the Internet. More interestingly, as Google exposes its document database via programming interfaces (for example, the recently announced Google API), it will be a platform for innovations which will find their way into many an enterprise product.
The challenge before us now is to see how we can put these four key trends (targeting small and medium enterprises in emerging markets, using software and business process standards, enabling the real-time and extended enterprise, and using new technologies) to put together cost-effective and disruptive solutions in the enterprise software space.
Tomorrow: Solution Ideas