Complexity breeds opportunity

It's one question that's always foremost on the minds of technology companies, systems integrators and CIOs: What's the next big thing?

Where once "the next big thing" tended to be a specific technology, such as the PC, future IT spending most likely will develop around broad, intertwined technological and business concepts.

What customers and vendors can count on is that IT systems will continue to grow more complex, said CA Inc. President and CEO John Swainson at the Interop New York trade show Sept. 19-20. That complexity is sure to drive tremendous business opportunities for IT companies, he said.

"The next big thing in IT will be to manage all the new big things in IT," Swainson said.

Some IT executives are predicting that personal identification numbers will disappear and be replaced by biometrics. Others believe that enterprise applications will be defined by their ease of use and interoperability.

"One clear message that emerges from a glance at past predictions is that the next big thing is largely a media-fed mirage," Swainson said. "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact in the long term."

It often takes technology a long time to make an impact, but when it does, it often exceeds expectations, and the technology invariably is used in ways its creators never imagined. The Internet is a perfect example of that theory, Swainson said.

"The truth is that there is no one big thing, there are many big things happening simultaneously," he said. "Lots of emerging technologies and ways of leveraging technology have the potential to make a significant impact on the way we live and work. All these innovations, changes and trends contribute to the direction that the IT industry is going to take over the next couple of years."

Figuring out how to manage an IT environment that becomes increasingly complex is sure to be an area of growth. In every large organization, there are multiple PC suppliers, networking products, applications and management security providers.

What keeps CIOs awake at night? Figuring out how to manage a system like that for maximum efficiency, effectiveness and security, Swainson said.

Much of that complexity arises because organizations continue to automate business processes. While that ensures that productivity will increase, it does add another layer of complexity to the IT environment.

The problems raised by the trend towards increasing complexity cannot be solved using old solutions, such as adding more manpower to manage and secure IT. The high cost of labor combined with a shortage of IT workers are quickly making that paradigm impossible.

Automating IT management will be the key to solving the problem, Swainson said.

Usually, IT spending spikes occur during technology transformations, such as those brought about by the PC in the 1980s and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system in the 1990s, said Scott Kriens, Juniper Network Inc.'s chairman and CEO at Interop New York. Those days are over, he said. IT companies should expect a much-broader concept to fuel future growth: service-oriented architecture.
The IT paradigm has evolved from a client-server environment to the Web browser-based "clientless" world of today, Kriens said. Now, the goal for enterprises is for people and devices to access and trade information seamlessly.

"We are trying to create a world where everything talks to everything, which is kind of like saying, 'Can't we all get along?' " Kriens said. "But the problem ? and why the search for what's real is so important ? is [that finding a solution is] not that simple." Service-oriented architecture will help lead IT to that goal, Kriens said.

Today, the push is for "more than just an IP infrastructure or an Internet," he said.

"We've got applications out there, and what we'd really like to do is tie those all together. And when we [do that], we get the online, real-time enterprise, [and that] is part of what makes this seamless reality among machines and people and devices and information happen."

Opportunity likely will be an offshoot of that goal. Citing data from IT research and consulting firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., Kriens said that by 2008, SOA will drive 80 percent of new development projects. By 2010, he said, 80 percent of application and software revenue growth will derive from SOA, and SOA-related spending will hit $11 billion annually.

Staff Writer Doug Beizer can be reached at dbeizer@postnewsweektech.com.

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