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Which Technologies Matter Most for Transformation?

Posted by Frank Gens on June 30th, 2008

At IDC Directions 2008, David Tapper spoke about how Web 2.0 and globalization are profoundly transforming the way companies source (and deliver) IT and other services.  Which technologies do companies see as critical to transform themselves for the emerging world of flexible service delivery and consumption?
Within this broad theme, David explored which technologies companies see as most critical to transform themselves for this emerging world of flexible service delivery and consumption, citing a recent IDC survey of 236 line-of-business (LOB) executives and 268 CIOs and other IT executives.  Here’s what he showed:


Transforming Technologies Survey

This list of technologies is not an exhaustive one, but it does include some of the major ones I see organizations increasing their investments in today.  Here are three of my takeaways from this survey:

  • Good LOB and IT Exec Alignment.  The top three “transformation technologies” – web services, virtualization and wireless/mobility – are the same for LOBs and IT executives.  This consistency is pretty reassuring, suggesting good alignment between organizations’ business transformation decision-makers and technology decision-makers.
  • Web services’ surprising #1 position for LOBs suggests the industry is crossing a critical chasm.  As we’ve written, SOA – the architectural foundation for the next era of IT – will be most rapidly adopted when it is available not just as a set of standards and development tools, but within actual online business and consumer services.  The surprising fact that line of business executives consider “web services” as the top transformation technology suggests we’re getting close to that time: the LOBs who responded to this survey are almost certainly not thinking about web services as XML, SOAP, WSDL or other technical standards, but as web-delivered (and SOA-enabled) services such as Software-as-a-Service, storage-as-a-service, online information services, and so forth.  They’re getting the idea that the proliferation of SOA-enabled business, IT and consumer services available over the Internet will increase their ability to quickly expand their business capabilities and competitiveness.
  • Virtualization is an obvious #1 for IT executives.  It’s not a very surprising finding that IT executives’ #1 technology for transformation is virtualization.  The quest to consolidate, rationalize and simplify access to IT resources – most visibly data center resources – is being driven by the dual imperatives of efficiency and speed.  Virtualization, in its many forms, is – and will be – a runaway #1 concern for IT execs for the next several years.  Web services’ strong #2 position for IT executives makes sense as well, for two reasons: 1) as we noted above, it’s the #1 choice for IT executives’ internal customers, LOB executives; and 2) web services is, of course, one form of virtualization.

So what do these perspectives on transformational IT mean for CIOs and their IT management teams, and by extension, to the IT suppliers serving them?  When I presented these findings at IDC’s recent U.S. IT Forum in Boston, I offered two questions with which CIOs should be challenging themselves:

  • Are you and your team sufficiently focused on this wave of transforming technologies – investing in the technologies, re-skilling to take advantage of these technologies, and selecting suppliers who have competency in these technologies?
  • Do you have enough of an “R&D” culture within your IT organization, to see the next wave of transforming technologies coming?

These challenge questions are uncomfortable for many CIOs, because they naturally lead to disruptive decisions about IT investments, skills and culture.  But they are vital questions to address, for one obvious reason:  the companies that can answer “Yes” to both are the ones that will be prepared for the in-process global commerce revolution that David Tapper was talking about at Directions.

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8 Responses to “Which Technologies Matter Most for Transformation?”

Frank – thanks for the update on the new comments system. Looking good. Cheers, David

Thanks for being part of the momentum behind the improvements, David.

Best, Frank

Sort of surprised that “cloud computing” didn’t make this list. It’s very difficult to tell whether that is a legit IT phenomena, or a marketing exercise by the big vendors.

Speaking of which – doesn’t it seem like the actual users are the constituency least interested in carrying the “SOA” torch? Enterprise IT users seem talk in terms of integration points, web services, message brokers, etc. The whole SOA “stack” concept seems like it’s being force-fed to a market that is less interested in the whole enchilada than they are in solving point integration problems with point solutions. Yet as these point problems become priorities, it’s presented as evidence that the SOA prophecy is upon us.

I guess the industry has to have terminologies and frameworks to organize complex ideas and talk about them. But this SOA evolution has had some contrived / disingenuous moments along the way.

Thanks – this was a good graphic / write up. Wish I’d seen it when it first came out, instead of a month later. But subscribed my RSS reader now.

Good points. Two thoughts:

1. I agree, the first wave of SOA has been much more about the commercial software industry componentizing their applications “under the covers”, and gaining the benefits of that, than it has been about providing direct practical benefits for users (except for users that are so sophisticated that they are, in fact, like ISVs). I’ve suggested that the beginning of widespread user benefits from SOA would be in a “stage two”, when ISVs’ packaged software came to market with “SOA Inside” – we’re just about there for many of the ISVs. The other widespread path of adoption of SOA by end-users (again, under the covers, rather than as an explicit practice of SOA as a programming construct), would be through Software-as-a-Service, or more broadly, Everything-as-a-Service. That is, SOA (including Web Services), as a means for simplifying access and integration of services over the Internet. A.k.a., “Cloud Services”. You might want to check out my post on this edevolution of SOA adoption and benefit realization in How SOA Will Really Be Adopted: Under the Covers, and On the Net”.

2. And so, your point about “Cloud Computing” as a strategic technology (or really, an IT delivery/consumption model) is right on. Cloud Computing to me is simply the latest label for this broad phenomenon we’ve been witnessing for 10+ years: the emergence and maturing of technologies, standards, business models, greenfield user markets like BRIC, etc. that support simplified, online consumption and integration of not only IT services, but many many business and consumer services. In IDC Predictions for 2008, we called this the “Post-Disruption Marketplace“. And there is no doubt, that several of the technologies mentioned in the post above – SOA, Web Services, Virtualization – are important elements of this broader phenomenon. We’ve characterized cloud computing (and the cloud service this IT delivery model enables) as nothing short of the IT industry’s new foundation for the next 20 years.

Thanks for the info. Working in an advanced web technology surrounding makes this data especially interesting and useful.

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. Yet another is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like “revolutionary” and “innovative” on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel … and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the buzz about “Cloud Computing” in general and “SaaS” (software as a service) in particular:

Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they’re actually referring to by “the cloud” is a large-scale and often remotely located and managed computing platform. We have had those since the dawn of electronic IT. IBM calls them “mainframes”:

The only innovation offered by today’s cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that’s not original. Anyone remember Datapoint’s ARCnet, or DEC’s VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway…?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society’s oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the “service bureau”. And I don’t mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled “Service 2.0″ by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable portion of the IEEE’s “Annals of the History of Computing”:

So … for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a 40-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. “Mainframe” is now “Cloud” (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. “Terminal” is now “Web Browser” (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. “Service Bureau” is now “SaaS” (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida

Wow Bruce – that’s a (mostly) serious attempt at hype-busting! I agree and disagree with you – mostly disagree.

I agree that much of the “cloud” model does borrow from earlier models (e.g., timesharing, service bureaus), and will continue to leverage technologies (e.g., virtualization) that were around in some form “back in the day”.

I disagree that this is the same old stuff. There are some critical differences, that make all the difference, including: costs (lower), provisioning (self), number and variety of available services (large and exploding – thank you web services), openness (more) & ability to integrate (greater, simpler – thank you again, web services), and accessibility (easier – thank you Internet).

Stay tuned – very soon I’ll have more to say about what this model is, and why it’s important.

Insightful article. i know this post is from years ago; but still, things like these still matters especially in this technologically-advanced era we are in now where most businesses work with the use of computer, internet and Cloud.

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