Information Technology in the 21st Century

By Andrew Smith

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the IT industry appears to be fully mature. Perhaps in acknowledgement of just how far we have come, the icon of the computer revolution, Bill Gates, retired this year. Technology has become completely integrated into traditional jobs such as sales, operations, engineering, and accounting. In many respects, IT has become a commodity. That does not mean IT is less relevant. Two current developing trends merit consideration: Service Oriented Architecture and Open Source Software. They prove that IT really does still matter.

SOA: A New Information Technology Paradigm

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is characterized by collaboration among partners to improve efficiency and quality of service. Companies need to be extremely sensitive to nuances in customer demand and be able to adapt business processes rapidly through aggressive investment in IT. The confluence of three technologies: virtualization, service orientation, and computing grids results in a new information technology model that can align with company strategy, making today’s business more collaborative and customer driven.

Some examples that exist today include services to support electronic payments, ISP subscription services for Internet access, storage services sold by the terabyte per month, or even a hosted web server. The potential of virtual service-oriented grid technology in the real world extends much farther than these basic applications however. In the near future, business will be able to consider nonfunctional benefits relating to cost, energy efficiency, and the speed with which services can be delivered as part of the value provided by this new wave of IT.

An Open Source Platform for the Future

Free software has been around since the earliest days of the PC, but the term “Open Source” is only about 10 years old. Fundamentally, the open source concept has three components: a software development model, a licensing model, and a business model, all connected by the idea that the underlying source code be made available to the public who can then use, modify and redistribute it.

Open source projects and companies thrive by building, nurturing, and collaborating with a dedicated community of developers. Linux, Apache server, Mozilla Firefox, and the MySQL database are all examples of open source software that are prospering in business today. Benefits include: a cost advantage over proprietary vendors, real-time communications between users and creators of software, and a shorter “time to market” based on ongoing development, fast release cycles, and continuous accessibility to alpha, beta, and production code. John F. Andrews, CEO of Evans Data Corp says “Open source is a critical part of the whole IT infrastructure going forward, and it is only growing stronger every day.” Public companies contributing to open source include: Red Hat, Novell, Oracle, IBM, HP, and Intel.

OpenLogic says that in 2007, enterprises used 94 different open source packages, an increase of 26% over 2006. Solution providers such as IBM and Sun Microsystems have already committed to open source by offering cutting edge products backed by the same quality of support they provide for their traditional product lines.

Web 2.0

Development of Web 2.0 will witness the transition of the World Wide Web into a singular cloud of blogs, wikis, and social networking tools. One thing is for certain: Web 2.0 owes a great debt to open source technology. Companies like Filckr, YouTube, and Google often mentioned as “Web 2.0 companies” utilize numerous open source components.

From a practical perspective, open source has helped build companies by reducing the time and cost of new applications. In the past, businesses were forced to develop software from the ground up. In the open source era, developers can access reusable software that is less expensive and time consuming than proprietary products. Additionally, open source provides the flexibility to support unique business models as part of a service oriented architecture. The potential implications of this agility are huge when open source software is applied to enterprise applications such as virtualization, grid computing, and other applications within the Service Oriented Architecture paradigm.

Source: Intel


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