by November 17, 2005 0 comments

No this mantra doesn’t require you to dress up like a gypsy and sit inside a tent with a crystal ball. But predicting what’s going to happen in IT is very important, which is why in addition to the duty of running an IT infrastructure, you have to have a sense of the direction in which IT is moving. Which technologies are hot, which are going down, what’s the life of the new application you’ve implemented in your organization? What’s the life of your new hardware, how long before you can discard the old machines, are all questions that fall in your basket. Everybody will come to you with these questions, and unless you can give them fairly accurate answers, you won’t be able to build the trust you want in your IT infrastructure. After convincing management to invest in IT, you then have to be able to carry along that trust. There are two ways of doing this. One is to be aware of what’s happening in the IT world, and provide reasonably accurate predictions of what’s going to happen. Second of all, understand where does your IT infrastructure lie on the technology lifecycle. 

Some hot technologies and trends
Just because business needs are more important doesn’t undermine technology in anyway. At the end of the day, it’s the technology that will deliver the business needs, so it’s important that you know which are the ones that are hot today to be able to choose the right one. Besides the technology itself, trends in technology are also important, because they tell you how technology is being used. So no strategy discussion is complete without talking of key technologies and trends. Let’s look at some of them. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list. 

Lower cost of bandwidth: Bandwidth is becoming cheaper every day, and the number of connectivity options is also increasing. This opens up a big opportunity for organizations to consolidate their IT infrastructure and centralize all management. Today, instead of having a spread out infrastructure with servers and applications across all your offices, centralize them and provide remote access. The falling prices of bandwidth have made this possible, so you could evaluate the feasibility of doing this. 

Broadband: This is another trend that’s now taking shape, and basically implies having more bandwidth. Having more bandwidth gives you the leeway to use it for more applications, and not just Web browsing and mail. If you’ve centralized your infrastructure, then your business applications would also be using your WAN links. This makes it important to have broadband in place. 

Everything over IP: Everything, whether it’s voice, video or data can now be packed and sent via TCP/IP. This convergence of separate networks can make an organization’s communications infratruc- ture more cost effective. It’s definitely worth exploring. 

Wireless and mobility: One of the hottest trends in the market today, both in the consumer and enterprise world. This trend makes it possible for your team to stay connected irrespective of where they are. 

Managed IT services/outsourcing of infrastructure management: Mantra 7 is completely devoted to this subject, which itself proves its relevance. The new trend now taking shape is to outsource everything, including equipment and not just the services.

Appliances: Increasingly, instead of getting a hardware server and then spending time installing and configuring a software server on it, you could go for an appliance. This has everything pre-installed and ready to work out of the box. You just need to tune it to your organization’s needs. A lot of security appliances have hit the market, which can act as firewalls or do anti-spam, anti-virus, content filtering and

Web-based interface: One key trend that’s take shape is to provide a browser front end for all applications. This makes it easier for everybody. The users see a familiar interface. The developers follow preset standards instead of creating proprietary code. The IT managers and network administrators save the time, which would otherwise have gone in installing the client on every desktop, and later maintaining it. Check whether the applications you’re going to install have a Web-based interface. 
Remote management: As the IT infrastructure becomes more complex, you can’t afford to run around managing everything. That’s where remote management comes in. It involves remote access, monitoring, and even installation of software and applications. 

Virtualization: This is one of the latest buzzwords in the market. You can today virtualize your servers, your network and your storage. 

Trends to be cautious of
Besides good technologies and trends, there are also some bad ones, which also require equal if not more attention. The growing number of security threats is one such concern. Besides viruses, you now have spam/e-mail abuse, phishing, pharming, website hijacking, identity thefts and much much more. You, therefore, need to keep watch of the latest security threats so that they don’t affect your network. 

Product obsolescence is another animal to watch out for, which is why we’ve devoted Mantra 6 is devoted to this subject. Lastly, legal and compliance issues are also becoming hot, and we’ve covered it in Mantra 1 itself. 

The technology lifecycle
Remember that every technology has a lifecycle, and one of the things you must be able to do is recognize what stage of the lifecycle has something reached. There are many ways of doing this, and many models have been devised for it. Whatever the model be, they all basically try to categorize technologies in a particular way. Likewise, we’ve broken up technology across a bell curve that has six stages, which are as follows: 

This is the stage when there’s a lot of talk and hype surrounding a technology, but no concrete action has taken place on it. It’s what everybody likes to do, and sets the base for what’s in store in the future. You don’t have to worry about implementing it, because a technology that’s still a buzz may or may not even happen.

Long Term: This is the stage wherein a particular technology may take two to three years to really come. It’s crossed the buzz, and something concrete has happened. You still don’t have to worry about it, but needs to keep a close watch on it nevertheless.

Very Hot: This is the stage where a technology becomes the talk of the town, and in fact some early birds have already implemented it. It’s still too expensive to implement, and if you’re not an early bird, then wait for it to become more affordable. 

McKinsey’s 3 characteristics

  • Applications should be tailored to specific business processes
  • Deploy in sequence and build capabilities over time 
  • Co-evolve business and technology innovation 

Hot: These are the technologies that will gain critical mass. It’s happening right now, and you need to assess it very carefully for your own setup. Products are easily available, standards have been set, and sufficient support is available for it. 

Steady: This is an extension of hot. If you still haven’t implemented a technology that’s hot, then you should do it as soon as possible. Technology in the IT world becomes obsolete more quickly than in other industries. It shouldn’t happen that by the time you decide to implement a particular technology, it’s on its way downhill.

Making your investments when the technology is in the Hot/Steady area maximizes your ROI

Lukewarm: There’s nothing new about this technology anymore, and chances are that you’re already using it. So try to get the most out of it while you still can because it’s loosing visibility.

Down: Something you shouldn’t touch even with the long end of a barge pole. These are the technologies that are loosing ground to newer trends. 

Knowing the various technologies and trends, and mapping them on the curve can help you quickly assess their relevance to your organization. It will help you strike a balance between what you currently have and what you’re planning to get.

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