A Simpler Future
In the long run, CIOs can anticipate advances in systems that are expected to radically change IT operations. Forrester Research says technologies coming during the next decade will lead to what it calls "organic IT," architectures built of cheap, redundant components that automatically share and manage resources. These technologies, says Frank Gillett, a principal analyst at Forrester, will solve the two fundamental problems of complexity: applications that can't talk to each other, and hardware that, bought for peak demand, is typically used no more than 20 percent of the time. In this vision, Web services and portals will let applications talk to each other relatively cheaply, while new software will allow servers to be quickly reconfigured for other tasks, increasing their capacity. Gillett has built financial models that point to potential savings of 80 percent on additional peak server capacity and 35 percent on storagewith total infrastructure cost reductions of 52 percent.
Meanwhile, a number of IT vendorsCGE&Y, EDS Corp. and IBM, among themare putting in place the beginnings of a utilities computing model. The goal: to provide corporations with all or part of their computing needs on an as-needed basis, a kind of "leave the computing to us" pitch. IBM's well-publicized effort, called e-Business on Demand, aims to use the power of grid computing, controlled by autonomic, self-healing systems, to provide low-cost, flexible computing to businesses.
IBM's autonomic initiative is an effort, Ganek says, "to make technology take care of things technology can take care of, freeing people to do the things they do best, which is thinking about how they can use technology to solve business problems. Going out 10 years, we can expect to have a far more cohesive behavior of systems where components interact and make constant adjustments. The CIO's life is going to be different in that the CIO will be much more of a partner in the business.
"But this is not an overnight thing," Ganek says. "This is a grand challenge in computing, as hard a problem as exists."
TERRY A. KIRKPATRICK is a contributing editor for CIO Insight.