Emerging Technologies Survey May 2006: Which Technologies Make Sense For Your Company?

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 05-04-2006

CIO Insight has surveyed IT executives on emerging technologies since 2003. This year's survey covers 45 emerging technologies in five different categories. Some, such as Web services, open source, VoIP, collaboration tools and, more recently, virtualization and SOA, are being widely and quickly adopted, while others, such as grid computing, have been slow to emerge. Why do some technologies—not just grid, but also utility computing, self-healing/autonomic computing, Semantic Web and MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) —take so long?

What computing and software technologies are on your CIO's radar screen? Click here to read our survey's findings.

One reason is conversion costs and technical limitations. Grids —which link separate computers into a virtual parallel-processing computer so they can tackle computing tasks that require enormous processing power and speed—have been deployed by Charles Schwab & Co. for portfolio analysis, and by GlaxoSmithKline plc for drug discovery. According to Carl Claunch, a research vice president for Gartner Inc., grids are appropriate on high-payoff projects that require a lot of computing muscle, such as oil exploration and automobile or aircraft design. But Claunch believes virtualization (which gives IT departments the ability to create virtual servers and storage when needed) is better suited for general-purpose business computing. With grids, software must be redesigned so that code can run in parallel—no easy task. Moreover, "the tools available for grid computing aren't as good at achieving the availability you can easily deliver with current operating systems," says Claunch.

What mobility, collaboration and business process technologies is your company implementing? Click here to read our survey's findings.

Autonomic (i.e., self-managing and self-healing) computing won't truly arrive until around 2012, says John Parkinson, chairman and managing director of Parkwood Advisors LLC in Lake Forest, Ill., and longtime CIO Insight columnist. "It's a great idea, but it would be nice if someone knew how to do it. It's halfway to being commercially viable." If software crashes, it doesn't bring the machine down anymore," Parkinson says. "That's partly due to autonomous design." But we don't have a way, after detecting and removing a virus, "to figure out how to prevent the system from getting the virus again, check all the possible impacts the virus would have, and fix them."

Utility computing, which provides IT resources as a plug-and-play, pay-as-you-go service, has another problem: "Nobody has quite figured out the economics yet," Parkinson says. He notes that utility computing has a role to play in such industries as retail, where, for example, there are short-term surges in demand for computing power during the holiday shopping season. But for others, "it doesn't make much financial sense, because providers don't yet have enough data to figure out the right pricing model."

Still, confusion or ignorance probably plays a part in the adoption figures. Willy Chiu, IBM Corp. vice president for high-performance, on-demand solutions, believes that at least some of the people who say they are using virtualization are actually using grid technology. And we're still a decade away from the Semantic Web, according to Charles Abrams, a research director at Gartner. So how can 8 percent say they've adopted it? Abrams suggests that they may be using some XML-based specifications that involve semantics. Or maybe, says Parkinson, "They don't know what they are talking about."

What emerging technologies are on your CIO's radar screen? Read our 2006 survey's findings:

  • Computing and Software Technologies
  • Mobility, Collaboration and Business Process Techologies

    Read our previous emerging technology surveys:

  • Innovation Makes Emerging Technologies Pay Off
  • Emerging Technologies 2004: What's the Business Case for New Technologies?
  • Emerging Technologies 2003: Are New Technologies Adding Business Value?