Summary of IT Evolution in an Enterprise – (Reflecting on some organizations, technology, systems/applications view )
Era of Mainframe(s), Mini, Super-mini – User view via a TERMINAL
The Own, Lease/ Rent, Pay per use business model has been in use for Global consumers / businesses for buildings (Home, Office , Factory etc), heavy machinery/equipments , furniture, many consumer goods and several other retail products and services. But the data center offerings for Global Enterprises had been traditionally own/rent/lease or pay as a bulk with very less emphasis on Usage based billing. As IBM and several other companies had rented mainframe way back in the 1960’s touting high capital expense of procuring and operating these mainframes , christened as “Legacy “ from the 1980’s. Enterprises expanded beyond PAY ROLL, Finance & Manufacturing applications to create complex Supply chain, Logistics, Purchasing and Sales/Marketing/CRM Application Systems across various environments. This allowed for creation of IT departments from earlier Finance controlled central MIS departments.
As the size and price of computing infrastructure has gone down a lot in these 50 years from 1960-2010, but keeping the legacy of applications and systems built and maintained over the years has become a monumental task for large Governments, Global Enterprises and several other public/private organizations operating business for 50 or more years. In this period, distributed computing also took center stage along with some hype on replacing the MAINFRAMES (some organizations probably did achieve the replacement after few decades, but majority kept everything). The mini computer and Superminis came to scene and occupied space in datacenters. The companies making “terminals”, a display device/keyboard connected to the data centers were in use. There were several Mainframe vendors who also had mini & supermini in their baggage of servers [ Digital, Sperry, Univac, Burroughs, ICL, Nixdorf, Honeywell, Bull etc ]. Unix became known as “Open System” Operating System for many mini and superminis interspersed with several proprietary O/S as well as tainted/modified versions of Unix [ BSD, SYS V being basics for many apart from the hybrids]
All the varied mainframe software , hardware stack coupled with several midrange systems [ mini & supermini] gave numerous opportunity to Consulting and services industry for perennial MIGRATION projects moving things within the systems as well as across due to the same or different vendor products/tiers. Applications started moving from a central model to a distributed model in this era. The MIS departments gave way to IT across each departments or LOB in every organization having centralized and decentralized environments. The silos and islands of data and interfaces started to permeate enterprises in making Application development and maintenance a monumental task and army of people were engaged for doing this perpetual work across cross-functional and geographic boundaries of expanding Enterprises.
The history of mainframe from IBM perspective is summarized in a diagram resembling a tree – http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_FT1.html – still reflects the roots/footprints in organizations who have embraced those technologies – there used to be many more vendors for mainframes now consolidated by IBM (90%) , Groupe Bull, Unisys, HP and Oracle (Sun Microsystems).
Era of Communication, PC, LAN/WAN & Internet :
The advent of micro-computers from Apple, Tandy and several others originated from an Intel fiasco or modified from specs product or today we may call it innovation. From individual game and some personal productivity tools micro-computers did not get initially to the Enterprises or a replacement to the Terminals. The entry of PC era with a push from Microsoft and IBM [ there was Digital Research who had Concurrent CP/M etc ] made a big entry to large enterprises for leveraging personal productivity tools to supplement enterprise computing and all terminals got emulated to change colors of GREEN & AMBER screens to several others from the color palette. And the MOUSE came on and later the Windows/GUI to add more flavors. There was a fight with IBM & Microsoft and OS/2 released by IBM had very few takers. The connectivity of micros came with LAN/WAN solution architecture and Novell Netware played a big role in this area apart from Banyan Wines, Apple and Digital having their own flavors.
The hardware based term of BUS [ remember S100 bus in process control systems and some object oriented languages and O/S like Simula etc used by Process Instrumentation folks in Utility, Cement, Chemical , Aero/Auto and other manufacturing industries..] interconnecting several machinery and devices for process control and instrumentation allowed for Automated monitoring and management and operations of Plants. Several micro computers and LAN/WAN connections were used to create REAL-TIME process control systems, that were a bit different in architectures compared to the Business Systems.
A quick reference to the early mainframe to distributed computing era can be found in the paper titled “Future Computing Environments:The Commodity Mainframe Era” by Gordon Bell.
The humble beginning of Internet with ARPA and Usenet known to several Universities around the globe using Ethernet & TCP/IP protocol to wire distributed computers in data centers , classrooms adding the revolutionary “Personal Computer” from any remote location including homes. Wiring computers with phone lines and satellite links connecting to large data centers and large private networks was a common theme prior to 1994.
Netscape and its browser [ this browser had several beginnings starting from CERN lab etc] gave several people connected to “static content” enabled thru’ Web Servers in 1994. The Client/Server mode of operating with PC/LAN/WAN and Servers in data centers had its peak till 1997-98. Then came several scripting tools [ for example PERL] that brought several gateway approaches for interconnecting application screens and reports rendered in the BROWSER. The advent of J2EE Application servers in 1999 and beyond attracted several Enterprises dive into Web Application development apart from those who used Microsoft’s own stack of .NET that emerged a bit later for integrating enterprise applications and rendering thru’ Internet servers and gateways to a Client browser.
This era also had titles within IT growing with CIO and also getting boardroom presence with Executive VP to get visibility of IT capability of Organizations.
Those looking for references on the advent of internet and its future can start with this link http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/ where Tim Berners-Lee chronicles several TALKS & Lectures in a section with various reference materials.
SOA, Web 2.0 & E-Commerce
The early Web 1.0 era failed e-commerce products/ solutions have started appearing in a better Glue/ Fusion architectures paving way for better commercial off-the shelf [ COTS] solution sets for various industries. Also a new set of solutions based on the media /channel delivery via Web touted as “Software as a Service” – SaaS , that bill client based on number of users signed in several areas like CRM , HRM, Manufacturing , IT services etc..
A summary of Web 1 and 2.0 technology and solution stack is pro vided at http://www.adobe.com/devnet/articles/ora_web20_architectures.html
There are also Enterprise 2.0 architectures created consolidating several technologies as illustrated in this article – http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/the-story-of-web-20-and-soa-continues-part-1/107
Era of Cloud Services & Mobility
HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle & SAP have all embraced Cloud Services via the evolution of Virtualization technologies that are currently leveraged along with any existing applications in an Enterprise. The “PAY PER USE” model of the Cloud Services makes it very attractive for any consumer based marketing applications as well as enabling collaboration within an extended Enterprise.
Some references outlining Cloud Services and Platforms can be found at the following links:
The Virtualization vendors like VMware/EMC & Citrix also have several offerings in this area.
For those researching on all possible vendors and solutions in the cloud computing space, this article has a list of 85 vendors with some analysis.
The pay per use and auto-scale & elasticity of IT compute & Storage model introduced by Amazon, an online bookstore that has become an Online outlet for several other consumer items brought this term called “Cloud Computing” to the fore with entire Infrastructure provisioning, an ordeal task in Enterprises. Every skeptic of information technology is looking at the HYPE cycle of IT vendors on the promise of the Cloud & Mobile Smartphones, whereas every consumer is looking for more self satisfying retail experience!
Cloud computing is a buzz word doing rounds with IT product and services marketing firms that leverage INTERNET from browsing websites and applications to provision the basic building blocks/fabric of Hardware/Software and required applications services , components and services. The challenge is to find a common agreeable definition and standard for this Nuevo model of “Cloud Computing” and the all encompassing definition coined by NIST (92 slide deck) comes closer to describing the panacea.
The advent of Apple iPhone and its successes has made several IT vendors eye the phone and communication industry and create assortment of SMARTPHONE ecosystems like the Google Android and Nokia Smartphones. The mobile application landscape is growing for consumers with several enterprises jumping into create Games and some basic catalog type information. The retail & finance industry is creating commercial applications for Consumers who have this new device in an ALWAYS connected mode. The PUSH versus PULL marketing is making headway thru’ this appliance and the new iPAD and devices that Consumers use most of the time for communication has become a great TARGET marketing and campaigning tool for Enterprises.[ Microsoft Tablet had no impact earlier .., Apple iPad is making waves ..]
Some market statistics like http://gigaom.com/2010/02/23/the-smartphone-market/ these are providing an indication of the moves of NOKIA, APPLE, RIM/Blackberry and other Smartphone technology platforms like Google/Android, Windows Mobile as well as many open source solutions like Rhomobile – http://rhomobile.com/ etc..
All the IT major vendors like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft & SAP have several offerings to combine SMARTPHONE as another channel to the software and application solutions provided by them. The application landscape in the SMARTPHONE world is in the evolutionary phase but using the Cloud Services paradigm as a jumpstart, it can move much quickly to supplement traditional email/desktop/laptop applications in an enterprise as well as new “Channel” for connecting with the consumer/customer.
The smart coupling of Mobile Smartphone device, applications and Services along with Cloud Computing can provide a plethora of Application and Service enablement keeping Customer & their choice of device as the focus for future consumer based Applications. The telecom industry, Mobile phone manufacturers, service & solution providers are catering to a large demand from Enterprises, to use new technology innovations for increased sales/service revenues.
Now it is time to reflect on what is the next big thing from IT product, solution innovators to Enterprises as many new technology integration in the Enterprises are consuming a bit more than the budgets, that results in a perpetual Cost Savings approaches in full swing. Technology is shifting to have direct correlation to Business engagements with Client, supplier & retailer and Business Leadership is looking for some of “enablers” newer methods enabled by technologies like Social Media to basically Attract, Retain & Sustain new and Loyal customer base as buying patterns of consumers seem to be directly related to ONLINE/ Internet presence & engagement.
Opportunities for Integration of Application, Data and Services & EA
Enormous opportunity exists in Global Enterprises, Large Government agencies and medium level companies for “GLUE”-middleware , to interconnect all the various systems and sub-systems created over the years – as technology is changing constantly with rapid pace.
Companies like Oracle, IBM & Microsoft have created several stacks of GLUE-software integration technologies and frameworks at all layers of the applications from UI/Presentation / Channels to Application/ Data/ Legacy [ right now all technologies and platforms listed in this article have a flair of legacy including SMARTPHONES & Cloud Services]. Oracle FUSION architecture – http://www.oracle.com/us/products/middleware/index.htm and IBM Middleware services – http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/index.wss/itservice/igs/a1025998 presents an array of integration architectures to wire all the systems built in different ERA of computing including those kept in life support , like aging mainframes & Unix platforms! Of course Microsoft and SAP are not lagging behind in this GLUE-war fare meant for integration of Enterprise Applications with a good delpoymnet base in Global Enterprises.
Some lessons learnt in the Computing ERA of each age can render meaningful insights for large Enterprises in their BUILD /BUY / REUSE/ RENT (pay as you go) models of Application solutions. Many organizations have started to embrace some form of Enterprise Architecture frameworks and processes from Opengroup – www.opengroup.org TOGAF or any equivalent. Government agencies both in federal and state agencies in the US have developed several standards within EA frameworks reflecting the importance of the maturity of the Enterprise Architect – profession.
The IT vendors also have adopted EA styles to create new Solution Architectures for various business domains like Utility, Financial Services/Banking, Telecom, Retail & Manufacturing. It has allowed these companies to group their products & services for creating appropriate end user solutions for various business/ market segments. This can be evidently seen in the recent product/services and solution offerings from Oracle & SAP.
IT Integration to Enterprise Business
Recently many IT leaders have moved into Executive positions working with the Business leaders in creating new strategies for evolving business. The purpose of IT / technology is to provide efficiency and effectiveness to Business Solutions. The earlier era of Business Process Re-engineering has given way to coin a new term “Business Technology” as IT’s relevancy to Business is being realized by companies that are agile and stunningly “Growth” oriented. New generation of companies like Apple, Amazon, Google , eBay and others have used technology platforms extending the reach of the Enterprise to Global consumers making full use of Technology to drive costs down and create immense value for their products/ services. Along with this new sense of Consumer/Customer loyalty , the old way of marketing/selling is doing the rounds in the corridors of power in Governments and Enterprises through SOCIAL MEDIA – yet another “Business technology” Collaboration platform, that is emerging – making people find their peers , friends as well as global think-alikes or wannabes – SHARING information, content about their likes, dis-likes in a FRENZY. This opens up new areas of innovation for Discover/Identify Global Leads & Services for products & Services to Global Consumers using new channels other then TV, Radio, email & the Brand-Web sites. There will be many new players along with the LEGACY creating genius in the IT Product/Services industry in this new game of “Business Technology”. IT purists may get puzzled, but that is reality..