Gearing Up for the Next Decade

Now that the Y2K crisis presumably is behind us and the dust has settled on the wildest New Year’s Eve that our generation will likely ever see -- those who weren’t babysitting servers, that is. Whether or not we are in a new millennium, as some purists will not accept until next year, it is time to get back to business as usual. But what will define "as usual" for 2000 and beyond?

It is unlikely that the drivers of the 1990s will be the same drivers through the next decade. I recently attended a session of International Data Corp. (www.idc.com) software analysts, at which they worked up a list of factors most likely to influence spending on operating systems and system infrastructure software. Here are a few of the items.

Universal Connectivity

Cliches aside, computing is becoming more pervasive. Cell phones with thin Web browsers are available, and it is only a matter of time before multiple accessories in homes and offices -- ranging from entertainment systems to smart business machines -- will demand network connections and expect Internet access.

How will this change computing? Beyond the 24x7x365 availability demands, many Web sites and infrastructure providers can expect another round of exponential increases in traffic over the next several years. At the back end, there will be more demands for availability, less time for backups and routine maintenance, and less room for operator error.

Content

There’s one reason why businesses such as Encyclopedia Britannica generate enough traffic to crush their Web server infrastructure: content. The availability of more and different types of content, particularly streaming audio and video as well as lightweight versions of existing content optimized for the thin browsers will drive investment. At the same time, content will drive infrastructure demands on a market-by-market basis, with larger geographies being most influenced and fragmented geographic regions seeing less influence.

E-Growth

The growth of e-everything will drive the sales of technologies that help interconnection and information sharing. Middleware and transaction processing technologies will continue to be of major importance in building the e-infrastructures of tomorrow.

Windows 2000 Adoption

Many of us will be happy when Feb. 17 finally arrives so we can get back to a normal level of industry hype. Windows 2000 will be an important technology for many companies, but the fact is that it’s simply an upgrade product. With no single overwhelming driver to force users to Windows 2000 immediately, the adoption curve will take years to complete: Many systems won't be upgraded until they’re replaced, and not before. Let’s hope Microsoft is prepared to support NT 4.0 for the next 10 years, or longer.

Open Source Software

Open source software is here to stay. Linux has too much momentum to be plowed aside and buried by Microsoft. But it’s not only Microsoft that stands to be challenged by Linux -- Unix vendors face a threat from Linux in low-end server deployments. But with the phenomenal growth that Linux is experiencing when deployed as a server -- from 240,000 revenue-based shipments in 1997 (IDC does not track the much higher nonrevenue shipments) to 697,000 in 1998 -- don’t forget the industry as a whole is expanding. Linux’s growth is not coming entirely at the expense of other companies’ current market share. Today's Linux desktop is not quite ready to take on Windows, but this may quickly change given the investment being made in Linux desktop environments.

Virtual Computing

The abstraction of applications away from the client device, partly driven by the pervasive computing phenomena and partly driven by the browser paradigm and functional server model, will generate fatter servers and skinnier clients. This trend appears to be more mature in Western European and North American markets.

License Enforcement

As odd as this sounds, the widespread use of unlicensed software in Eastern Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America may prove to be a surprising factor in stimulating IT growth. Due to no-fee open source software, organizations no longer have to fly beneath the radar and can begin to legitimately purchase add-ons for legally obtained operating systems. This won’t have a negative impact on Novell and Microsoft: They weren’t getting the revenue they deserve from these markets anyway.

The bottom line is that the next millennium looks bright, regardless of whether it starts this month or in January 2001. --Al Gillen is research manager for server operating infrastructure at International Data Corp. (www.idc.com). Contact him at agillen@idc.com.