Glimpsing the Future

Experts tell us where you'll find the hotspots in enterprise technology through 2003.

You don't need a crystal ball to see what enterprise managers will face in the next 18 months: More cost-cutting. Skeptical scrutiny of new projects, tough questions about old projects. Stretching an already-limited staff to the breaking point.

The pressure to make the "right" decisions about new technology is greater than ever. That's why we asked top industry experts to share a glimpse of what's to come in enterprise technology. Here's what they told us.

1. Web services become the most-deployed applications in the enterprise
Web services became the technology industry's hottest buzzword in 2001. And according to our experts, that technology will reign supreme throughout 2003.

"Web services—Internet-accessible software components—will capture substantial attention in 2002," say the IT analysts at Gartner Inc. By 2004, Gartner predicts Web services will be the most widely deployed application solution among Fortune 2000 companies.

So far, though, Web services remains very much an emerging technology. Much work remains before vendors will agree on the standards and protocols for Web services. Deborah Hess, a senior analyst with Gartner, says even the most mature standards—Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI)—are incomplete and not yet interoperable. [For a closer look at Microsoft's answer to the Web services question, see ".NET: Microsoft's Enterprise Ticket?" on p. 51.—Ed.]

Over the next two years …
Hess expects security standards to evolve around SOAP, which will help foster the use of Web services for external integration, as well as integration within the firewall. Hess also believes ebXML will emerge as a standard for b-to-b messaging. And she predicts private registries will achieve widespread adoption by 2004, while public registries receive only limited use as a cataloging device for Web services.

2. Disaster recovery, storage intelligence take center stage
The events of Sept. 11, not surprisingly, have brought disaster recovery to the fore. And intelligent storage systems will become a major tool in protecting stored information.

"[After Sept. 11], the vendors are recognizing that storage is just a commodity," says Dan Tanner, a storage analyst with IT research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. "The real play [over the next few years] will be in storage-networking intelligence."

In this scenario, asynchronous technology will be especially vital, says Stan Zaffos, a vice president and research director with Gartner. That's because storage networks with asynchronous capabilities provide the performance necessary to put greater distances between live and recovery sites. Distance, says Zaffos, is something enterprises should be more concerned with, because Sept. 11 shut down many businesses in and around the World Trade Center that mistakenly built live and recovery sites in close proximity.

Zaffos points to tools such as EMC's SRDF remote-mirroring system as examples of the sort of intelligent solutions enterprise IT managers should be thinking about in the wake of Sept. 11. SRDF, which was released following the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, marked EMC's move into the storage software marketplace. It can be run in synchronous mode, or what EMC calls semi-synchronous, which is essentially the same as asynchronous.

EMC says a lot of its enterprise customers are starting to use SRDF's dual functionality to set up multi-site networks. With SRDF, an enterprise can run a synchronous connection to a recovery site located near its live site, while at the same time running an asynchronous connection to a site located at a great distance. Then, if anything happens to the synchronous connection, the enterprise can rely on the asynchronous configuration, which, because it's asynchronous, will provide comparable performance to the synchronous environment.

 

Vendor to Watch:
Cape Clear Finds Middle Ground Between .NET and J2EE

Gartner's Deborah Hess points to Cape Clear Software (www.capeclear.com) as one of the key vendors to watch in the Web services space. She says the vendor has taken a truly agnostic approach with its Web services middleware, and could be a good fit for enterprises looking to target both Microsoft Corp.'s .NET platform and Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

"Everything we do is focused on the Web services view," says David Clarke, senior VP of strategy and business development for Cape Clear. "Other vendors look at: ‘How do I do this from a Java perspective, or how do I do this from a C++ perspective.'"

—M.M.

3. Linux brings new life to the mainframe
Big Blue has promised to invest $1 billion in the Linux platform. With the recent launch of Raptor—IBM's tag for its Linux-only zSeries line of servers—Big Blue has made it possible to run any application on a mainframe with Linux. Prior to Raptor, Linux-enabled mainframes could run only mainframe applications. Now, with open application support, IBM is hoping the zSeries will devour Sun and HP's share of new users in the big-iron category.

"The $64 question is whether IBM can sell a mainframe with Linux into an enterprise where there is no existing [mainframe] presence," says Mike Chuba, an analyst with Gartner. IBM's Linux on the mainframe strategy will likely play very well in enterprises that already have mainframes, because Linux makes an existing mainframe much more economical than investing in a new Sun or HP environment. However, it's not yet clear if IBM will be able to sell Linux on the mainframe to new users.

Dan Powers, vice president of Linux solutions worldwide for IBM, says there are currently about 250 live deployments of Linux-enabled mainframes. Of those, he says the majority are on systems that were in place before the Linux operating system was installed.

Raptor offers a number of advantages over other large-system environments, says Powers. Savings on licenses for the OS; the ability to rapidly deploy new "virtual" servers; and server consolidation, are among the most prominent enterprise benefits he cites.

But while Linux on a mainframe is an intriguing option, Sun is also doing some interesting things in the high-end space, most notably the launch of its StarFire line of servers. "Sun is probably the vendor that is most aggressively going after IBM," says Chuba.

Over the next two years …
Chuba says we'll find out just how revolutionary IBM's Raptor strategy is. "It really is the Linux factor that's the wildcard as to whether IBM is going to be doing something really exciting with the mainframe in the next few years, or whether they'll be traveling down the same path they have been," he says.

Sun may also bring Linux to its high-end systems in the very near future, says Chuba. In February, Sun added Linux support to a number of its low-end server lines, which Chuba says could signal the emergence of the platform on Sun's more robust systems.

Technology to Watch:
With Storage Virtualization, Enterprises Respond to Disasters Faster

"Sept. 11 has created a fundamental mindset shift," says Phil Goodwin, a program director with IT analyst firm META Group Inc. "Disaster recovery is now considered in the continuum of the data process."

As a result, Goodwin says, "end users should be getting storage virtualization on the radar screen."

According to Goodwin, virtualizing such traditional storage functions as backup, mirroring and replication will allow enterprises to respond more quickly to emergencies, getting their data back online and limiting the impact of a downed site.

Virtualization should be viewed as more than just capacity management, says Wayne Lamb, vice president of marketing for storage-virtualization vendor FalconStor Software Inc. But while capacity is certainly one element of virtualization, enterprises really need a "brain" within their SAN that allows them to control every element of their storage architecture. Lamb says FaconStor's IPStor software solution provides this capability, enabling an IT manager to control not only capacity, but also other features of the storage equation, including backup, mirroring and replication.

—M.M.

4. Speech recognition eliminates obstacles for wireless implementations
Wireless data transfer is a concept with lots of enterprise potential, but it has yet to become a critical technology for large companies. There are a lot of obstacles, including transmission-speed problems and inconsistent standards. But speech recognition may actually bring wireless ubiquity within the next 24 months.

"It appears that speech recognition is on the horizon," says Jay Lassman, a research director with Gartner, who say's it's the hottest technology in the messaging market right now. Lassman believes speech recognition will only heat up further as the price of the technology falls.

Jennifer DiMarzio, a wireless analyst with Summit Strategies Inc., says she expects speech recognition to play a role in the wireless strategies of most enterprises within the next two years. Speech-recognition will be particularly helpful to cell phone users, allowing them to retrieve data without having to struggle through manual navigation processes on tiny cell-phone screens.

Over the next two years …
Look for carriers to deploy some form of third-generation network that will allow voice and data to be used on the same device. Packet-data networks are becoming more prevalent, and you can figure that they'll continue their upswing. VoiceStream is already providing ubiquitous packet-data coverage, while Sprint and AT&T will be providing comparable service by the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, says presentation standards for wireless devices remain very immature. But don't expect consistent specifications to emerge in this area for about five years. "It's better to go with a standard than not, but you shouldn't have high expectations at this point," say Dulaney.

5. EAI market welcomes SOAP, but hangs onto EDI
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has been a stalwart of the enterprise integration process for nearly as long as companies have been trying to build links between disparate applications and systems. And for the past few years, most industry insiders have been predicting the emergence of XML would render it obsolete.

A new XML-based protocol for messaging might seem to fuel the demise of EDI. But experts say that's not liable to happen for some time to come. "EDI will continue to provide a significant amount of support for b-to-b integrations," says Jess Thompson, a research director with Gartner. However, he does see SOAP being used extensively for integration projects inside the firewall.

SOAP messages, Thompson feels, simply aren't secure enough yet to be used for external integration efforts. And, he says, a lot of enterprises already have huge investments in EDI that are working just fine, which makes them unlikely to be uprooted in favor of new SOAP installations.

Over the next two years …
Thompson says we will see more enterprises using integration brokers to support Web services standards and protocols for internal integration. Existing EDI systems will remain in place, but new deployments of EDI will continue to fall off in favor of "XML in whatever form," says Thompson. And on the vendor front, Thompson believes Microsoft's new BizTalk solution will move quickly up the ladder in the integration-broker space to compete with the likes of IBM's WebSphere MQ.

Vendor to Watch:
Air2Web Makes Most of Wireless Screen Space

For wireless to be really useful for an enterprise, a paradigm shift must occur in the way the application development process is approached, says Gartner's Ken Dulaney. Traditional desktop or Web-based solutions can't simply be shrunk down and pushed out to a wireless device. Instead, enterprises must look for computing metaphors that make sense in the wireless world.

Air2Web (www.air2web.com), a wireless software vendor, is one company Dulaney believes understands the wireless development process. Air2Web has developed a series of XML-based APIs that allow it to extract data from applications and send it to wireless devices. By doing this, says Gonzalez, Air2Web is able to build micro-applications that make more sense than shrink-wrapped desktop applications for enterprises with wireless users.

—M.M.

6. CRM suites offer more business intelligence with less pain
"The emerging generations of CRM systems are providing analytics beyond measuring and reporting," says Claudio Marcus, a research director with Gartner. "The new offerings actually do data mining and try to pinpoint what exactly is driving the numbers." They even suggest appropriate actions based on the metrics, says Marcus. [For an overview of the CRM market, see Business Snapshot on p. 22.—Ed.]

The trend toward more sophisticated analytics in the customer relationship management market means the line between CRM and business intelligence will become even finer. In fact, Marcus says data-mining capabilities will be embedded in the next generation of CRM applications.

Furthermore, he believes enterprises will shift their focus from tactical implementations of CRM to more broadly defined deployments that touch on a variety of business functions. In turn, he says the tactical vendors in the space, in order to survive, will be forced to build value on top of the large CRM suites offered by PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel.

Over the next two years …
Support for Web services will be added to most CRM offerings, which will help the systems more easily plug into an enterprise's IT infrastructure.

CRM strategy will focus more on business processes. As much as 80 percent of all CRM projects end in failure, which has cooled buyers' enthusiasm. Many of the problems confronting CRM implementations, Marcus says, have more to do with business process than the technology. Given this, the demand for consulting services to help companies deal with things like change management, organizational politics and training may be on the rise.

7. Changing analytics demand more flexible data-management solutions
Enterprise applications have provided analytics only in fixed categories, not enough to support the enterprise, says Kevin Strange, a vice president and research director with Gartner. Vendors will begin building solutions with more flexible support for analytics, but Strange says enterprises need to start integrating their CRM and data warehouse strategies.

"I would argue that you need a good data warehouse in order to do CRM," says Strange. But 65 percent of the enterprise customers he speaks to have no CRM/warehouse integration. Enterprises should be looking for technologies that address both complex integration of data, as well as moving volumes of data.

Over the next two years …
"You're going to see updating more frequently than even daily," says Strange. "This is going to put pressure on IT to figure out how to keep the data warehouse more current." Now, half the organizations he surveys will update weekly or monthly, but the other half update daily. Strange believes enterprises will consolidate their data marts into a large data warehouse. "Data marts are just becoming too difficult to manage."

Vendor to Watch:
MarketSoft Finds Niche on Top of Major CRM Vendors

Competing against the likes of industry giants like Siebel probably isn't such a good idea for a modest enterprise software vendor with a mere 150 employees. But in the CRM market right now, there is growing demand for solutions that can provide value on top of the major CRM suites.

MarketSoft Corporation (www.marketsoft.com), a value-added provider of lead-management solutions, has built its business model around this theory.

"People have already made significant investments," says Chris Bergh, CTO for MarketSoft. "What we do is actualize existing information sources and provide ways to market off it."

Bergh says MarketSoft's lead-management software focuses on bringing a variety of different systems together, such as a Siebel suite, a data mart, and a data mine, to provide users with valuable information in a valuable way. "It's kind of the connective tissue—a hub-and-spoke—to bring all of these systems together," he says.

—M.M.

8. XML gains much-needed security
XML security is a big issue: XML plays an important part in enterprise Web services strategies.

A number of standards for securing XML documents are under development. OASIS, an XML-centric consortium, is currently developing an XML security standard called SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language). The new standard is designed to address user authorization and authentication. However, it needs to generate support from the entire industry before it will be useful.

Victor Wheatman, a vice president and research director with Gartner, says XML standards are still a work in progress. Microsoft has recently provided a high-level overview of its approach to XML security, which Wheatman says will negatively impact SAML in particular. Furthermore, he says, there are a number of other standards for XML security on the horizon that figure to make the competitive landscape crowded and confusing in the immediate future.

Over the next two years …
Enterprises should select XML security solutions that are compliant with open standards rather than proprietary solutions. If this is not possible, Wheatman says, the enterprise customer could use a proprietary solution or an incomplete standard, and worry about interoperability later. But don't hold your breath; analysts say XML security standards won't flesh themselves out for another two to five years.

9. DSL, optical Ethernet make IT networks economical
Broadband figures to become more affordable in the near future, says Jay Pultz, a vice president and research director with Gartner. Digital subscriber lines and optical-Ethernet will provide significant savings.

"DSL is going to have a major impact in lowering cost for enterprises," says Pultz, who believes the technology is a perfect fit for branch-office environments. Meanwhile, optical Ethernet will cover the high-bandwidth requirements of larger offices, also at a lower price point than is currently available.

Enterprises will be able to run virtual private networks that provide service levels high enough to support mission-critical applications. Moreover, advancements in broadband in next-generation IP networks will supplant frame-relay and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) as the standard method for moving data.

Over the next two years …
Pultz says DSL will become fairly ubiquitous, while optical Ethernet may be a bit farther off. "We're starting to see IP networks that provide service levels equal to the capabilities of the Internet," says Pultz.

Look for better international network coverage from the major carriers.