Newest Integration Strategy: Wireless
The explosion in mobile computing, and the interest in Web services, points to a new era in host integration strategies.
OK, so the wireless technology market (and accompanying stock valuations) didn't soar breathlessly, as predicted. Still, usage is exploding across the corporate sector. Digital cell phones are ubiquitous, and chances are you probably have your own PDA. Mobility has become a way of life and work, a fact not lost on wireless vendors as they increasingly target the business applications market. The result is a chaotic grassroots revolution sweeping enterprises, much like the PC revolution of the 1980s and 90s.
A new survey of large corporations from Evans Data Corp.—which I worked on as a research consultant—finds more than half of IT managers (51 percent) say they will be developing new applications for wireless devices over the coming year, up from 46 percent in a survey last year. About 40 percent are working on extending existing applications to wireless end users.
The twice-yearly Evans survey is based on the responses of 400 enterprise development managers at firms with 2,000 or more employees. More than four out of ten respondents, 41 percent, consider platform integration to be critical to any decisions made about wireless deployments—even surpassing security and cost considerations.
The concern over back-end platform integration is understandable. Today's enterprise IT infrastructure is a plethora of operating environments. While Windows 2000 is the most popular system, a majority of larger companies also support mainframe (62 percent) and midrange (81 percent) systems.
Web services may offer a way to tie these back-end environments into newer, Web-based systems and standards-based mobile networks. Web services was originally promoted as a means to develop b-to-b interoperability in e-commerce transactions, but the Evans survey finds a different purpose has evolved. About half of the respondents already use at least some Web service standards in their enterprise application integration (EAI) work and 22 percent say a majority of their internal applications will be linked by Web services in the near future. Security and authentication concerns continue to put a damper on adoption plans, however, with 48 percent of IT executives citing this obstacle (up from 45 percent in last year's survey).
It's clear from the results that new modes of host integration—particularly wireless and Web services—are becoming established within enterprises. The problem is, the market probably will have to shake out before anyone commits large amounts of corporate capital to these technologies.
We're only at the beginning of this new generation of host integration strategies—but the combination of mobile computing and Web services brings the concept of unfettered access closer to reality.
Joseph McKendrick is an independent consultant and author, specializing in surveys, technology research, and white papers.