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The CIO Reading List: The Big Switch

Nicholas Carr is the master of good timing. His latest book is sure to stir up controversy among business executives and IT managers, just as his Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter," did several years ago.

John Soat

January 3, 2008

2 Min Read

Nicholas Carr is the master of good timing. His latest book is sure to stir up controversy among business executives and IT managers, just as his Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter," did several years ago.Carr's new book, called "The Big Switch: Rewiring The World, From Edison To Google," is scheduled to be published on Jan. 7, though you can order a copy now from Amazon.com (and see the early reviews and summaries) here. I haven't read it, but I plan to. It's about the forthcoming switch to network computing (switch, network -- get it?); that is, the evolution of client-server computing to so-called Internet-oriented computing, which incorporates such familiar concepts as utility computing, grid computing, and co-location services, and such evolving concepts as software as a service, social networks, and cloud computing.

It's not a new idea. In fact, vendors such as Oracle and Sun Microsystems have been touting network-oriented computing for years. (Sun's longtime motto: "The network is the computer.") But it's a concept -- and a strategy -- that's gaining traction in the corporate world as business managers take more responsibility for the technology projects that affect their business areas, and turn to Internet resources like Google Apps and Amazon storage to accomplish those tasks. According to InformationWeek's recent CIO Effectiveness survey, which queried 724 CIOs, CXOs (i.e., CEOs, CFOs, and COOs), line-of-business managers, and IT managers and staff, almost half (43%) of respondents say that business managers are taking on more responsibility for IT projects compared with a year ago.

That's why Carr's timing is so good. Internet computing is an important concept for CIOs to understand, and to work into their long-term IT strategies. Data centers and IT shops probably won't disappear any time soon, as Carr's vision might suggest. But most CIOs I know already are straining against limited computing resources, suggesting an increasing market for third-party compute-cycle providers. And dismissing Google Apps out of hand is a very narrow view of the future of productivity software.

Carr is interviewed in the latest issue of Wired, which refers to him as "high-tech's Captain Buzzkill." If you don't read Carr's blog, you should -- it's interesting, insightful, and erudite in the extreme.

And read Carr's new book. Prescience or puffery, it's bound to provoke discussions you want to be a part of.

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