The Observer: IT's Own Hallowed Trinity - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
1/28/2003
03:20 PM
Lou Bertin
Lou Bertin
Commentary
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The Observer: IT's Own Hallowed Trinity

Three issues--manageability, choice, and security--are forever twined and are remaking the IT world, says Lou Bertin.

For years, it was the essence of simplicity for enterprise purchasers to look upon desktop and portable-computing devices as a three-year-and-out asset. It made for easy accounting, it allowed for the inevitable changes in price-performance calculations, and it preserved the myth of "easy" systems management because devices from the same supplier, built to the same specs, had to be identical, right?

What's happening now, though, is that the three-and-out hardware-purchasing cycle is being supplanted as companies hold onto those hard assets much longer, and for good reason. If computing demands on the part of most users don't much change and the hardware already in place is adequate to the task, why get rid of it because of accounting rules? Moreover, as personal-use hardware moves from 32 bits to 64 bits, wouldn't it make sense to be able to migrate without wholesale replacement of existing devices? It says here that it does. It also says here that enterprise buyers will be looking to those vendors that can fulfill those and myriad other demands in terms of real costs, real life cycles, and ease of systems management.

On the productivity-suite side of things, enterprise-grade alternatives to Microsoft Office have long existed. What's different now is that a whole lot of chickens have come home to roost, and those alternatives are being seriously evaluated and embraced. The advances being made in western Europe and the United Kingdom by non-Microsoft productivity-suite providers are, I think, a fascinating case study in how even the perception of noncustomer-centricity yields frustration that will be vented just as soon as alternatives are available. Well, those former shareware and now enterprise-ready alternatives are available, and it will be interesting to track their inroads here in North America.

Lastly, and equally significantly, the twined issues of systems security, disaster recovery, and business continuity--separate, though thoroughly linked, all--appear to be the only areas where companies are willing to spend without demonstrable return on investment. Insurance is always a difficult sell--there always are reasons why investing premiums elsewhere is an appealing prospect. "Wrong!" say so many of you, and for good reason.

There's little doubt that--other than physical damage on a scope that only once has been visited upon us--corporate and institutional information systems are the most attractive targets for those who would disrupt the world's economy. On a macro level, the smart money goes to security investments. On the micro level, the money goes to the same place. Any organization can live without a payroll system for a month or two--banks can still dispense cash. No organization can recover quickly or effectively enough from a hacker's attack on its CRM systems.

The television chef Emeril Lagasse refers to onions, carrots, and celery as "the trinity." It appears you and your colleagues are referring to the linked issues of manageability, choice, and security in the same vein.

As ever, here's to the upstart "trinity" suppliers--and buyers--among you.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Lou Bertin's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Larry Olson, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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