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The Major Trends that will Shape IT

2007-01-10  Taylor

The Major Trends that will Shape IT

 

Researchers at Accenture Technology Labs recently conducted a rigorous and fact-based analysis of more than 150 technologies to understand and quantify the major trends that will shape information technology during the next decade:

Integration: From tight to loose
Infrastructure: From scarcity to abundance
Information: From control to chaos
Virtualization: Of hardware, software and business processes

Technology Showcase: Short video clips highlighting our technology prototypes
Read Points of View from the Labs on emerging technology topics.

Integration: From tight to loose
We believe new developments in integration—namely the large-scale adoption of service-oriented architectures (SOAs)—is the most significant trend on the horizon, because it has the potential to fundamentally alter not only how businesses are able to work with information but the structure of the IT industry itself. In the past, functional integration of IT within an enterprise was achieved through large, tightly-coupled, monolithic systems and packaged software. But standards that are being adopted industry-wide at all levels of IT—from messaging to orchestration—will enable functional integration and loose-coupling. As a result, the widespread adoption of SOAs may transform the software industry itself by questioning the dominance of large package software vendors and enabling best-of-breed business solutions constructed from interoperable components. For the CIO, SOAs mean simpler systems, lower-cost of maintenance, ease of modifiability and integration with other systems. For business operators, SOAs allow technology to be configured in support of business strategy a lot more easily, enabling greater agility, inter-operability with other companies, new business models and new sources of revenue. Another trend enabled by SOA that will also have a powerful impact on the industry structure is the emergence of software as a service. Despite the great promise of SOA, challenges remain. Semantic integration will emerge as a significant problem.

Infrastructure: From scarcity to abundance
Infrastructure—the hardware that delivers information—is moving from an era characterized by scarcity and constraint to an era characterized by abundance. The sheer physical ability to gather, store and manipulate data is now more than adequate for all but the highest-end business needs. New concerns will focus on quality of service, reliability, dependability, flexibility and maintainability. One implication of this era of infrastructure abundance is a great increase in the number and type of embedded devices, ranging from mobile phones to milling machines. We believe that today‘s server/desktop platform will in time coexist with and complement three new IT platforms—on mobile devices, in the home and in industrial environments. The demands of SOA will accelerate the calls for more dynamic and flexible infrastructures that in many ways will also be more complex.

Information: From control to chaos
Information management in the future will be characterized by three challenges:

  • The sheer growth in the volume of structured and unstructured information.
  • The emergence of real-time information from sensors and embedded devices which today‘s databases are not equipped to handle.
  • The increased dependence of companies on external information over which they have no control.

 

Real-time data warehouses are needed to handle high volumes of complex queries in real time. The key technology drivers are in place: network bandwidth that supports near real time transfer of data is now available; computer hardware and storage are both getting better, faster and cheaper; database per-transaction costs are dropping; and database system capabilities are increasing. But even real time data warehouses are not a sufficient solution to the sophisticated need to effectively utilize massive real-time information, such as that produced by sensors and GPS-enabled devices. That will require highly scaleable, probabilistic (as opposed to deterministic) analysis techniques. In addition, analytic and mathematic skills will be at a premium. SOAs will be invaluable in connecting different types of data, whether structured or unstructured, assuming that businesses can meet the challenges of semantic integration and incorporating data of different degrees of granularity.

Virtualization: Of hardware, software and business processes
A major business and social consequence of the technology trends above will be virtualization: the addition of abstraction levels between a capability and the physical means through which the capability is realized. Virtualization will become pervasive in:

  • Hardware that is dynamically and virtually provisioned.
  • Software delivered as a service—a trend that could become particularly attractive with the emergence of rich internet application technologies.
  • Business processes that are dynamically provisioned or outsourced—a trend made possible by advances in networks and collaboration technologies.

 

Virtualization will lead to an industrialization of IT at all levels. Because the physical can be separated from the virtual, the same physical components can be repurposed, which eliminates specialization and leads to economies of scale. Location will become transparent, since the provider—of the hardware, software or business process—and the recipient are unconcerned about each other‘s physical locations.As communication and information is increasingly digitized, the way people will work will change too. Outsourcing and offshoring will become increasingly attractive ways to take advantage of the full global talent pool and to carry out work round the clock.

Hear Accenture researchers and CTO Don Rippert talk about their technology forecast and the major trends that will shape IT.

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