Next Investment Wave

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-03-10 Print this article Print

Next Investment Wave

As the next wave of IT investment approaches, application development technologies and tools are being driven by the emergence of Web services to undergo their most rapid change in decades. Developers no longer enjoy the luxury of specialization; the disciplines of business logic development, database administration, user interface design and network optimization are now arguably blending into a single portfolio and at the same time are becoming the front door rather than the back office of the enterprise. Faced with such changes, its especially urgent for enterprise IT builders to adopt an architects perspective.

Being an IT professional in changing times doesnt just mean wielding the steel and concrete of source code and servers and network infrastructure; it also calls for leadership in conceiving and creating the spaces of information and action that, in turn, become the playing field—or the battlefield—for enterprise opportunity.

The entry of PCs into enterprise applications was the replacement of old assumptions with new realities. The previous assumptions were that computers were expensive, that programming was difficult and time-consuming, and that information needs were stable and similar throughout the enterprise, with resources protected by a physical perimeter of trust.

PC technologies made computer investments more granular, as if an enterprise suddenly found itself able to add small buildings to a campus instead of needing to build new space in skyscraper-size increments.

Low-cost programming tools, such as the spreadsheet or Borland Software Corp.s breakthrough Turbo Pascal, encouraged departments and individuals to build short-lived applications to answer urgent or rapidly changing questions—as if office planners had suddenly discovered movable partitions and the resulting ability to rearrange office space without calling in a team of designers and contractors.

With this experience in mind, consider the emergence of Web services in similar terms. The spaces of enterprise applications have long been furnished with the equivalent of custom-built cabinets and fixtures; lip service was paid to the goal of software reuse, but it was difficult for developers even within a single organization to identify and share code that performed common functions.

Object-oriented technologies improved the definition of function and interaction among the modules of any given application, and they enabled some commercial traffic in modules for such horizontal needs as I/O and other universal elements of applications. Only toward the turn of the new century, though, did modules become self-disclosing—able to answer the question, "Can you do this for me?"

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel