I shared a panel discussion spotlight this month with Ashwin Rangan, an experienced enterprise CIO, where we cordially disagreed on the pace of technology adoption. Indeed, at one point Rangan suggested that fellow panelist David Jones, a technology director at Microsoft, and I had been imbibing too much IT Kool-Aid.
Im sticking to my timetable, though, and forecasting something of a perfect storm—in a positive sense—of enterprise and entrepreneurial opportunity for Internet-centric ventures in 2008.
Rangan, Jones and I were among the panel participants in a March 16 session hosted by TechBiz Connection, a Southern California nonprofit networking group, at the Irvine offices of Connexion by Boeing. We came together to discuss the next generation of Internet technologies—Internet 2, as its called both informally and in the specific sense of the university consortium by that name.
I didnt arrive at the session with my "perfect storm" metaphor in mind, but the label seemed to suggest itself as I replied to several questions posed by the session audience and by moderator Thomas Murphy, vice president of research services at Meta Group (now being acquired by Gartner). I realized that my answers were adding up to a three-way convergence of enablers.
First, theres IPv6, finally gaining momentum worldwide and increasingly a procurement mandate from the big-checkbook IT buyers in several countries military establishments. Second, theres the 64-bit x86 platform; my research suggests that in 2008, this will be just past its tipping point for new entertainment and enterprise desktop PCs. Third, theres Microsofts "Indigo" communication framework in particular and next-generation Windows platform in general—by 2008, that long-awaited combination should be dry behind the ears.
Indigo-enabled Windows and its development tools will radically lower the barriers to both rich and resilient network-based applications. The 64-bit x86 platform will be inherently more secure against common attack types such as buffer overflow, thanks to hardware enhancements that prevent the invocation of arbitrary memory contents as executable instructions. IPv6 will fix many of the fragilities of todays ad hoc IPv4, making mobile Internet connections more robust and making many Net abuses detectable and traceable. This will add up to an electronic environment thats finally a safe and attractive place to do business.
Co-panelist Brian Court, director of network engineering and design at the nonprofit Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, challenged me after the third time that I referred to IPv6 as "securable." After all, he observed, a backhoe will take out IPv6 just as easily as IPv4, and a fraudulent e-mail solicitation is just as much of a nuisance even if it does come from an IPv6 nonspoofable address. I promptly clarified my use of "securable" as based on the usage of crypto guru Bruce Schneier—that a system is "secure" if those who do succeed in attacking it can be identified and effectively prosecuted.
Rangan still thought me overly optimistic about the adoption rate of these technologies. As I said at the time, though, its not a matter of when the technologies will dominate the installed base but, rather, when they will coalesce from the vapor of the fringe to the solidity of the leading edge.
I make it a practice not to live on that edge. I was not among the first to have a browser on my PC or broadband service in my home, and I value the kind of perspective that I used to get from trying to do online shopping via dial-up connection. I favor commercial offerings that strike a good balance between accelerating the future and gracefully coexisting with the past.
When my own in-home technologies make a generational move, therefore, its something of a lagging indicator. If, at that point, an entrepreneurial offering isnt in Release 2.0, ready to give reliable service to my non-gadgetphile wife, then its at least a year too late to become the owner of an emerging market.
Thats why Im picking 2008 as the year by which I believe those early moves should be made. Thats when the tools will be there and the proof-of-concept offerings will be possible. Plan ahead and prosper.
Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.