Back in the early days of business computing, implementing computing technology meant building a relationship with a single vendor. Everyone had their own proprietary architectures, and when you selected a vendor, you were entering into the technology equivalent of marriage. The vendor moved into your business and provided you with all of the computing services you needed (or they thought you needed).
Well, the current move toward a pay-as-you-go computing model seems to bring the industry full circle. As the computer industry moves away from pushing new hardware onto business users, the SOA (service-oriented architecture) model has begun to evolve as a preferred model for providing compute services to the business world.
This isnt a sudden emergence; major software vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Microsoft for years have been touting the “service” aspect of their products (and sounding suspiciously like IBM mainframe salesmen from the 1960s).
But what has happened is that the enabling technologies—which involve the ability to deliver a service-based model of computing without requiring dedicated, proprietary hardware, networking or communications—have become commonplace, and the service-oriented vendors now find themselves with a fertile field to plant their concepts.
But to businesses that chose to use this model, it means a return to the days of single-vendor computing environments. While its one thing to add a specific service to your computing environment, when you approach the issue by placing your key business processes in the hands of service vendor, you wont be doing anything that is likely to disrupt that service.
This means that the service provider will, at best, become the general contractor for your IT efforts, signing off on your IT choices to guarantee that these choices dont disrupt your line of business applications.
A Single Provider
?”> This doesnt mean that business will find itself tied to a single vendor; it means that it will lock in with a single service provider, who may be combining technology offerings from any number of players.
Gartner refers to this model as the creation of “ecosystems,” where the service provider creates the environment in which the software and hardware vendors must play.
This isnt inherently a bad thing. Take a look at the news releases related to utility computing on any given day, and youll likely find that they are primarily announcements regarding partnerships between vendors designed to bring a specific offering to the business community.
As additional vendors come to the table, the development of standardized environments—where the offerings from many vendors are plug-and-play—will become the basic way that the service-focused offerings are presented.
Small business will be able to pick and choose from these standardized environments, while large businesses will be able to develop customized environments that reflect their ability to spend more dollars on the effort.
Yet there will be a broad range of options available, and the tweaking and tuning that can be done to offer a competitive business advantage, without the need for a fully customized environment, will be significant.
This will change the focus of the IT manager, however. The ability to manage the business relationship will become as important, or possibly more important, than managing the technology side of the equation. The single choice of a business service provider will make or break a company; the choice needs to reflect not only the current needs of the business, but also a realistic estimation of plans for growth.
Changing the selection of service provider will not be a simple act, given how tightly integrated into the business a successful business computing infrastructure is. Making the right choice upfront may define the future of the business completely, and thats a responsibility that IT rarely has had to deal with.