While most IT managers are mainly focused on the day-to-day grind of keeping corporate technology infrastructures running, stable and up-to-date, the job description of some IT managers also entails keeping one eye on future technologies to maintain their companies competitive edge. Doing this requires the ability to cut through hype. It can be a difficult and thankless job for even the most experienced IT managers.
In my job, I encounter this sort of hype daily, and as one of our former presidents might have said, I feel your pain. Besides testing and reviewing the latest products and technologies, we at eWEEK Labs also have to be prepared to test and review the new and hot technologies that are coming around the bend. There is a problem, though, in understanding which of these upcoming technologies are, in fact, new and hot.
This task can be a lot harder than it sounds. For example, as the end of the year approaches, we at eWEEK Labs are spending some time looking ahead to what will be the important new technologies in 2004. In addition to discussing these technologies among ourselves, were listening to the views of readers, analysts and vendors.
The more viewpoints we hear, the more the confusion grows. For example, some might list utility computing as a new, hot technology. It probably is, but how do you define utility computing? Is it an actual, testable technology and one that readers should prepare for, or is it something that will become a component of future technologies? A subject of similar confusion is grid computing, which is equally hard to define. Its even harder to say exactly where and how companies will want to use it.
Worse, there can be confusion over whether a technology is new. Web services technologies, for example, have been mentioned by some as new and hot. However, I tend to think of them as established and having been deployed at many companies for some time now.
When I think of Web services, I think of the back-end integration and B2B services that many companies are already implementing. Others, however, think of the demo-friendly Web services that let them do things like check the weather while they book a flight.
Vendors widely differing interpretations of a given technology are cause for additional confusion. For example, in utility computing, vendors such as IBM, Sun and HP have similar approaches, but the technologies themselves can be vastly different. That means a company cant really compare the offerings from the different vendors.
The vendors add even more to the confusion by associating their products with hot and heavily hyped technologies. For example, over the past few months, it seems like every product in the world has been positioned as a tool to help with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
Cutting through all the
noise, hype and misdirection”>
So just how do you cut through all the noise, hype and misdirection? The first step to is to bypass all the analyses, press releases and presentations that attempt to simplistically summarize in nontechnical terms something that can truly be understood only in technical terms.
Instead of reading something written by a marketing person who doesnt understand the technology, find product white papers, architecture specifications and, best of all, online developer discussion boards. Through these sources you can get a sound understanding of what the technology does and how it works.
Also, talk to colleagues in IT groups and organizations in which you may already participate. Theres a good chance that some of them are also digging into the same technologies that you are looking at.
Taking these steps will go a long way toward helping you understand what a technology does—and doesnt do—so that you can decide whether your company should invest in it.
And, of course, total understanding will be provided when eWEEK Labs gets its hands on the technology. But that goes without saying.
eWEEK Labs Director Jim Rapozas e-mail address is [email protected]