Simple Message Endures

In the IT environment of late 2004, the need to build out the type of computing infrastructure you always wanted to develop is foremost, with real penalties for nonperformance and real advantages for success.

If you could, you would have a computing infrastructure that is simple. Youd be able to check the system status whenever you wanted, you could upgrade seamlessly and add computing resources as required, and words such as "patches" and "vulnerabilities" would be relegated to the dictionary of historical terms. Youd no more worry about the state of your computing network than you would about whether your company has power available in the electrical outlets. It would just be there.

Each year, the Gartner faithful trek down to Orlando for the Symposium/ITxpo. The message at this years event hasnt changed all that much since the one given 14 years ago, when the symposium made its debut. According to that message, the best corporate computing architectures are fully integrated, secure networks that are designed to support and accelerate business goals. The difference this year is the pressure on CIOs and other top-level technology executives to make their IT systems simple and integrated as well as secure. And that pressure is being transferred to the vendor community, an occurrence that is both fun and interesting to observe.

The impact of the regulatory environment, which requires broad reporting and data-tracking capabilities; the security imperative, which requires a comprehensive, corporatewide approach; the outsourcing alternative; and the need to accomplish all those goals within a restricted budget have all come home to roost on the IT department. Rather than hope you can retire or change jobs before you fully engage in those tasks, the remainder of this year and 2005 is the time to develop the computing infrastructure you know you should have.

The need to engage in your companys technology strategy was an underlying theme in several Gartner keynotes and conference sessions but was most forcefully presented by Intel CEO Craig Barrett in his discussion. "The country that is the most blasé about information technology is the one we are in right now," Barrett told the audience. In the emerging-market countries of Asia and Eastern Europe and in re-emerging countries such as Russia, interest in IT runs high, and developing modern infrastructures is a personal, company and national priority, Barrett said. Not so in the United States, he added.

Barrett and others were not quite sure what event would be required to renew a broader interest in IT, nor the education and investment necessary to bring the technology from the labs to implementation. From my perspective, the driver will be the realization that without a comprehensive technology plan, your company wont be able to meet regulatory requirements and win in the current competitive environment.

The need to get your company on the correct technology track is critical, and its also your responsibility. Technology executives who have handed over control to other corporate executives are finding out that despite giving away authority, they are being held responsible for technology failings. Executives who have lost command of their budget dollars will find that regulatory agencies will not give them a free pass because their budgets were diverted elsewhere.

If there was one message heard among attendees, it was that vendor expressions of "the agile enterprise," utility computing and service-oriented architectures need to be given life in the form of product road maps upon which customers can act. Vendors that outline their capabilities in buzzwords only—without a real plan or product to back them up—will be left behind.

Five years ago, the buzz at the Gartner symposium surrounded the need to move quickly to take advantage of Internet opportunities. That need for rapid investment evaporated as quickly as the stock valuations of Internet startups. This year, the need to build out the type of computing infrastructure you always wanted to develop is foremost, with real penalties for nonperformance and real advantages for success. The simple computing message has been the same for 14 years, and this is the year to make that message a reality.

Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at