This eWEEK: June 23, 2003

In the auto industry, the watchword used to be "Follow the General."

In the auto industry, the watchword used to be "Follow the General." In the months and years ahead, well see if the maxim still applies. If it does, the way IT services are consumed by the worlds largest companies will never be the same. For General Motors to exert the influence that Ralph Szygenda and his top execs are talking about—inducing outsourcers to bid for slices of contracts and then cooperate with one another in working on them—the company requires confidence bordering on arrogance. Even thinking of the concept would be impossible without GMs matchless asset: its size.

Other industries are watching. "Personally, I am very interested in it, and a number of my colleagues are. Theres nothing industry-specific about this," said Paul King, CIO of government services at J.P. Morgan Chase, in New York. "Its the only way youll know if your outsourcers are efficient." The danger, King said, is that you could wind up micromanaging, instead of outsourcing. Precisely, offered savvy CIO and eWEEK columnist Paul Tinnirello. "Overall, the idea seems shaky, and I would not subject my organization to this dilemma," Tinnirello said. Objections such as these will have to be overcome if Szygendas corollary concept, IT ERP software, is ever to be created. GM may lead, but it cannot always act alone.

Size matters in the storage industry as well. As Evan Koblentz reports, EMC is attempting to establish a standard for storage virtualization software to manage the equipment of all the major storage players, not just EMCs. The storage powerhouse just may have the clout to pull it off. If theres one storage vendor that dominates in the largest data centers—GMs included—its EMC. The PowerPath software wont be here until perhaps late next year, but that lag time might be useful to coalesce industry support for the software.

Everyone likes the idea of public 802.11 access to the Internet. Jason Brooks review of hot-spot subscription services from Boingo Wireless, Gric Communications and T-Mobile USA will give you a feel for which might fit your company best in ease of use, control and flexibility. No doubt, however, the threat of Wi-Fi eavesdropping has caused you some gray hairs. When best practices are used, as described in Anne Chens story in the Labs section, security problems can be mitigated. The challenge is getting mobile workers to sit still long enough so that personal firewall and anti-virus software can be installed and updated regularly. Widespread use of Wi-Fi hot spots will never be safe without the kind of corporate discipline, starting with IT, that is all too rare.

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