Infrastructure Management ? The Growing Opportunity
by Robin Bloor, Partner
The IT industry mutates in a particular manner ? one that is driven by the evolution and enhancement of existing capabilities at every level (from silicon to the user interface) and also driven by sudden technology leaps and the advent of completely new disruptive technologies. To say the IT industry is driven by ?change? is too simplistic. Of course it?s driven by change ? it?s alive, it has to be.
The Dimensions of Change
In IT everything continues to get faster at the raw technology level – on the one hand, generously solving the performance issues of yesterday and on the other, making way for new applications based on speed that were previously impossible. At the data level we have moved from processing numbers, to text, to images, to voice and sound, to the moving image. This dimension of change creates new applications regularly, and we?re not done yet, by a long chalk; real-time video manipulation and holograph processing are still in the future. Media integration creates another dimension of change ? as the Internet gradually and greedily consumes whole information industries (like print, and telephony, and the music industry, and television, and so on) it creates the possibility of broader applications and the greater integration of everything.
There?s more. The ability to process different kinds of media enables evolution of the user interface so that new interfaces are developed for every imaginable context. It?s not just games playing versus the desktop versus the PDA. Computer technology is gradually becoming the interface to almost everything, including your kitchen sink.
And as regards context ? when and where can I have the information service – the limitations imposed by the copper wire are now becoming a thing of the past. You can have your computer power anywhere, even while you?re scuba diving. And not just you, but inanimate objects too. We are at the start of a trend that will see the gradual embedding of intelligence and connectivity ?in everything, everywhere?. RFID is just the hors d?oeuvre.
Even if you knew nothing about IT infrastructure management, you?d probably guess that these explosive trends would create severe management issues for any large configuration of computer power that needs to support what is possible (and being done) now. Technology management that remains flexible for future possibilities yet to be imagined, is nothing more than a theory.
There is thus a gathering storm. The situation is out of control rather than under control and the adoption of new technologies will not suddenly stop ? some technologies are unavoidable. This year, for example, many businesses will go to VoIP because the ?economics dictate it.? But VoIP will create management issues for sure.
The Market Opportunity
For the IT user, technology change looks very much like a growing problem, but for the IT vendors it look more like an opportunity. The infrastructure management space, (by which I mean everything from security management through network management to system management) is populated by a large number of small players and a small number of large players (BMC, CA, HP, IBM and Sun). Watch for two things to happen in this space in 2006; consolidation through the natural consumption of small fish by large ones (as it?s already happening, I?m merely saying that the feast will continue) and the entry of new big fish.
One driving trend that I?ve not mention yet is SOA, and it is the one that will, in my view, draw big fish into this abundant pool. The acquisition of Systinet by Mercury is a straw in the wind (Mercury being a fish of medium proportions with a desperate desire to put on weight) and so is the gradual accumulation of ID management capability by Oracle – it gobbled up Thor (ID Mgt) and OctetString (Directory) last year in a single meal. Watch Microsoft, Symantech and EMC enter this space. Cisco, I expect will also gradually enter in. (Yes, Cisco). I expect BEA to be forced into this space too, in some way ? possibly by being acquired.
The Bottom Line
Infrastructure management has to be delivered as a service and SOA is the architecture through which it will happen. The disruptive technology trends will inevitably continue. The only way that the resultant technology farms will be manageable will be through a federated set of SOA based management capabilities. This will create opportunities for some technology companies because it lowers the barrier to entering the infrastructure management market.