News from National -- Current Articles
IT Trends - Dr Jaime Kaminski
Interview by Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P.
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P. discusses IT trends with with Dr Jaime
Kaminski, Senior e-Commerce Analyst and Technical Briefings Manager Xephon ( http://www.xephon.com
Q: Xephon is the world's leading producer of special IT consultancy reports,
professional journals and international IT conferences. Jaime, can you
describe your involvement in the many services provided by your
A: Thank you Stephen. As you note Xephon has two principal lines of business
- IT publications and conferences. We have been around for twenty years,
providing technical and market research which focuses exclusively on
information systems for large enterprises. This research is made available a
number of forms, including over thirty conferences each year, strategic
consultancy reports, and thirteen technical journals which range in content
from those devoted to MVS and CICS to NT and SQL Server. We also produce
numerous surveys, news reports, and strategic bulletins. Our material
provides value for all levels of the IT organisation from the systems
programmers, to the CIOs and CTOs. It is this breadth of coverage which
really defines Xephon.
My role spans both of these business functions. I started my work with Xephon
with the seminar side of the business. I was hired to put together
high-quality technical seminars and conferences. This role rapidly expanded
to incorporate analytical research for publications, and original writing.
The deep integration of these two roles provides a tangible benefit for our
customers - we can rapidly incorporate the results of our research into
seminars. But this is a two-way process: we are continually listening to our
clients' needs, through surveys, site visits, and from discussions at our conferences.
We use this information to direct and refine our future areas of research.
Q: How did you come to Xephon and to your current position? How do you see
your position evolving in the short and long term?
A: Like you Stephen, I come from an academic background. Before entering the
IT industry half a decade ago, I completed doctoral-level research for a
Ph.D. and lectured to both degree-level and post-graduate students. When I
moved into the IT sector, I first worked with databases. When the opportunity
arose, I jumped at the chance to work with Xephon. This position allowed me
to fully exploit many of my skillsets: the ability to undertake meticulous
research, and to articulate ideas in technical lectures and seminars.
In the short-term I see my role incorporating a much greater use of Web-based
technology. Xephon offers electronic access to all our publications. I see
increased granularity in these offerings - instead of offering whole books
on-line we are beginning to offer individual chapters. I think we are also
going to see a much more rapid dissemination of information using the Web. In
the long-term we could see conferences distributed world-wide on the Web.
Q: Jaime, what do you see as the key skill set required for IT professionals
today and in short term and long term future?
A: I am somewhat cautious about making broad generalisations, but in my mind
the key skill for IT professionals is the integration of IT knowledge with
business skills. One of the principal lessons we learnt from the Year 2000
problem was how integral IT was to business. It may be an unpopular statement
to make, but the sole purpose of IT is to support the business function.
There will always be a need for highly specialised technical staff, but the
rapid advances in technology are going to fuel a demand for adaptable people
who thrive on a variety of challenges. These people will be the key drivers
in future IT departments. They will have the ability to respond rapidly to
technological change, but to do that they also need to understand business
Q: For those entering the IT field and for seasoned veterans, do you have a
recommendations about current and future areas of specialisation or
A: My advice for those entering the field is to focus on areas that they
enjoy. This industry requires long hours of dedicated work: the implications
of working in a sector that is not stimulating do not bear thinking about.
In terms of actual areas of specialisation, obviously skills in Java, Oracle,
Cisco and the Microsoft product set are currently in great demand. But, it is
important to realise that much of this demand is being created by the
e-commerce sector. At the risk of repeating myself, integration with business
skills would be a key asset that could provide a competitive edge in the job
market both now and in the future.
Q: Jaime, you are heavily involved in research. Based upon your exhaustive
research, can you comment on what you consider to be the most
"important" technologies and technology directions that companies
and IT professionals need to consider?
A: I would suggest that we look at the most important 'technologies' first. I
would divide these into those technologies that companies need to evaluate
and/or deploy immediately, and those technologies that will be important in
the medium-term future.
In the first category, technologies that need immediate attention, I would
place XML, Windows 2000, Linux, Wireless technologies, Java and security.
In the later category I would place technologies that are still in a state of
flux and/or the need for deployment is not immediate. These would include
VoIP, IP Version 6, and speech recognition. I have to emphasise that these
technologies will assume considerable importance in the future, and here at
Xephon we keep close tabs on the latest developments in this arena. For
example, we recently ran one of the first European conferences devoted
entirely to IP Version 6 and VoIP.
With these technologies come some issues for consideration, for example
consolidation, systems management, the management of remote technologies,
data management, and network management.
Other areas that companies need to consider are obviously the various
elements of the e-commerce arena, for example B2B e-commerce, and
e-procurement, which although an element of B2B e-commerce itself, I would
consider to be absolutely essential for every organisation that wished to
gain competitive advantage. Business to consumer e-commerce is also a buoyant
sector at the present but probably not as valuable as the B2B sector.
If we look at these technologies and directions in more detail I would make
the following comments about each:
Windows 2000 and the Microsoft product set
The Microsoft product set will be in all our futures. Windows 2000 has
brought with it a vast range of new features, redesigned directory services,
and enhanced availability, I certainly think it will reposition the PC server
within the large organisation. A move to Windows 2000 is inevitable for many companies,
as releases of strategic BackOffice products such as Exchange 2000 and SQL
Server 2000 rely heavily on its advanced functionality. More importantly at
the high end of the Windows 2000 product range is the 'DataCenter' product
which is the strongest indication yet that Microsoft is looking to expand its
horizons towards the business and mission-critical world.
I would definitely say that Windows 2000 is the most significant product
release from Microsoft in a decade, and now is the time to get to grips with
the planning and training issues involved. This is an area that we are
looking at very closely at Xephon, in conferences, reports and in our NT
Moreover, the associated implications of .NET, and Windows DNA will be highly
significant for the industry. I would call .NET a longer-term strategy,
simply because the .NET strategy requires such radical changes that I would
think it will be in a state of flux for at least a year or two. It would be
wise to evaluate these technologies during this time period but unwise to
deploy them in a mission critical context yet. The integral parts of the .NET
strategy - Web Services, and SOAP look as if they will have a radical affect
on the industry.
Linux has gained wide-spread support from vendors and consumers alike,
especially in the Server market, because it is simpler, more stable, and less
costly than many recent desktop operating systems. However, it is important
to note that the release of Microsoft Windows 2000 with its inherent stability
has altered this equation a little, but the cost factor is still a prime
mover for Linux.
On the negative side, many companies are still grappling with the concept of
how to successfully extract revenue from what is essentially free software.
Many larger companies such as IBM have extensive 'services' and consulting
divisions which are likely to exploit the Linux market.
But although Linux is the fastest growing operating system with 25% of the
server market this does not translate into any significant desktop gains
which are almost negligible. Linux still has to reach a mass audience by
attracting application developers, and it needs work to become a relevant
It is likely that in the foreseeable future, Linux will remain as the second
most important server operating system, so I would certainly suggest that
companies need to acquire staff with Linux skills, and training will be
crucial. Talking to industry professionals has made me aware that there is
currently a considerable skill deficit out there.
However, I think that will change. Because Linux is an ideal OS for
Universities and colleges - both on the server side and as a desktop
operating system - more and more educational establishments are likely to
adopt it. This is likely to have long term implications for the skillset of
those coming out of higher education. This is the same scenario as was seen
with Microsoft's software in the 1990s.
XML has so much to offer that we can expect it to pervade the whole of
computing, from databases through middleware to end-user applications.
Massive effort is being put into the creation of XML tools by the IT
industry. Not only are new products being written, but old ones are being
retrofitted to work with XML. Despite the widespread tendency to support both
HTML and XML the fact must be faced that users have to decide, early on,
whether they are going to employ XML or not. Everything, from high-level
design onwards, hinges on this decision. Certainly, XML can be translated
into HTML, but that is merely a stopgap technique. The strengths and
limitations of XML are quite different from those of HTML.
So many valuable uses are appearing that it is a full-time job just keeping
track of the new XML dialects, applications, working groups and consortia.
This is an area that we are constantly researching for conferences and
It is highly probable that there will be an explosion in the number of
Wireless devices. Some predictions suggest that the number of Internet-enabled
mobile devices will exceed the number of PCs by 2003. This may or may not be
the case, but what is certain is that the number of mobile devices being used
will increase massively.
This is being promoted by many different sources. The large telecommunications
vendors need to drive growth because the market for conventional voice calls
is likely to reach saturation especially in the developed nations. The phone
vendors need a reason for users to replace their phones, hardware vendors see
this as a new product outlet.
We are now beginning to see increasing amounts of data being sent using
wireless media for applications such as e-mail and Web browsing. Development
of the wireless WAN is being fuelled by the proliferation of handheld
computing devices, and mobile users potentially become nodes on a SAN,
storing and retrieving data. I think we will see considerable initial use of
this technology by mobile workers and sales forces. The most important point
IT departments need to consider how to manage the security, back-up and
synchronisation of these devices. If this is not given sufficient thought it
could lead to a significant management overhead.
At the beginning of the year I was predicting that Java would play an
increasingly important role in the industry. This has certainly been
confirmed by the evidence from recruitment specialists who are seeing Java
skills as the most highly sought after skill. Certainly the massive backing
being given to Java by both Sun and IBM is having an impact.
The pace of the IT industry is increasing rapidly, so software development
times have to shrink. The key to achieving this, of course, is through the
use of object-oriented programming, such as Java. Reusing software cuts
development time and creates a library of building blocks that other programs
can readily use. The information age will be held back without fundamental
changes occurring in software development. The inherent flexibility of a
component-based system makes it much easier and quicker to change the
software as business needs evolve.
Additionally there are benefits in the way that Java and XML complement each
other. I mentioned earlier that XML will be crucial in the next few years,
well Java is an object-oriented language, ideally suited for expressing state
and behaviour. XML, on the other hand, is what might be called a
data-oriented language, which concerns itself only with state. Among computer
languages, it is perhaps closest to SQL in this respect. In any case, Sun has
set to with a will to cement XML to Java as firmly as it possibly can, by
publishing specifications, giving away tools, and whatever else it takes.
Much of the hype behind Java has died down now and companies can get down to
some serious work.
However, at the beginning of the year Java had little viable competition,
analysts were aware of the Microsoft.NET initiative, but little more could
have been predicted. Now we have a much clearer picture of Microsoft's
response to Java.
Talking to users and analysts it appears that Java is still ahead as a
technology, but simply because of its' perceived openness. We will see a lot
more competition between Java and .NET in the years to come.
There can be no doubt that e-business has elevated the profile of security.
Relatively trivial breaches in e-business security can have massive
implications for a company ranging from negative publicity to massive drops
in share price. This direct link between security and the boardroom makes IT
security one of the top priorities for IS departments.
To give you an example Stephen, each year Xephon does a survey of IS Plans
for Fortune 500 companies. In 1998 security was the seventeenth most
important priority - in 2000 security was the fourth most important priority.
One of the best ways of improving the integrity of a server platform is still
to move it to a physically secure area. Consolidation of workgroup servers,
usually carried out for economic and systems operations reasons, is drawing
processors into data centres. In the meantime, there is a countervailing
proliferation of Web servers that are physically dispersed and are
intrinsically insecure in themselves. Fortunately, the operation of
second-generation e-business systems is more likely than that of their
predecessors to be entrusted to IT professionals, which should improve their
security from a variety of viewpoints, including the physical one.
The ability to insist on the security standards of e-business partners is a
delicate issue in the B2B context, as the relative sizes of value chain
collaborators can make it hard for a minnow to dictate to a shark. It should
be recognised, however, that serious e-business players, irrespective of
their size, are determined to solve the security issue. As we have seen, the
ISPs have an essential part to play; they have shown their willingness to
participate but they must be prepared to prove their competence as
prospective e-business service providers.
From a technological perspective companies need to consider firewalls,
anti-virus software, encryption, authentication, and digital signatures. But
security is also a human issue. It is important to make employee education
and awareness a high priority. A corporate policy, with top-level support
needs to be put in writing. On the same theme, a coherent and enterprise-wide
security policy is also very useful to establish some method of negotiating
on security between e-trading partners. The formalising of these issues is
one of the problems being tackled by the ebXML definition project.
At the beginning of the year I classed the movement to IP Version 6 (the next
generation Internet Protocol - IPng) as a medium- to long-term strategy. Our
predictions at Xephon suggested that there was a 75% likelihood of the
industry moving to the new protocol, but this was highly dependent on its
acceptance by the major router and operating system vendors. I am now more
confident than ever that a move to IPv6 will occur before the 2004 timeframe.
At the current rate of use the Internet protocol will run out of address
spaces around 2004. This will be a prime mover towards moving to a new
protocol. IPv6 will solve the address space problem, and will have
considerable benefits for Multimedia applications, Quality of Service, and
The specification of IP Version 6 has taken five years to develop, and to a
certain extent it is a technical compromise between several proposals. In
general, the IP Version 6 specification is technically quite conservative.
The designers tried to use the same paradigms as the existing Internet,
keeping in mind that the IP Version 6 Internet was to be an upgrade of the
existing Internet, not a completely new network.
But, I would strongly suggest that the industry should keep an eye on this
sector, when deployment starts things will move very quickly, so industry
awareness is key.
As I mentioned earlier I would class the deployment of Voice over IP (VoIP)
as a medium-term strategy. There is no doubt that VoIP will prevail in the
long term, because, for most companies, the cost benefits will be impossible
to ignore. However, in the short term there are still a considerable number
of technical details to sort out, for example guaranteeing the quality of
transmission across the Internet is quite complex at the present and can
require some complex tunnelling. However, when IPv6 takes off these issues
will be reduced. The other problem at the present is that the marketplace is
highly volatile with large numbers of IPv6 vendor mergers.
Therefore, it is likely that many potential adopters will stay on the
sidelines until there is greater clarity in the market. This is not to say
that it would be foolish to adopt VoIP at this stage, the companies that have
are experiencing considerable benefits. I for one would certainly recommend
limited deployment now at the departmental level. At the present
would not recommend using VoIP for anything other than intranet and Virtual
Private Networks, there are still too many quality of service issues.
This does however highlight the importance of an enterprise's network. It is
essential that companies focus resources on their networks, increase
training, and consider the future demands of multimedia, Voice over IP, and
Quality of Service. Investments in networking technology should be made with
these future issues in mind.
This is a technology to keep an eye on in the mid-to long-term future.
Currently learning a specific programming language or syntax limits the use
of technology to a small segment of the population. Using natural language to
interact with IT will be fundamental for taking IT to the general population.
Commercial dictation systems are now widely available, although we are still
several years away from universal speech recognition.
The combination of speech recognition and mobile devices is a very important
area to watch in the mid- to long-term future. As the size of mobile devices
decreases the need to have a simple way of inputting data increases.
When this does come it really will change the face of IT.
The volume of information that IT professionals are bombarded with is
enormous, and this is a situation that is only going to get worse. Research
at the close of 1999 indicated that there were over one billion web available
on the Web. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need some means of
sorting and acquiring useful data, which is where agent technology comes in.
Agent technology has been around for years, but I think the number of vendors
who will develop the technology will show a marked increase in the short term
future and I think that in the next couple of years we will see users take
increasing advantage of agent technology. I think this is something we will
see in the short to medium term. Many companies are already supplying agents
with their software, but I am sure that there will be many more examples of
the use of agents by individuals in the short term.
Consolidation and integration are big issues in all sizes of organisation at
present, many of our largest customers are drawing LAN servers and
departmental systems back into data centres, while we are aware that smaller
organisations looking to reduce costs by consolidating a smaller number of
The management overhead of running many small servers is staggering -
especially when you consider the perspectives of systems management, manpower
and environmentals (by which I mean floorspace, power consumption, etc). When
you consider that the cost of staff is one of the highest overheads that a
company has to sustain there are significant cost benefits in consolidation.
The vendors are supporting this by releasing some very powerful hardware and
software combinations. For example in the third and fourth quarter of 2000 we
saw IBM release the z/900 enterprise server mainframe with the ability to
consolidate potentially thousands of smaller servers, we saw HP and SUN
announce their new high end UNIX servers, and we saw Microsoft release its
DataCenter offering which combines both a hardware platform provided by a
third party - such as Fujitsu, Unisys, Compaq or Stratus with the resilient
Consolidation is the real issue at the top-end of the industry.
The spread of the Internet, multimedia, and new digital applications are
creating a massive demand for storage. Magnetic disk capacities are expected
to continue to grow at 60% or more annually for the next five years,
therefore, the amount of available capacity should not pose limitations on
any anticipated applications. Organisations with larger distributed, storage
needs should be looking to exploit Storage Area Networks (SANs).
I think that this is going to be another key area to consider, because of the
rapid explosion in the number of distributed systems that companies now have
to manage, things like Web-attached resources, databases, remote devices, and
so on are a serious management problem.
The approaches to system management are divided between using frameworks and
best-of-breed solutions. Tivoli Enterprise and CA Unicenter are currently the
main contenders in the 'total system management' market. Along with other
popular management products, such as HP's OpenView, they strive to offer a
complete solution for managing devices, networks, applications, databases,
and other 'objects' in a consistent manner. But it is essential that users
evaluate whether using a total management product is the right approach to
the problem, or whether they should concentrate on building their own frameworks
using best-of-breed components.
There are trade-offs between the two approaches, which need to be considered.
There are considerable problems associated with imposing a total management
system on what is often a multi-vendor infrastructure. Many enterprise-wide
solutions can prove unwieldy and have difficulty adapting to evolving IT
requirements at the department or local site level. Specialist tools can
enable a modular approach, allowing changes to be accommodated quickly and
efficiently, at a pace controlled and dictated by the systems manager. But
all too often they are poorly integrated with other systems.
The B2B market
At the beginning of the year the predictions for growth in the B2B (Business
to Business) e-commerce marketplace were massive. From what I recall the
predictions from analysts for the future size of the market ranged from
several hundred billion dollars all the way up to $7 trillion by 2006.
The result has been that a host of start-ups have been trying to position
themselves in the B2B arena, in preference to the B2C sector. However, this
will simply cause the same kind of fragmentation and overcrowding that
impacted on the B2C market is now starting to impact on the B2B market. As
the market becomes more crowded the likelihood of companies carving a
successful niche become less favourable.
The trends seen in the B2C market place is repeating itself. For example, the
first vertical industry portals and exchanges gained considerable media
attention and publicity. This spurred a mass of imitators, and certainly each
market segment can accommodate quite a number of specialised portals.
However, estimates suggest that there will soon be tens of thousands of
on-line exchanges. The market simply cannot support this number. Once the underlying
generic software tools are available and proven, the barriers to entry
The B2B market is buoyant at the moment. Much of this is supported by the
venture capital companies who have been pumping billions of dollars into
start-ups in hopes of high returns when they go public. This worked initially
in the B2C space, just as it is with the B2B market. But, as more and more
start-ups go public, returns will be lower and lower, and the venture
capitalists will have to look elsewhere for investments.
As with most e-business initiatives the first companies to deploy often gain
a competitive advantage, but as the number of companies competing in the
space increases they have to work harder to find customers to cover costs.
Stephen, I think this is one of the most important components of B2B
e-business, simply because almost all companies can benefit from the cost
savings relatively rapidly. The goal is to electronically link the entire
sales, production, and delivery process into one seamless flow of
information. Having a global view of logistic movements enables better
decision making, reduces costs while providing the means for sharing
information among trading partners. This type of visibility and collaboration
provides massive cost benefits along with an improved ability to react to
customer requirements. Therefore I would seriously advise companies to look
closely at the opportunities for using e-procurement.
Business to Consumer e-commerce
This is a market sector that has gained considerable publicity because of the
highly-inflated values of some e-commerce company valuations. As we have
seen, the economic viability of some B2C e-commerce sites is somewhat
Making money selling an increasingly commoditized product in a highly
competitive market means differentiating that product from everyone else's,
whilst keeping cost of sales as low as possible. It can be done by
integrating products to offer a fuller service, and by making them easier to
buy. Using the Internet to add value to products and for e-commerce is key,
but, for many businesses, the costs of implementing a worthwhile e-commerce
strategy seem overwhelming. However, I think that physical companies with
real-world outlets, brand awareness, and exiting customers have a
considerable advantage in providing an additional outlet for the their
existing customers and attracting new customers. We will see more and more of
these so called 'Clicks and Mortar' companies gaining market share in the B2C
e-commerce area at the expense of many of the pioneering e-commerce
If companies wish to implement a B2C solution, they should, identify the
business objectives before starting, ensure key senior business champions are
committed to the project, create a skilled project team combining both
business and IT skills, and consider the legal and security requirements.
E-Business is not just a 'front-end', it fundamentally alters the ways
I think that the role of 'data' is absolutely crucial, especially for
companies in the e-business sector. I have mentioned before that close
business integration is a key element that IT organisations will have to deal
with. The most important asset of e-commerce sites will be the information
that they hold. The principal area of competitive advantage in which
companies will be able to distinguish themselves will be what they do with
this information. The collection, management, and analysis of this data will
be the key areas of competitive advantage. Data is not just a technology
issue it is a management issue.
Companies need to have a data management policy in place, which considers how
raw, low quality data is converted into useful business information.
Companies need to review how behavioural information about visitors is
collected, using cookies, search engines, and on-line registration forms.
They also need to define business rules for the collection and integration of
Sales patterns and trends can be analysed using data mining and OLAP tools.
The massive industry interest in e-commerce is causing a vast array of
products to be created to fill industry needs. It will be essential to
constantly review this new technology and see what emerges for the Web. And
finally, companies need to integrate low quality data collected from the Web
with their higher quality enterprise data to extract business information.
This has been quite a detailed list, but I think it gives a flavour of the
principal issues that professionals need to think about.
Q: How do you see computing technology evolving in the short and long term
and what recommendations would you make for IT professionals and companies to
best prepare for the changes to come?
A: If we consider the technology directions I mentioned earlier, it is clear
that there are a wide range of new technologies which are driving IT into
every area of commercial and even domestic life. But the raw technology is
outpacing our ability to manage it within a structured IT environment. I see
this need for management as the key challenge in the near-term future for the
It is a paradox but in the medium- and long-term I would suggest that we are
going to see convergence of technology. We can see this already at the
hardware layer, with the convergence of computers, phones, and consumer
electronics. At the application layer we see the convergence of information,
communication, commerce and education. If you look at the technology
directions I mentioned many are interrelated. Developments in speech
recognition will be complemented by developments in VoIP, and IP version 6.
Furthermore, enhanced security, storage, and optoelectronics will provide
building blocks for highly advanced network technology, with a universal
To get back to the short term - companies need to prepare themselves by
analysing their business processes, simplifying these where necessary, and
devote resources to creating internal departments with rapid-response
capabilities to monitor and quickly respond to technological change. This is
where the development of close associations and partnerships with analyst
organisations like Xephon will provide competitive advantage.
Q: Consider this a blank slate. Please make any statements or comments about
the IT field unedited and unrestricted?
Much of the world's business now runs on 'Internet time'. This pace literally
changes the rules of the IT and all business games, and makes future
developments far more difficult to predict. I see the future IT professionals
divided into those who are technology-focused and those who integrate
technology and business. This latter group of future IT professionals needs
to be aware of the possible technology directions which could support their
business needs. This is why analysis and research organisations like Xephon
have such a crucial role to play in providing perspective and focus.