What Will You Do When IT No Longer Needs You?

It's safe to say that plenty of iPhones and other powerful portables emerged from gift boxes this holiday season. Our author examines the implications of this new era of user-centric, cloud-enabled computing for IT workers, enterprises, and network providers.
Posted December 31, 2007

Sonny Discini

My oldest daughter finally won the war and got her hands on an iPhone. As she finger swiped her way through heavily animated touch screen menus to show me why this thing was so cool, it got me to thinking about IT and IT security.

Since she got the iPhone, she hasn't touched a computer in the house. Why? Because everything she cares about is on that iPhone or accessible via the Internet.

As the odyssey of coolness continued, I realized that my daughter is already participating in what will be the new dawn of computing. She showed me all of her contacts on MySpace, all her pictures on Photobucket and all of her important school papers, which she collaborates with others, on Google Apps for My Domain.

The implications of this on the IT industry, its players and the future of computing are incredible.

It dawned on me that if this takes off; you'll see industries that may die off, antivirus being one of them. Let’s not forget our good friends at Microsoft who will be left in the dust with their reliance on yesterday’s desktop computing model. The iPhone didn't have an antivirus client installed because Apple is handling this for you and I certainly didn't see the, "Powered by Vista" logo anywhere in our travels.

When we were done with the tour of her iPhone and just how she uses it, I could clearly see how organizations could also follow a similar model for telco, e-mail, data storage & security and enterprise applications. At the end of the tour, when she asked me if I thought her iPhone was cool, I sat there and couldn't come up with a word that could describe how utterly cool it really was.

But as I continued to envision what the future will hold, one clearly realizes that organizations are well behind the curve of popular technology culture. For example, how many times have you seen a job description state that you must have reliable transportation? Well, in the future we may see similar things in a job description related to IT.

How many people do you know who don't have a cell phone? With cellular and other data networks continuing to sink the price of service offerings, how much longer do you think organizations will maintain expensive PBX systems when the entire workforce already has a device capable of 30 times more than a traditional desk phone? We're already seeing this on the consumer side with people ditching traditional landlines and using just cellular phones for their primary communication needs.

With Google stepping up to offer many next gen services -- and in no surprise, they will be bidding on the 700Mhz band this January -- one has to ask if we're heading towards commoditized computing. In other words, you'll get a device, you'll get apps but only what I as the service provider will want you to have. You keep all your data and communication needs with me and if you attempt to hack me, I will shut you down.

While this new cloud model of computing sounds reliable, cheap and promotes all of the loveliness of convergence and competition, one has to ask if an organization or an individual is ready to place enough trust in Google -- or anyone else -- for the storage and security of vital information, let alone voice communication and computing needs.

In my mind this boils down to risk vs. cost.

Many of us have seen in-house IT and IT security bumbled just as much as those who are currently providing next gen services. Most individuals you ask clearly don't trust their private information in the hands of third party companies but how will organizations react to the sweetest of capitalist lures: bottom line savings? If you look at the costs involved with maintaining a mail server, can an organization resist the cost savings of handing the responsibility over to the Googles of the world?

I’m sure we will soon see.

While the excitement and the momentum builds with all of the new cost effective options out there, the realist in me says that most organizations will be slow to adapt. No one wants to ride down the cutting edge only to find that they've made a critical error.

So while we will see the iPhone model of computing grow much faster with individuals, don’t expect to see organizations to be as quick to jump. That said, don’t expect to find IT and IT security shops doing half of what they do today. In fact, I bet in ten years you won’t find a traditional telephone on desks nor will you find the current open computing model we see with current workstations.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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