EDITORIAL: Lessons from 2008

TechTarget ANZ's Editorial team looks back on 2008 and suggests new directions for the new year.

Information technology is a peculiar industry, because a year in which only minor turmoil takes place can feel a little dull, such is the pace of change in our industry.

2008 was not such a year.

The most significant disruption of 2008 has, of course, been financial.

The effect of this disruption on the world economy is well known. It’s impact on IT is not yet certain.

TechTarget ANZ has spoken to IT recruiters who say that in the wake of the financial crisis, the market for contractors has simply disappeared. Others tell us certain skills are still in reasonably strong demand.

We are not in a position to predict what will happen through the rest of the year, but feel we are on safe ground asserting that few organisations will be able to hire more IT workers or make significant new investments in 2009. Yet there is no reason for innovation to stop.

One reason is that innovation can do many of the things necessary to face the financial crisis, such as cutting costs and increasing customer loyalty. This is, of course, the way IT tells us things should be. More than ever before, vendors promises that their products and technologies let business “do more with less.”

2009 looms as the year those claims will be more sorely tested than ever before.

Clouds

One technology that clearly offers IT a new way is cloud computing. Over the last twelve months, several organisations have constructed computing resources of such size, reliability and power that they represent a genuine alternative to many current providers of IT infrastructure.

The New South Wales Department of Education demonstrates the alternative neatly: after a long and difficult attempt to provide more than one million email inboxes to its students and staff that involved proprietary hardware and millions spent on services, the organisation has outsourced its email to Google at a price reputedly less than $20 per inbox per year. Google, your editor has been informed, offered to commence service two weeks after the deal was signed, a timeframe so short that the department was forced to ask for a timetable more suited to the speed of its internal processes.

While cloud computing infrastructure is impressive, it is surely important to acknowledge that it is also immature. The best sign of this is the “trust us, we’re very good at security” stance that cloud companies bring to market. Serious customers will not be satisfied by that for long. Yet it is also hard to imagine it will be long before IT buyers do not include a cloud computing option on every shopping list they create.

As cloud computing matures, we expect it will become compelling, if not compulsory- especially for commodity applications like email. 2009 therefore shapes as a year in which we expect TechTarget ANZ readers will find it prudent to start to examine cloud computing with considerable rigour.

Telecommunications

Another major disruption in 2008 came in December, with Telstra’s exclusion from the process to assess proposals to build Australia’s national broadband network.

Rivers of ink have been spilled on this subject and we do not intend to add another major tributary, other than to say that Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, is perceptive in his description of the Australian telecommunications industry as having reached an “intractable” point. The industry has, in truth, been in this condition for some years.

We therefore hope that 2009 sees new policy directions stated, debated and implemented, after discussion of greater civility than has marked the industry. Naked self-interest, expressed crassly or colourfully as a headline-grabbing ploy, has been the order of the year. More productive debate from all participants will help Australian businesses and consumers to get what they deserve, namely a better, more competitive industry in which carriers can get to market with greater certainty and simplicity. Making these arrangements plain before work commences on the national broadband network is, we believe, an essential step for 2009 and one we feel readers should expect as a result of good government and sensible management.

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