Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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The Year in Retrospect, '96-'97

Well, it seems that the year has come and gone more quickly than I imagined possible! As the June issue marked this column's anniversary and July is the magazine's, I thought I'd do a retrospective on the year in Information Technology with some thoughts on the future thrown in for good measure. I would also like to introduce the new column title: "LAN ConXions";... much better!

Last year we (after some preliminary didactic articles) started with a discussion on groupware. We studied the advantages of this technology's deployment, and then compared the two leaders in the field, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. At the time the article was printed, the technology was relatively new and thoughts of implementations were being entertained in boardrooms across the world. Now, almost a year later, groupware products have matured to a level where nearly all are comfortable with the products and installations have sprung up everywhere. Lotus Notes is still the leader however, Microsoft is quickly closing the gap in this extremely competitive arena. Web based Intranets are also still vying for top billing as a "groupware" solution and enjoy a huge and ever expanding installed base due to the masses of developers hard at work on various aspects of database and application connectivity. A curious situation has since arisen; in that these two technologies are being seen more and more as complementary, and installations of both at the same site are often encountered.

Next we delved into the topic of Java. This ubiquitous technology is still not living up to it's potential as an enterprise operating system; however, Sun has formed some key alliances in the past year with Computer Associates, Corel, and Informix which will undoubtedly speed the adoption of Java at the enterprise level. The concept of "thin client computing" pioneered by Sun is being looked at more and more seriously as a viable option to today's networking paradigm.

We then visited IBM's headquarters in Georgia for an in depth view of where "Big Blue" is going and where it had been. Six months later IBM is still trying to gobble up the home computer market with a good deal of success. They are by no means the industry leader in this segment (Packard Bell is) but have gone far to increase their market share from the dismal portion it once had. Their Lotus Notes division is going gangbusters and it is clear that IBM have focused a good deal of energy both here and in the NRM field with it's Tivoli product.

Unfortunately the rapid evolution of technology does not coincide with the pace of social reform. February's article on "Women in Information Technology" pointed out many of the difficulties women face in the field day to day. I regret to say that nothing has changed nor will significant change be likely by the time our next anniversary rolls around. The article also pointed out the lack of women in the IT educational stream. This item does show a positive shift this year... not by much, but it's a start. Until the enrollment numbers are gender equal, women will not have an equal voice in the field...unfortunate, but true.

The next series of articles dealt with a topic near and dear to my heart: Network Resource Management. We looked at the huge cost of ownership involved in deploying and maintaining today's enterprise networks and various strategies to combat this expenditure. We examined Citrix's WinFrame Enterprise which is also based on the "thin client" model of computing as well as Computer Associates' Unicenter TNG. Both were demonstrated to have significant benefits which specifically address the overwhelming cost of ownership issue. The coming year will definitely be one in which organizations grapple with this problem on a grand scale.

Since then, WinFrame has realized a 158 percent second quarter increase in revenues over last years results and has formed new strategic alliances with companies such as Compaq and Network Computing Devices. Compaq is actively promoting WinFrame in conjunction with their own Proliant model servers as a low cost of ownership model for mission-critical enterprise computing. Computer Associates has enjoyed a 51 percent first quarter increase in client server applications revenue over last year with an overall gain of 31 percent. They received revenues of over 890 million thisĀ  quarter alone, truly making them a force to be reckoned with. This success has largely been attributed to Unicenter's rapid adoption in the marketplace. International Data Corporation's recent report on TNG states that Unicenter's deployment saved the average enterprise $500,000 per 100 users per annum.

Other first quarter highlights for CA include Unicenter becoming the first NRM solution to qualify for Microsoft's "Designed for Back Office" logo program, Novell and CA announcing that TNG is the preferred Enterprise Management solution and that Novell's ManageWise product is to be integrated with Unicenter, and Information Week U.K. naming TNG the "clear winner" over IBM's Tivoli TME in the field of NRM. Information Week U.S. further proclaimed Unicenter "a full generation ahead" of Tivoli.

Last month's issue was devoted to smart cards and although little time has passed, significant event's have occurred in Canada regarding this technology. Public Works and Government Services, one of the largest and most influential of government departments has embarked on a "proof of concept" pilot to automate stores purchasing via a smart card system. If this pilot proves successful, PWGSC plans to roll out this solution department and eventually government wide. The Department of Defence is also seriously looking at the applications of this great technology and how it might enhance the productivity of various operational aspects.

The year ahead

Clearly Internet applications and services are going to dominate the industry this year and we will be amazed at what will be made available. The long distance market will soon receive a further shock with Quicknet Technologies' announcement of a PC card that will enable users to place and receive Internet phone calls using their regular phone! The card handles full duplexing, data compression and echo cancellation on board, freeing your computer to perform other tasks... your telephone even rings on incoming calls! See www.quicknet.net for more information.

Network Resource Management will definitely be the focus of larger enterprises in '97, dictated by the spiraling costs of their IT infrastructures. This will manifest itself by adoption of thin client computing in some instances while others will embrace software based management tools. ATM switching is being adopted rapidly and will soon be commonplace.

ADSL, Bell's new Internet connectivity baby, should soon be available to compete head to head with Rogers Wave cable modem technology (see www.adsl.com for more info.). All in all it looks like it's going to be as exciting a year as ever and I can't wait to report on the latest developments as they clear the IT horizon.

Originally printed in the Monitor Magazine column, Lan ConXions, in August of 1997 by columnist Ray Richards.


Quite a number of the predictions in this article came true: DSL becoming a true competitor to cable, the advent of VOIP, and the increased use of Network Resource Management tools. Unfortunately some of the predicted players didn't do as well as their competitors in the same space, Quicknet being a prime example of a company creating a product that was ahead of its time by a couple of years and missing their window.

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