The Future Of Computing


The computer industry
has been marked by two seismic shifts: first, from the mainframe to the PC, and more
recently, from the PC to the network. Given the scope and scale, this latest shift,
entailing the move from platform-dependent client-server architecture to
platform-independent network services, may be bigger than the transition from the
mainframe to the PC.

Network services, such as directory, security and
collaboration, provide the foundation for intranets that bring advanced capabilities to
organizations of every type and size. The Java programming language and network services
are the key enabling technologies to allow new classes of applications, including
ecommerce to be made available to any user at any kind of computer. Intranets and
extranets built on robust network services can connect even the smallest business into the
global economy.

Students of pattern recognition can
sometimes glimpse the future by looking at trends shaping the technology today. One
interesting pattern is what I call a technology inversion. Such an inversion is something
previously known as a truth turned upside down and supplanted by a new model as technology
evolves and reveals otherwise. Each inversion spawns new, distinct markets worth billion
dollars. Expect many inversions over the next two years.

Perhaps, no inversion is more interesting
than the intranet extending out to the Internet, via extranets. The premise of the old
model was that the intranet is internal, the Internet is external, and the two would never
meet. The firewall was Doctor No; it didn’t let anything internal reach the external
world. The new model has encrypted networks between intranet and Internet. The future is
about point-to-point encryption-about folding one’s most valuable partners and customers
into the intelligence of the operation, via extranets.

To illustrate, let’s look at Novell’s
Border Manager which allows extension of a customer’s network into an extranet. Border
Manager is the industry’s first integrated family of directory-based network services that
manages, secures, and accelerates user access to information at every point where any two
networks meet. It enables the enterprise to expand from a strict yes/no firewall system to
a secure point-to-point encrypted network, where security is less of a technology issue
and more of a business issue. Border Manager transforms an intranet into something that
enterprises can embrace to advance their business externally. The boundaries of a
corporation or an institution can be defined by their security policy, rather than their
technology policy.

Novell and others are at the forefront of
an IT revolution driven by open standards-based networking. IT managers are realizing that
to gain the full benefits of a networked enterprise, they need seamless interoperability
that ties internal systems and links them to the rest of the world. Open standard products
also give them greater freedom of choice. Organizations can choose the best mix of
platforms, tools, and applications to solve their business problems.

Java is central to any discussion about
open standards. Till date, most Java applications development has been on the client, but
the real opportunity for Java is when it’s fully implemented on the server. Many of the
criticisms of Java on client-performance, user interface, and cross platform issues, for
example-are not as relevant to a discussion of Java on the server. Server-side Java
implementations highlight one of Java’s strongest benefits-platform independence; they
also allow for faster performance and portability of applications, and enable the
development of network-aware applications. Java on the server is a core part of Novell’s

Another inversion is happening in
telephony. We started out accessing the Internet on top of the phone system, and we’ll end
up with telephony running on top of the Net. A completely unregulated network is toppling
its highly regulated predecessor. These kinds of inversions will continue.

Today, the Net is mostly used to obtain and
communicate information. The next big development will be to conduct business securely
over the Internet. Ecommerce will happen quickly-within the next year or two. When it
happens depends upon secured transaction systems and scalable network services. More
significantly than ‘when’ is ‘what’ and ‘who’. Commerce on the Internet will spawn
completely new classes of applications and categories of activities.

The winners in this space will be those who
go beyond the Internet to repackage what they did in the physical space into innovative
applications relevant and ultimately indispensable to the way people live. Nearly half of
Novell’s revenues come from outside the US, and the company intends to increase this
business. The combination of a highly skilled, highly technical workforce plus a
willingness to apply technology in innovative ways makes India one of the most promising
markets for Novell.

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