This is an article I have been stewing on for a while and having recently changed from a consultancy largely working on public sector IT projects back to a private sector IT department its given me several different view points.
I also recently attended the excellent Zapthink SOA and Cloud course in Amsterdam – so I am now a Licensed/Certified Zapthink Architect!
Time for a change?
In the continued difficult financial climate will organisations continue to have the appetite and budget to invest in large scale greenfield COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) IT projects and licensing? e.g. Large scale commercial enterprise systems such as ERP? And what’s the next success for Open Source Software (OSS)?
Is the future a more incrementally / agile delivered open source, best of breed systems? Rather than big monolithic, generic packaged software that does everything ok but doesn’t excel at much if anything. And worst of all, often requiring the business to change its processes to fit the software. Of course the lines between commercial software and Open Source are becoming more blurry – with “Commercial Open Source” (in other words commercially backed and supported).
I am thinking here of solutions that are developed on Open Standards / common platforms (eg J2EE) using common / standards based middleware and the XML family of technologies to connect them together. Of course there is a risk that if you pick and choose lots of niche software that serves its job well then you can end up with a big mess of spaghetti integration and duplication. But that is where effective Architecture, standards and Governance comes in; to keep things on the right track and aligned with business priorities.
Certainly the agile (iterative) methodology seems to be taking hold in larger companies, although waterfall still seems to be favoured in government – due to the perception that it will result in a fixed cost. Unfortunately too often it doesn’t deliver successful results as its too rigid, ends up costing far more through cunning use by the vendor of change control and depending on the project the initial build can be as little as 10% of the total costs in any case.
What about the cloud? Isn’t that supposed to reduce costs…
I think many in the IT industry (well some vendors anyway) right now would argue that the answer to this is delivery via the cloud using a pay as you need it service based model (to get away from having to make the big upfront investment in hardware and licensing). I guess this is an option but I think most large businesses (who have the budgets for the larger IT projects) are looking at the cloud quite sceptically, waiting for it to mature beyond e-Commerce and online type applications and add the required security and reliability that is needed. Keeping things in their own data centre and exploiting virtualisation to optimise costs at the Infrastructure layer. Cloud as your Disaster Recovery (DR) / Data Archiving environment looks like one of the most compelling use case so far.
I am seeing some suggestions that organisations would like to adopt this approach in some areas (eg Integration). In fact one of the places I worked in the past built its own home grown ERP / eLearning platform on Open Source. In my current role we are looking at Open Source alternatives – particularly for Integration and Infrastructure glue.
Its interesting to see how the adoption of Open Source has matured – from just the Linux OS used for servers, Linux + Apache for static web moving towards LAMP and other Apache projects such as Tomcat etc even more so with “Web 2.0”. Data Integration / ETL is a big area for OSS – eg Talend, ActiveMQ, Glassfish. J2EE is a big success story too.
And of course now with Android OSS has finally come into contact with the casual end user (rather than the techies like me that run Linux on the desktop). This was brought home to me the other day when a completely non IT friend showed me his Motorola Xoom and was extolling its usability etc.
Interesting times. Wonder where OSS will infiltrate next? I guess the answer is probably wherever it can disrupt the marketplace in a engaging way for the consumer, or with a commercial model that is compelling to business/IT decision makers.