Wizard of Oz backs IBM thrust

Australian IT wizard Graeme Philipson has concocted seven pillars of wisdom for the computer industry, unveiling them for audiences in Wellington and Auckland this week.

Australian IT wizard Graeme Philipson (pictured) has concocted seven pillars of wisdom for the computer industry, unveiling them for audiences in Wellington and Auckland this week.

The "wizard" title was given to him by IBM, at whose events Philipson was the keynote speaker. But Philipson, who has had a 20-year career as an IT journalist and analyst, styles himself as an industry historian.

"I believe in computing's underlying historical trends," says Philipson, who has recorded some of them in books like Mainframe Wars and IBM’s ESA Strategy.

While defending the independence of his voice, he thinks IBM is on the right track with its e-business on-demand computing push.

"My thesis is trying to put IBM’s thrust into a context of IT tectonic shifts." His seven pillars describe those shifts.

The first of them is speed, which Philipson says his former employer, Gartner, has summed up in the phrase "the real-time enterprise".

"All business activities and cycle times are getting shorter," with the help of increasingly powerful computers, he says.

Organisations’ computers are also reaching more and more people, he says. A 60s computer might have had one operator; by the 70s, 10 people would have been required to program and maintain it; in the 80s, perhaps a 100 back-office staff would have had access to the computer network; 90s employees all had a PC on their desk; and today potentially millions of people are accessing the system via the internet.

"I call it Philipson’s Law: the number of people accessing corporate IT systems is increasing by a factor of 10 each decade."

The rest of his pillars are volume (stored data is doubling every three years), intelligence, integration, cost and focus.

IBM’s on-demand computing amounts to the commoditisation of services, according to Philipson, another of the trends he traces from the 60s to today.

"Take operating systems, programming languages, databases, middleware and applications; they started out as do-it-yourself efforts but all eventually have been turned into products."

While IBM is pushing its on-demand barrow, the rest of the industry’s obsession, web services, is merely "an underlying technology", he says. He speculates, however, that IBM is "probably deliberately downplaying" web services.

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