An odyssey that is just beginning

For most of us, 2001 has been an odyssey we would just as soon forget, but what most people don't recognise is that 2002 is the beginning of an odyssey we can't afford to ignore.

For most of us, 2001 has been an odyssey we would just as soon forget, but what most people don't recognise is that 2002 is the beginning of an odyssey we can't afford to ignore.

What started out as a long-expected collapse of the booming dot-com sector in 2001 quickly mushroomed to include a telecommunication sector weakened by overspending on infrastructure, followed by a general slowdown in the overall economy. And just as we were getting our arms around the implications of this perfect economic storm, the atrocities that took place on September 11 created a seismic wave of personal and economic calamity that the world will still be coping with for months, or possibly years, to come.

Despite the enormity of what transpired in 2001, the effects of each of these events will eventually subside. When they do, many of us will get our first real glimpse of a shift in the global IT climate that is slowly but inexorably changing the nature of IT in business and the role we all play in it.

The odds are good that you have already experienced the equivalent of this global-warming trend without fully realising its implications. In the past year, your organisation at some point decided to augment its resources by contracting for a technology-related service. Traditionally, IT organisations have resisted outside services because they didn't have control over the service and they perceived such services as a threat to job security. But even in this down economy, one out of every two IT jobs goes wanting, so the issue is not so much whether there will be enough work for IT people, but rather who will provide these services and how an IT organisation will orchestrate them.

What all this amounts to is that a larger percentage of IT people is increasingly going to be working for some form of service provider. Meanwhile, the remaining IT people working at the companies that consume these services will increasingly take on the role of being general contractors for IT services.

The three pillars of technology that will give birth to the next generation of internet computing are web services, intelligent routing and grid computing -- each of which is still in its infancy. But as we go forward, the tools that help technology chiefs build these services will become richer and easier to use, and the ability of IT organisations to consume these services as elements in a tapestry of offerings will only increase.

But as were all great macroeconomic shifts before it, the move to this brave new world of enterprise computing will not be without pain. Not all the pilgrims and pioneers lived to enjoyed the fruits of their labours, but given the situation at home, most of them saw no other choice than to attempt the journey. And so it goes for IT in the 21st century.

Many who work in corporate IT departments today will find themselves working for some sort of service provider, and those who remain will find their roles drastically changed. The fact is that the economic and technology ground is shifting under our feet, so it's only a matter of time before we all embark on this next journey.

Vizard is editor in chief of Infoworld (US) and InfoWorld.com. Send email to Michael Vizard. Send letters for publication in Computerworld NZ to Computerworld Letters.

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