Vendors who have positioned themselves as intranet solutions providers could be in for a big pay-off, according to the Deloitte & Touche high technology practice in the US. Its Software Industry 1997 Annual Report covers the intranet boom, the state of the Internet and e-commerce, the latest software technologies, the industry's financial tends and key issues facing sub-segments of the industry.
Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group Australia partner Russell Brewer says the report's findings apply equally to Australia and New Zealand.
"You tend to find that we are just a little bit behind the US market in terms of following their trends."
The report says that intranets are popping up at more enterprises, as a cheaper way to distribute information to employee and business partners.
"According to analysts, 1997's intranet hardware and software sales should dwarf last year's sales," it says.
It predicts intranets will proliferate over the next 12 months, with the intranet market having a 50% annual growth rate through to the end of the decade.
It also predicts that extranets will begin to deliver the benefits that EDI (electronic data interchange) promised in the early 1990s.
It says that compared to traditional -client--server systems, intranets promise a more cost-effective solution and offer a faster return on investment.
Among the benefits:
• Companies which already have networks in place need only to make a nominal investment in additional hardware and software to create an intranet.
• Because data is processed and stored on the server, rather than the client, an organisation's IS department performs application updates and maintenance of all clients at one time. "With a traditional client-server system that uses a distributed computing model, each client machine is updated separately. Streamlining that process alone make a dramatic difference in the per-seat maintenance cost of the two systems."
• Training costs are also low compared to client/server system training because all employees access the network with the same browser — regardless of their desktop PC's operating system.
• Documents distributed via an intranet can be viewed on any computer, regardless of its operating system.
However, the report also points out that the traditional client-server environment is better at handling real-time database transactions and other kinds of interactive data-processing activity.
It also says there aren't enough line-of-business and enterprise-class intranet applications available.
"Most enterprises still use intranets primarily to deliver information that can be easily distributed from one or two servers, such as human resource policy manuals, vacation schedules and product price lists."
Brewer expects to see a whole raft applications developed in future for intranets.
He says Net technology promises to be even more influential than client-server technology in changing the face of the software industry. He says a key development evident in the software market is that corporate intranets are now the darlings of the enterprise software market.