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Panel taps Web services, Linux, RFID as emerging technologies

These technologies, along with wireless and ID management, are worth watching, but one big wrinkle has to be ironed out before they're ready for the ball.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Web services, identity management, wireless, Linux and radio frequency identification (RFID) are the key technologies to watch in the next six to 18 months, according to a group of panelists at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

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Frank Gens, senior vice president of research at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based research and advisory firm, led a panel of experts to identify the key emerging technologies that should be on every IT executive's radar. Among the panelists were Rob Clyde, vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) of Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp.; Eric Hjerpe, a partner with Atlas Venture, a Waltham, Mass.-based venture capital firm; Richard Taggart, director of enterprise architecture and IT standards at General Motors Corp.; and Joe Uniejewski, CTO and senior vice president of corporate development at Bedford, Mass.-based RSA Security Inc.

"I don't see one killer technology coming up in the next six to 18 months," Taggart said, adding that he thinks five to six different technologies are coming to market at the same time. These emerging technologies include RFID, wireless and the Internet. "The synergies of these technologies will allow us to radically change industries," he added.

In addition to synergy, Hjerpe emphasized the importance of flexibility among these emerging technologies. Hjerpe and his early-stage venture capitalist firm look for technologies that enable business agility -- ones that make networks, servers, storage and databases more flexible.

One technology that offers flexibility is Web services, according to Taggart. General Motors has been working on Web services as part of supply chain management for a long time. Right now, the company is implementing Web services in its plants to act as an "information broker" with all the robotics. And Taggart said he sees much more potential for Web services.

"In the future, we're going to see Web services extend right out to the vehicle to provide more customer services like real-time traffic information. In addition, Web services will allow the vehicle to call home and report back to GM on the car's diagnostics information and overall state of health," Taggart said.

Although Web services are on the panelists' list of emerging technologies, this technology isn't really new. Web services have been an emerging technology for more than 20 years, according to Uniejewski. In the early 1980s, people were building distributed applications but with fairly limited capabilities.

"One of the reasons Web services will be so successful is because they affect business agility and help lower costs," Uniejewski said. "It's applications that will ultimately drive business agility."

But there is one obstacle to the success of Web services and many of the other emerging technologies discussed at the symposium: security.

"One of the biggest obstacles to actually adopting the technologies we're discussing is the lack of security among them," Gens said, pointing to the results of a recent IDC spending survey of 1,000 CIOs. The results showed that security is the top spending priority for IT executives in 2004. Following security are Web services, wireless, mobile and business intelligence.

"Security must be done proactively," Uniejewski stressed. He emphasized the importance of designing security into all of your products up front.

One of the biggest obstacles to actually adopting the technologies is the lack of security among them.
Frank Gens
senior vice president of researchIDC
Gordon Senzer, senior technical director at Web services company SBC E-Services Inc. in San Antonio, agreed that Web services will play an important role in the future of IT. He also commented on the ongoing security issue: "Service-oriented architectures, specifically Web services, will only work well for companies once the security and identity management problems are solved."

This issue of security led to a discussion about identity management, one of the consensus emerging technologies. Identity management is about being able to establish a secured identity that is accepted and trusted across multiple security domains. However, the emergence of more and more wireless devices is making it even harder to address security and identity management issues.

"How do you control security when you don't own or even know about the various devices your employees are using to connect to your systems?" asked Symantec's Clyde. "It's not going to be good enough to know who is connecting to your network. You'll need to know what -- such as the devices your users are using to connect. These devices potentially could be infected." One way to address the issue of security and identity management is to find ways to control what's happening at the endpoints, Clyde added.

In addition to Web services and wireless technologies, Clyde added Linux to his list of emerging technologies. Many organizations already are running Linux, but Clyde said he sees future success in the emergence of Linux on server platforms in the next six to 18 months.

Symposium attendees couldn't agree more with the list of emerging technologies the panelists discussed -- wireless and mobility topped the audience's list of emerging technologies.

"Customers are ever mobile and connected. They want to connect any time and anywhere. And the devices they're using are constantly changing," said Danielle Duplin, a program director at Fidelity Investments' Center for Applied Technology in Boston. But Hjerpe made it clear that it's not just the IT organizations with the latest technologies that will succeed. "We're looking for new and unique business models," he said, adding that his organization is very interested in companies that say, "We don't sell software; we sell the support and maintenance around it."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Karen Guglielmo, Site Editor

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