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Where Is i-Technology Going in 2004?
Scott McNealy on network computing, virus attacks, and software licensing in 2004

McNEALY EXCLUSIVE:
"Network computing is at a tipping point, as the race to connect everything of value is driving widespread adoption of innovations like Java technology, and hundreds of millions, and soon billions, of devices get on the network and need to share information securely and reliably."

With new technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID), many tedious, time-consuming tasks will disappear from our daily routine. Instead of waiting in line 30 minutes to check out at the supermarket, we'll just push the cart past a scanner and out the door, and we'll get a bill for the groceries at the end of the month.

Technology like N1 - designed to automate management, virtualization, and provisioning in the data center - will break down the traditional barriers of cost and complexity, driving far greater return on IT investments than ever before. The adoption of grid computing will grow by leaps and bounds as IT professionals seek ways to get serious computing power from low cost components.

For over a decade we've said "the network is the computer," and that has never been more true than it is today. The world has embraced a vision of network computing based on industry standards and open interfaces. Every country on the planet, every industry, and hundreds of millions of consumers are enjoying the benefits of the Java lifestyle. It's all about write once, run anywhere, and it couldn't be any simpler as mobile phones, PDAs, gaming consoles, cars, and even that bag of potato chips in the supermarket become part of a network that will eventually connect trillions of things.

2004 is going to be a very dynamic year, with all kinds of innovation happening in network computing. And I'm sure I'll see you all on the network...

2004 Predictions
1.  Everyone and everything with a digital, electrical, or biological heartbeat, and even inert objects, will continue to be connected to the network in growing numbers. Nearly half a billion Java Cards have shipped so far. Entire countries such as Belgium and Taiwan are issuing them to every citizen to enable universal, secure, single sign-on access to the network. Java Card technology is revolutionizing authentication and access to health care services, banking, and other applications and services on the network.

2.  2004 just may be the year when a virus or some other kind of attack causes a network outage on a global scale that could do some real damage to the economy. Sobig-F, Blaster, and other worms and viruses did huge damage out there in 2003, as ATMs, airlines, and railroads were forced to "reboot." The days are over when a general purpose operating system is secure and reliable enough for these kinds of applications. The smart folks are going to take 2003 as a wake-up call, and in 2004 we'll see even more enthusiasm for Java technology and its widely recognized security model.

3.  The world is still going to keep a tight hold on its purse strings, and every dollar will be hard earned. There's no magic pill that's going to bring about an economic recovery. For the tech sector, it's going to take a complete rethinking of IT investments in terms of competitive advantage, operating and maintenance costs, and total cost of ownership.

Plenty of companies are already following this path, and will continue to invest in scaling out their IT networks by leveraging the economics of industry-standard x86 computing, where Solaris x86, Linux, and open source alternatives offer up a pretty compelling story. At the same time, there'll be a renewed focus on scaling up, leveraging highly available 64-bit Unix systems for demanding government, enterprise, and service provider environments, as companies dial-up IT investments to keep ahead of the competition.

4.  Software licensing and deployment models will be radically simplified. 2003 was the year we saw a bunch of companies finally get the service provider model right. Companies like Salesforce.com, eBay, and Google are in the software business, but they don't sell their software, they let you use it or rent it. You're going to see a lot more activity in this space in 2004.

You're also going to see a big upset to the dominant software players in the marketplace, with game-changing innovations like the Sun Java Enterprise System and Sun Java Desktop System. The Java Enterprise System is just $100 per employee per year. China is adopting the Java Desktop System for the entire country - in a deal that could eventually reach a half-billion desktops. That's big news.

5.  The typical data center out there is like a fingerprint - no two are the same. They're all built out of hundreds of hardware and software parts and integrated onsite by an army of high-priced consultants. This model is going to fall apart as enterprise IT folks are under increasing pressure to deploy new applications and services quickly and cheaply. They're going to look instead to purchase complete systems, proven designs, tested infrastructure, and higher levels of integration through R&D, all done on the IT vendor's nickel instead of the customer's.

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