Revisionist Future

“You never leave a recession on the same technology that you entered it." —Gordon Moore, circa 1984

This may seem like a trivial topic, in light of what’s really on our minds these days (and will probably continue to be so in another six weeks when you read these words), but whatever happened to Web services? A recent Microsoft teleconference on Windows Server 2003 made no mention of .NET. Was it all just a dream?

I think you will forget about Web services at great expense, since it is bound to change the way your organization and we as individuals operate.

Recently, I listened to Chris S. Thomas, the chief strategist for Intel, speak. He helped me find religion. He doesn’t see the litany of standards pushed by Microsoft and other vendors as essential to making Web services—applications that interface with each other—a reality. It only requires one: XML.

Thomas is on the inside of some interesting projects. He mentioned one involving the federal government and Sand Hill Systems. The latter developed SubmitIT Server, a program whereby your users can complete a form online or offline—using Word, Adobe, PDF, Excel or some other product—then submit the form in whatever medium they prefer: fax, e-mail or Web. The feds are looking at the solution to streamline operations—to the tune of $6 billion, according to Thomas.

On the face of it, it sounds easy enough. After all, I downloaded tax forms and instructions from a government Web site not two months ago. Yet, I don’t recall a big Submit button on the form anywhere. I couldn’t fill it out offline then send it back without an intermediary.

According to Thomas, we’re rapidly approaching the “mobility inflection point”—a convergence of wireless in the form of 802.11 plus voluminous mobile platforms plus the occasionally connected environment.

As a network person, you especially need to involve yourself with that last point. Do you know what’s involved in setting up an architecture that’ll make the user or machine think he or she or it is always on? Can your infrastructure deal with the confusion that reigns when an anywhere-device is out of range?

On the application side, Lotus had that one figured out years ago with Notes, which worked well in the occasionally connected environment. The next edition of Office will include a version of Outlook that interacts better with Exchange in this regard.

If you can build your network that way, you bring great gifts to your organization. First, it’ll be more reliable. (If something breaks, it still functions.) Second, it’ll be more secure. (You can shut off the network, and users will still be able to get their work done.)

Are you already a resident of the brave new world? I’d appreciate hearing the details at [email protected].

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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