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Companies conservative about intranets

A survey of Fortune 1000 companies reveals a somewhat tempered view of intranets, despite much industry hype about these internal corporate networks.

A survey of Fortune 1000 companies shows that chief information officers hold a somewhat tempered view on the importance of intranets in the enterprise, and suggests that local area networks and intranets will exist side by side at many companies, at least in the short run.

The survey of 100 companies, conducted by Collaborative Strategies for Merrill Lynch, shows that most CIOs say LANs will coexist with intranets because a number of functions available on LANs are not yet fully developed for intranets. As a result, the survey predicts that use of Lotus Notes--running on proprietary protocols, as opposed to intranets, which run over TCP/IP, an open protocol--will grow 279 percent over the next two years before tapering off to a 74 percent growth rate until the year 2000.

In a confirmation of current opinion, the survey found that IP networks will experience rapid growth over the next few years, with the headiest growth from 1996 to 1998. Also, Windows NT seems to be gaining market share as an intranet server operating system, although Unix is still the overall winner.

In previous research, managing director of Collaborative Strategies David Coleman said there are a number of impediments to the growth of intranets. "Security is the main concern. Security behind a firewall is perceived to be much better. A lot of times that's just perception, though."

Threaded discussions, a feature which Lotus Notes has, are available for the Web but some of the functions like topic search are not as well developed yet. Workflow products represent another established market of applications for LANs, while there are currently under a dozen workflow products for intranets, according to Coleman.

Still, the intranet potential has been recognized. "What we see overall is that people are putting in an enormous amount of resources into intranets now. In terms of collaborative work, people will initially use them to communicate internally more than externally. Once the infrastructure is together and they are collaborating, then [companies] will start looking at collaborating with outside organizations," Coleman said.

"The major impediment to the growth of intranets is not technical but the lack of an economic imperative and corporate culture. People fail to recognize that groupware or collaborative functions needs a sociotechnological infrastructure," Coleman added, noting that cultural issues should be dealt with up front.

In a separate survey conducted by Network Wizards, the Internet continues to expand at astounding rates.

The survey counted hosts and domains in July and found that the commercial top-level domain name, .com, grew by 36 percent since January. There are now a total of 488,000 registered names, compared with 240,000 in January.

To host all of this activity on the Internet, the number of host computers with unique IP addresses now stands at 12,881,000. In 1981, the number of host computers counted on the Internet was 213.

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