Gartner: Prepare for consumer-led IT

Researcher tells execs to embrace the "consumerization" of IT and the encroachment of Web 2.0 apps.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read
Gartner analysts predict there will be a large-scale shift in technology influence toward consumers and away from central corporate IT departments.

The corporate technology research company this week is hosting Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., where analysts are presenting research on the "consumerization" of IT.

In a keynote speech on Monday, Gartner's director of global research, Peter Sondergaard, warned conference attendees that consumerization will be the most significant trend to have an impact on IT over the next 10 years.

"We stand at the foot of a new high tide," Sondergaard said. "There is a shift in technology ownership."

Sondergaard argued that consumers already have a great deal of power over how services and technologies are configured and used.

"Consumers are rapidly creating personal IT architectures capable of running corporate-style IT architectures," he said. "They have faster processors, more storage and more bandwidth."

He advised corporate IT executives to adapt to the changes and prepare for what he called "digital natives," or people so fully immersed in digital culture that they are unconcerned about the effects of their technology choices on the organizations that employ them.

The encroachment of Web 2.0 into the business world, sometimes referred to as "Enterprise 2.0," was a common theme running through the other Gartner presentations made available on Monday.

Mashup apps
In a paper prepared by Gene Phifer, David Mitchell Smith and Ray Valdes, Gartner researchers noted that corporate IT departments historically have lagged behind popular technology waves, such as the arrival of graphical user interfaces and the Internet in business.

They argued that the biggest impacts of Web 2.0 within enterprises are collaboration technologies--notably blogs, wikis and social networking sites--and programmable Web sites that allow business users to create mashup applications.

"Mashups are beginning to see corporate deployment, especially in companies that need to relay geographic information to their users (for example, store locations to customers)," according to the report.

"Mashups are relatively easy to build and they use established Web resources, REST/(Representational State Transfer)/POX (plain old XML) and scripting languages to deliver new and unique views into information. Unfortunately, many Web sites used in mashups are beta in nature, and service-level agreements (SLAs) (to ensure predictable performance) are usually unavailable."

Gartner also predicted that 80 percent of Web applications will use AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), a style of building interactive Web applications that is becoming popular.

The research company ultimately a recommended that technology executives embrace changes from the consumer Web while focusing on their job as a central IT group.

The analyst group endorsed the use of relatively simple technologies, such as scripting languages, as opposed to Microsoft's .Net or Java Enterprise Edition.

And they encouraged a culture of consumer-led experimentation within their companies, from the creation of wikis to the posting of blogs by high-level executives.

"Our core hypothesis is that an agility-oriented, bifurcated strategy--one reliant on top-down control and management, the other dependent on bottom-up, free-market style selection--will ultimately let IT organizations play to their strengths while affording their enterprises maximum opportunity as well," the Gartner report said.

Gartner expects technology providers to adapt Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis and RSS (really simple syndication) protocol, in products aimed at businesses.

IBM, for example, is modifying its collaboration software to use social networking techniques as well as RSS and Atom, which are protocols used widely for sending out blog and podcast updates.

The model of ad-supported Web services--Google's primary business--will also become more commonplace in business scenarios, Gartner predicted.

It forecast that by 2008, Microsoft will offer a direct competitor to the majority of Google's products and services.

David Berlind of ZDNet reported from Orlando, Fla.