The Intranet Has Come a Long Way: Where is it Going Next?
- July 26, 2002
The intranet was born from the marriage of two opposing business initiatives.
The word processing department was cutting costs by eliminating the printed
telephone directory and the information systems department was trying
to find any reason for playing with HTML. Well, maybe not exactly, but
not too far from the truth. What lies on the horizon for this collaboration
my (not so) hypothetical Word Processing Department manager friend released
a new Corporate Telephone Directory she would hold a lottery. The one
who guessed how may complaints would arrive in the first day won the pot.
It was inevitable that people would be added, relocated, reorganized or
terminated during the printing process causing the directory to be wrong
before it was distributed.
each new release, she would sit back and hope that she could make this
"bad data" problem an IS issue and not a Word Processing issue. As Mike
Nelson used to say "and then it happened" she read an article about a
company that had posted its Telephone Directory on a network server and
provided a means for department administrators to maintain their own segments
on line. No more maintenance! No more complaints! One less to-do!
This note first appeared in a column by James F. Dowling in Mid-Range
Computing. Look for other previously published Mid-Range
Computing columns by Mr. Dowling at this site or visit Midrange
Showcase at www.midrangecomputing.com/showcase/.
Internet Spawns The Intranet
Meanwhile over in the IS department, a few technology guerillas were tiring
of their current tool set. They had locked onto Internet development as
their next differentiator. They bought a few books with animals on the
covers, wrangled some software from a few vendors and built their first
Intranet application. It was something that everyone wanted and the mainframe
and client-server worshipers were incapable of creating with their stone-age
tools. They could hold discussions about matters of supreme interest without
ever coming into direct contact with participants. Not only that, but
these discussions could run on for days and involve dozens of people!
Mr. CIO was attending the annual meeting of the Shareholder Value Enhancement
Through Information Technology Association. Globalization, Virtual Organization,
Operating at Hyper-speed and How the CIO Attains Respect were the topics
of discussion. There is of course, only one solution each year and this
year it is Collaboration. As companies expand across the globe they must
minimize the impact of time and distance. By mastering zero-latency data
flow and collaboration technologies the CIO will enable the enterprise.
The Intranet is the new answer!
the lack of a business case for investing in any of the above applications,
what is most unique about Intranet and Internet is that the phenomenon
hit companies of all sizes at about the same time. Moreover, it is the
small to mid-size companies who leveraged the technology most to their
benefit. Even as larger corporations were beginning to discuss getting
ready to evaluate Internet technology, smaller companies were building
applications and learning the peculiarities of the new tool set.
Has The Advantage?
IBM AS/400 has been well ahead of the non-Unix pack as a platform
for business application deployment over the intranet with Lotus Notes
and Domino providing a leg up on the competition. Having already addressed
the application development and deployment issues, companies who employed
Lotus Notes were able to leverage their investment in collaboration technology.
a financial point of view, companies who owned the AS/400 / Lotus combination
also had an advantage over those with proprietary (non-Unix) platforms
in that little incremental investment was needed. Some companies failed
to recognize what they had and others got caught up in application shifts
that demanded new platforms. In either case, many shops find themselves
with a potpourri of platforms and have chosen to move away from AS/400
in favor of the now traditional Unix servers and in some cases to the
extreme Linux operating system. Why? To reduce cost?
NT is supporting mid-sized companies and midrange Unix servers are
readily available but the trend in larger companies is to consolidate
servers. It is not unusual to find a billion dollar enterprise with fifty
to seventy servers in a single data center. One IT Manager said that although
he adopted all of the lowest "total cost of ownership" products, his budget
was in the third quartile of the benchmark because he made up for it through
volume. Such companies are finding it very difficult to consolidate applications
onto a smaller population of servers because planning is difficult, execution
is risky and payback is only achieved over an extended period.
happens by revolution or evolution but it does happen. Shops that stayed
with their AS/400 platform continue to work with the applications that
serve them well and continue to obtain value from their technology investments.
Through evolution of the platform, its tool set and its broad complement
of business applications, the value gap between proprietary and non-proprietary
systems widened rapidly and closed slowly but it has closed.
Intranet-based applications continue to gain dominance, the mainframe
features of systems like AS/400 are more and more appreciated. Network
printing and spool file management, security and access authorization,
web-enabled relational database and performance management capabilities
that assure availability of mission critical application are all native
features of the platform that will serve well as the evolution continues.
Companies that establish and maintain relationships with partners who
focus on value delivery and who react responsibly to revolutionary concepts
always seem to benefit in the long term without suffering too much in
the short term. IBM with its AS/400 and Hewlett Packard
with its HP3000 /iX platforms have exemplified such responsibility.
Similarly, responsible IT managers must choose partners and platforms
and products and potential to assure simplicity and business value.
column will continue to explore the change/size paradox-big companies
desiring speed and growing companies desiring stability. The author would
appreciate feedback on material presented as well as suggestions for future
study and reporting. The general theme is IT management and the goal is
to make it easier to get clients what they want and what they need to
Jim Dowling is VP of the Alignment Consulting Practice at TechnologyEvaluation.Com,
Inc. located in Woburn, Massachusetts. TEC researches IT products and
suppliers as well as the ways companies obtain business value from IT.
TEC's consulting services remove time, risk and ultimately cost from IT
Jim can be reached at jdowling@TechnologyEvaluation.COM.