A couple of weeks back, I posted some thoughts over at my ebizQ blogsite on what constitutes a "service," since it seems to be the term at the center of every new innovation reshaping information technology. (See "We've Established What the 'A' in SOA Means, But What Does the 'S' Mean?")
Clouds: 'services as a service'
Former IBM VP Irving Wladawsky-Berger provides some thoughtful insights on IT-based services, suggesting that we're probably still emerging from the agricultural age when it comes to managing and providing these services.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Wladawsky-Berger when he was creating IBM's massively parallel processing architecture back in the 1990s, and he has an incredible mind for innovation, especially when it comes to improving the productivity of technology.
While there is a lot of discussion about the various elements of cloud computing, for example -- software as a service, integration as a service, this and that as a service, Wladawsky-Berger says the definition should be larger: "I prefer to think of cloud computing as offering all kinds of services-as-a-service - consumer services, business services, government services, health-care services, educational services and so on."
The next great change on the horizon, Dr. Wladawsky-Berger predicts, is what he calls the "industrialization of services." That is, IT-delivered services will be more componentized, standardized, and mass-consumable across the spectrum, just as manufactured goods were a century ago.
IT is still, relatively speaking, stuck in the 1890s, he believes:
"Our IT infrastructures are nowhere near ready to handle this explosive growth of information and service. Much of IT, - including applications, data centers, systems management, and so on, - is way too ad-hoc and custom designed, sort of like manufacturing was decades ago....
"Over the last two hundred years we have successfully industrialized the production of physical goods. It is now time to industrialize the production and consumption of services. To do so, and achieve the required orders of magnitude improvements in their productivity and quality, massive breakthroughs are required in all aspects of IT, as well as in the design and architecture of the services themselves."
Thus, information technology may only be at the beginning of a massive transformative period. Perhaps when we will look back decades from now, the IT shop of the early 2000s will resemble a blacksmith or glass-blowing shop. Maybe they'll even recreate some sites as tourist attractions.