Simplicity the key in 2006

Cutting complexity is a top target for many firms in 2006, says IDC

Reducing IT complexity through consolidation will be the main focus for businesses in 2006, according to analyst firm IDC.

Speaking at a business technology conference organised by IBM in Singapore, Patrick Chan, research director of emerging technologies at IDC Asia-Pacific, said businesses have begun to consolidate their IT assets.

IT has become more complex as vendors introduce new products every three to four months, he said, citing the introduction of new processors and the proliferation of RFID technology as examples.

"We'll see a lot of companies consolidating both IT and business assets in the next few years," he said, adding that IT needs would also evolve to include predictive elements to cope with volatile business conditions. In addition, businesses have to meet faster customer response times, which have been reduced from weeks to days, or even up to the minute, he said.

According to IDC's surveys, Chan said 74 percent of IT problems arise from infrastructure complexities. However, businesses can overcome this by using virtualisation and SOAs to simply IT management.

With Web services as the underpinning technology, SOA is an IT infrastructure model designed to enhance interoperability between disparate systems. It allows specific functions of backend systems to be decoupled and used independently or alongside tools from other systems to perform computing tasks.

Chan noted that businesses should realise that basing the decision solely on the cost of implementing SOA may not be wise as businesses have much to stand from simplified IT management.

David Bate, IBM's Websphere business unit executive from IBM Asia-Pacific, concurred. He said "spaghetti code", which arises out of a multitude of point connections between systems and applications, would drive up maintenance fees.

Another barrier to SOA adoption is the resistance to change among businesses, Bates noted. "They tend to put off decisions to take advantage of new opportunities," he added.

Robert Mahoney, vice-president and business line executive for IBM storage networking and sales, attributed such resistance to the lack of communication between different silos in an IT department. "The networking guys don't talk to the data centre guys — that's just the way [an IT department] is run," he said.

Mahoney added that CIOs, who have a bird's eye view of the IT operations in most companies, should set policies and guidelines for the entire IT department. "We've got to put aside our selfish ownership (of expertise) and look at IT from a holistic point of view, and not in silos."

He added: "Many people think holding information is powerful, but I feel sharing information and getting others to participate to achieve a common goal is much more powerful. There are politics within IBM, and we go through this as well."