Software Trends Take the Enterprise by Storm

ORLANDO, FLA.—Cloud computing is taking the software industry by storm—and that’s not just a figurative statement. As Gartner analysts discussed market trends and disruptions during a keynote panel at the Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit, claps of thunder resonated throughout the Orlando Marriot convention hall. The stormy soundtrack chimed in at an ever-appropriate time—just as moderator and Gartner Vice President Jeff Schulman asked the analyst panel to reveal the greatest disrupters in the software industry. 

According to 2008 Gartner research, the global revenue for the application infrastructure and middleware software market totaled more than $14 billion in 2007, increasing nearly 13 percent from the previous year. Enterprise service buses and business process management suites contributed to the steadfast growth. As the market changes and grows, enterprises often struggle to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. With new waves of social networking, mashups, and cloud computing, large companies often have to re-evaluate and rethink what it means to be agile and relevant.

"The number one challenge in social software is how to get started," contends Gartner analyst Anthony Bradley, recommending that enterprises pose the following question when evaluating business processes: "How can I compete with a clean-slate competitor?" He says a company should look hard at its legacies and question what is an asset to the business and what is a liability. What was formerly viewed as a success, for instance, owning your own data center, may now be seen as a liability. 

Analyst Ray Valdes recommends that enterprises keep people and processes at the heart of all actions. He references Conway’s law, essentially the thought that any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it. He reminds enterprise decision makers to think about the social architect before taking part in social networking initiatives.

"What we are seeing in the market is that every Web site is becoming a social site and is adding social dimensions," says Valdes. "Every social site is evolving towards a social platform. It’s about the possibility for solving these unsolved problems that potentially have a lot of business benefits." 

Valdes points to Facebook where applications are seemingly created overnight by novice developers wanting to share fun and wacky apps with their friends. Although the small-scale apps might seem worlds away from social media goals of the enterprise, Valdes contends that there is context to be gained from the Facebook application development trends. Central to both is a focus on agility and the user experience.

When asked what enterprises should own in this age of change and innovation, Valdes immediately said people, specifically people who can develop successfully, no matter what kind of architecture. He goes on to emphasize the idea of connections within and around the enterprise.

"New human behaviors combined with new ways to assemble systems creates potential for companies to emerge that get away from barriers of IT and barriers of corporate culture," Bradley says. Gartner analyst Tom Murphy echoes that thought, referring to the possibilities created through the advents of software-as-a-service and cloud computing.

"The fact that I don’t have to worry about or think about my infrastructure, it allows my developers to think about something completely different," says Murphy. "If my employees are engaged in social networking, and leveraging resources inside and outside of the entity, I can now gain much more power and innovation."

Valdes recommends that enterprise managers continue thinking about the next level of detail, specifically that of cloud-oriented architecture. Think about data security and the connectivity among applications and systems, he says. As a final piece of advice, analyst David Mitchell Smith tells the audience to be wary of cloud computing oversimplification. No one platform can provide an enterprise with all of its needs. Increased disruption will occur in the industry as more platforms pop up and expand; however if enterprises proceed with caution, there is a good chance of a sunny outlook despite the storm. 

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