An optimist’s take on 2003

I’m kicking-off a two-part column here. After all, it’s nearing the end of 2003, and at this time of the year one naturally begins to look back, to take stock. Since many people more famous and wiser than I have correctly pointed out that it’s easier to criticize than to compliment, I’m going to start with the more difficult task.

Allow me to look at the bright side of 2003.

First let’s tackle the macroeconomics. According to a CIO Canada (a sister publication) and Athabasca University survey detailed in this issue, 42 per cent of you are predicting a rise in IT budgets next year. Only 19 per cent see a decline. According to Gartner, the worldwide IT economy will rebound strongly by 2006, and most enterprises will soon change their strategic focus from cutting costs and protecting profits to aggressively driving growth.

More spending means more jobs. So take heart, the scarcity of IT employment in Canada is likely to be alleviated.

Next is security. Sure, there’s a long way to go – witness the crippling effects of worms this year, not to mention several serious, high-profile breaches. But the industry is beginning to stagger its way toward some semblance of action. Microsoft, regardless of what opinion you may have of the company, has started doing its bit by revamping its patching policies, and perhaps soon even automating the process. It delayed the release of Windows 2003 so it could be reinforced and is now talking about adding spam filters to Exchange. Look at it this way – if Microsoft is starting to take some blame, the general air about the industry has definitely changed.

On that topic, it also appears this was the year the vendors started listening. Everything from licensing schemes (Redmond a very notable exception) to upgrades are now being handled with such care for customers that one wonders if the vendor execs have finally figured out that the loud, angry roar resulting from years of arrogant treatment may actually harm them in the long term.

Diversity. If you’re a fan of competition in the OS market, then you have to be impressed with the strides Linux made in 2003. Its share is still dwarfed by Windows, but it’s expected to perform well against Unix and Windows in installs year over year for the next several years. Novell, IBM and Sun are all making big bets. And a P.S. to all those free OS enthusiasts fretting about Big Business involvement: what was the point of working so hard on an open source platform, if not to make it a viable platform for everyone?

Finally, there’s a growing concept of real-time/grid/utility/adaptive computing. All of the vendors have a different buzzword for it. But call it what you want, what’s important is that the notion of true, enterprise-wide, real-time computing with built-in flexibility is no longer just a dream. You and the vendors are laying the groundwork for it now.

Now, what was that I heard about IT not mattering, again?

See next issue for a more pessimistic view.