Defining IT’s 2003 not hard

As 2003 winds to a close, it’s interesting to ponder just what this year will be most remembered for in the world of networking and IT. In looking back at recent years, each one was defined mainly by one trend or event that overshadowed all others.

The year 1998, for instance, was primarily the year of the dot-com boom, when investment in every kind of startup under the sun reached its peak, when pocket-protector-clad programmers were truly in vogue, when the impossible seemed to be anything but.

The following year was marked by widespread Y2K panic, which fostered thousands of round-the-clock planning sessions and the recalling of hundreds of nearly forgotten BASIC programmers to help unravel ancient code and get corporate Canada’s IT systems ready for a possible computing apocalypse.

In 2000, the IT year was marked largely by the beginning of an overall downward trend in the fortunes of the once-mighty dot-coms, and the first slashes to IT budgets that would eventually send the sector into a spiralling downfall.

Two thousand and one, once synonymous with “The Future” thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 1968 film of the same name, ironically turned out to essentially be high-tech’s Great Depression, a nadir for spending levels in many sectors, as well as for faith in the role that technology could play in both the economy and society.

In 2002, a spate of new options for the way in which IT is conducted began to emerge, and it was this trend that arguably defined the year. It was in 2002, for instance, that outsourcing emerged as an ingrained option in the task of managing the corporate enterprise. Mobility represented another revolutionary way of conducting electronic business that truly took hold and helped define the year.

So what of the nearly departed 2003? What will grab the title of Defining IT Trend or Event when we look back on the past 12 months?

Unfortunately, the most hoped-for event at the beginning of the year – a dramatic upsurge in the network equipment market and general upswing in other major IT areas – didn’t materialize. Nevertheless, a number of worthy candidates spring to mind, including the emergence of the next phase of outsourcing, variably defined as IT utility or on-demand networking. While the concept of using IT resourced in a manner similar to electricity or water is still a ways away from fully taking hold, it was in 2003 that the concept’s potential seemed to be grasped.

In the end, however, 2003 will mostlikely go down as The Year of Security. While the topic has been a dominant issue for years, it was in ’03 that the topic seemed to morph from nagging afterthought to unavoidable imperative. Whether it was the deluge of spam hitting the inboxes of the top brass or the panic created by the increasingly sophisticated worms and viruses, in 2003, most got the message about security’s importance. It wouldn’t be a surprise, either, if this top-of-mind topic grabs the title again in 2004.