IT: An Industry in Transition

Some say the IT industry is no longer a growth industry. But there is a shift taking place that is generating growth. As an industry, IT is young compared to other industrial sectors such as energy, automotive, and aeronautics—all of which have experienced several challenging transitions.

Rather than stalling, the industry is undergoing an important evolutionary shift: Enterprises are moving away from traditional monolithic compute methods where computing devices run a single OS (operating system) with multiple business applications—any one of which can take down the entire system in the event of failure.

Several exciting new technologies and methods are rising to replace them:

Virtualization: Computing devices that support multiple heterogeneous OS environments and specialized business functions can deliver on the promise of improved hardware utilization and security. With benefits like improved stability, performance, and process isolation, virtualization looks to become the dominant enterprise computing model.

Thin(ner) Clients: Provisioned “on-demand” these new devices can reduce persistent data end-point exposure in enterprise environments and pave the way for the pay-as-you-go software-as-a-service (SaaS) market.

Platform Absorption: In all cases, the platform will begin to subsume many (if not most) of the technologies and mechanisms that are currently imposed “after market,” usually at customer expense. It’s time the IT industry built security and safety into the cost of the product and/or services, as other industries do.

Early examples of platform-implicit methods include the vPro offering from Intel and the slated “secure methods” offerings from Sun relating to newly announced features in Solaris 10.


Traditional hardware and software boundaries are also being radically remapped. Many single-purpose hardware devices that exist today, including security appliances, are becoming virtual. Single-purpose servers are being grouped into a single virtual machine, capable of sharing capacity with any other server in the enterprise.

When critical mass is achieved, it will have profound implications for the IT supply-side ecosystem.

Fundamental industry changes like these are not only normal, but demonstrate maturity and efficiency. Historically, many other industries have seen similar local and global shifts. Take the airline industry. Was your last flight on a Boeing or Airbus? Was it running GE or Rolls Royce engines?

The business process of an airline is to get you from point A to point B at a reasonable price—safely and predictably. Within these constraints, the type and brand of equipment doesn’t really matter. IT, too, must deliver its true business promise of trust, reliability and dependability while improving the overall economics of the business process delivery.


The industry is currently moving through an interim commoditization stage. Globalization is driving economic compression of the compute stack. Hardware is at the bottom of the stack carrying the full weight of everything above it. (Maybe this explains the sideways trend in many chip stocks?)

Furthermore, the industry has focused on speed, features and tech-savvy individuals often at the expense of security and manageability. Many of the assumptions on which the compute and vector models are built are no longer accurate.

Customers want hardware, software, and management methods that enable them to deliver their business processes in a dependable, secure, and cost-effective way. To fulfill this request, we must evolve and change. With change comes opportunity.

So the “think about” issues here are: Assuming this vision is true and the changes are imminent, how do existing vendors remap to the new paradigms? What new business models will prove strongest when the vertical industry demarcations are remapped?

Many companies will survive by remapping their strategy to future needs. Some will perish. New and disruptive forces will emerge. And out of these tectonic shifts will come some of the best opportunities for new, innovative, and agile companies to grow and prosper.

Wyatt Starnes has spent more than 30 years in high technology, with eight different startups. He is the founder and CEO SignaCert, a software company focusing on integrity verification for commercial and government enterprises.

Prior to SignaCert, he was the founder, president and CEO of Tripwire, Inc, a worldwide provider of change auditing software.