IT business processes evolving like cities, Microsoft exec says

Comparing the evolution of IT business processes to the evolution of cites, a Microsoft official at the VSLive conference on Thursday stressed the need for standards to boost electronic business.

Just as cities have evolved to enable interconnectivity and distribution of tasks such as manufacturing and delivery, computers are evolving along a similar path of networked communications, according to Microsoft .Net Enterprise Architect Pat Helland.

“The basic idea is that IT shops and cities have a great deal in common,” Helland said. Cities began as isolated entities until railroads connected them, leading to changes in the way business is conducted. Computers also were isolated but have become connected by the Internet, Helland said.

He stressed IT business would evolve through use of technologies such as Web services and service-oriented architectures. Standards are critical, Helland said.

“Standardization is nascent. It is just coming to life,” said Helland. While Web services are beneficial, the advent of notions such as a standard purchase order still have yet to occur, he said.

“There [are] huge efficiencies that are yet to come,” Helland said. Business processes will grow to become a dominant force, he said.

Applications remain independent of each other. “It’s very hard to hook them together,” Helland said. But the industry must drive toward rich connectivity and sophisticated data interchange, he said.

“Business process today is handcrafted. We have really crappy standards. We are using manual trim and shim to hook it together,” Helland said.

Most applications will be retrofitted to fit into a new service-based IT model, according to Helland.

He cited four basic tenets of a service-oriented architecture: explicit boundaries, to know what is in the service; autonomous services; shared schemas and contracts among services but not shared implementations; and service compatibility based on policy.

XML will serve like cardboard in manufacturing, to protect data being shipped.

Touting Microsoft’s offerings, Helland cited the upcoming Yukon SQL service broker, for tying into the database, and the company’s proposed Indigo Web services applications framework.

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