Unix heads for regrowth

When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball of the future of IT, few organizations spend as much time or effort as the Brisbane-based Distributed Systems Technology Centre (DSTC), which holds the mantle of Australia's national IT research and development centre.

As such, DSTC has more than 100 scientists and a consortium of participant organizations collectively pondering, and creating the future of enterprise technologies to support the IT infrastructure of modern organizations through its role as a Co-operative Research Centre (CRC).

Yet the view from the top of the DSTC hill sounds strangely familiar. According to DSTC chief scientist Dr Andy Bond what IT managers will be after in five years is a way out of vendor lock-ins, an honest broker to keep competition alive in IT and management solutions for the ever-expanding size and complexity of enterprise data.

"In five years from now IT managers will be looking for wholistic data management solutions and buying a lot more information management systems. [It is like] a crossover between what we see today as content management systems [that will encompass] databases, content management and Web-externalisation of information systems," Bond said.

The open-source turf wars of the last five years, he says, will serve to keep vendors with monopolistic ambitions in check, not least through a change in generational culture.

"A lot of the people who have been through the Linux stuff for the last 20 years are moving into corporate management. Even if they choose Microsoft, they have an understanding of an alternative in the back of their mind. There is an entire generation with that understanding. A lot people are querying the status quo," Bond said, adding that many had seen others pay dearly for their vendor wrangling lessons.

"Back in the 80s we had this big thing about open systems and it was IT insurance. You had to ensure you didn't follow a single vendor down a path so that you just handed them blank cheques. Some companies still do that," Bond said.

Some vendors will bind clients to them, he said, adding that the cost of getting out of that relationship becomes almost prohibitive. "Where we are headed is to having an alternative that will keep them honest," Bond says.

Unix and "its variants" will experience resurgence in growth, while the masses continue to look for an overwhelming reason to switch to alternatives such as Linux.

"Over the last five years, there has been a lot of maturation but really it is still waiting for the one ring to bind them all to together. Everyone in the Linux community is waiting for something to be 'it' [the single driving force] - and eventually something will be 'it'," Bond said.

Meanwhile, he warns that what little trust remains in e-mail security will continue to be eroded.

"I get [fraudulent] spam and they know my name, what I do and so on. Sometimes they want me to update a certificate or something like that. It's hard to tell the difference [between a fake and the real thing]. If I have trouble telling the difference, how the hell is a computer going to? It will be back to following it up with a phone call," Bond warned.

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