Firm predicts how Internet technologies will evolve

A study released last week by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP reports that future Internet technologies will depend on the successful integration of current computing initiatives.

"Technology Forecast: 2002-2004, Volume 2: Emerging Patterns of Internet Computing" highlights advancements in computing technologies emerging in response to enterprise customer demand. For example, the study notes that grid computing will leave the realm of scientists and technologists and become relevant in practical use.

Grid computing enables large-scale aggregation of computing storage, network and other resources across domains. It may even help to overcome reliability, security and business concerns related with implementing Web services on a broad basis.

Eric Berg, managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Technology Centre and editor-in-chief of the forecast, says today's technology in the next three years will evolve to support the vision of Web services. He states in the report: "Our latest finding is that the development of grid computing architectures, protocols and middleware by the research community is likely to lead directly to solutions that will overcome these obstacles and allow Web services deployment to proceed."

Computing as a utility will also grow and work with grid computing to support the type of dynamic environment necessary to support Web services. Utility computing is an IT delivery mechanism in which enterprises pay for computing offered by a service provider.

Other trends PricewaterhouseCoopers noted in the short term are: the ongoing increase in the capabilities of commodity technologies; the increased emphasis on scalable computing and communications infrastructures; and a renewed emphasis on the flexibility, reliability and manageability of those infrastructures.

In the area of Web application management, the study states there is a push for the large-scale aggregation and integration of computing storage, network and other enterprise resources, or grid computing.

Root-cause and trend analysis engines -- which work to pinpoint the underlying source of related system or network problems and then automatically correct it -- will evolve into more sophisticated offerings. The study says these tools will gain more predictive capabilities to enable network and systems operators to prevent Web and application failures before they affect service.

Convergence of the IP nature will also occur, the study projects. The global telephone network will move from "islands of VoIP surrounded by an ocean of legacy telephone system protocols" to the use of IP end to end. PricewaterhouseCoopers says that will force telecom carriers to lose the monopoly on creating new telephone services. And it also means "anyone with an Internet connection will be a potential service provider, just as anyone with an Internet connection today can be a content provider merely by setting up a Web site," the study says.

Of all aspects of Internet computing, pervasive and ubiquitous computing remain the furthest from widespread availability. PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast that the realization of ubiquitous computing will require advances in user interfaces; software for service discovery, content adaptation, programming and security; and pervasive networks, including the creation of ad hoc networks of sensor devices aware of their location and capable of acting autonomously.

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