Although e-business and e-commerce address business processes, they require technological advancements in terms of process integration, database technologies, application servers, security, Internet-enablement and platform management to improve their capabilities. Given that packaged enterprise applications are the focal point of an enterprise's information technology (IT) strategy, this article examines the infrastructure necessary to optimize, integrate and extend those applications to support new business processes and devices into the 21st century. Let's start with a fairly safe prediction: The Internet is not going to decrease in size or popularity in 2001, and companies will continue striving to improve their business processes. Let's go out on a limb on the following technologies.

  • Wireless Applications Emerge in 2001. Application vendors created their wireless strategies and products in 2000, and enterprise application vendors made a strong commitment to wireless enablement of their applications. The most aggressive segment in 2000 was customer relationship management (CRM). Supply chain management (SCM), e-commerce and business intelligence vendors were quick to add this capability. Enter-prise customers slow to catch on to wireless applications in 2000 will change in 2001. Consolidation has already begun, and traditional application service providers (ASPs) are likely to snap up some of the players.
  • Don't Hold Your Breath for 3G. Many pundits in the wireless world point to the evolution of the third generation (3G) networks as the model for future computing. This new network is a complete replacement of the existing wireless ones, involving a huge amount of capital. It is conceivable that when the high bandwidth networks are finally available in a few years, they may be too expensive to use. Moving into applications will be a difficult hurdle for the carriers in 2001. Carriers will be forced to rely on partners for these opportunities.
  • Bluetooth Sputters Through Another Year. Bluetooth, the buzz in 1999 and again at the 2000 Fall Comdex in Las Vegas, has great potential which is driving the excitement. The biggest factor limiting the rollout of Bluetooth is the lack of applications designed to take advantage of it. 2001 will be the year that many applications include support for Bluetooth, though the availability and deployment of these applications will not take place until late 2001 at the earliest.
  • Optical Technology: Fiction or Reality? Optical technology is currently being applied to large network trunks. We will see this trend decline in 2001, but the availability of gigabit ethernet over copper wire will reduce the need for fiber to the desktop. Fiber-optic and photonic technologies are on the horizon and will continue to be one of the fastest growing areas in telecommunications and Internet infrastructure. The insatiable thirst for bandwidth generated by the growth of the Internet will continue to fuel photonics research and development, but the reality of optical is still a couple of years away.
  • Distributed, or Peer-to- Peer, Computing. Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing was initiated with the idea of harnessing unused computer processing unit (CPU) cycles. With the increasing availability of broadband networks, isolated computing islands can combine their power and tackle the most complicated computational problems. P2P technology allows organizations to use their existing investments by distributing computational tasks among their PCs. In 2001, we will see P2P expand rapidly among organizations that require large amounts of computing power and, as offerings become more available, in the average enterprise as well.
  • Collision of Integration Vendors. There are so many integration vendors that it's difficult for buyers to tell one from the other. In a mad dash to capture new business, vendors are adding functionality and vertical specialization at lightning speed. Some vendors will team with others, assuming that their odds of getting through the seas alive increase if they're part of a flotilla. All participants, including those with several quarters of profitability, will be challenged to build market presence on a budget.
  • The Move from Intranet to Extranet Means BI Must Be Easy to Use. Business intelligence (BI) applications must be browser-based, and report creation must be drag-and-drop to support thousands of user requests for custom reports. Look for continued BI vendor expansion into support of customers, partners and suppliers in the extranet. Expect vendors to further develop real-time technology via agents, alerts, data mining, portals and wireless technologies. Products that combine reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), budgeting and consolidation will crush point solutions.

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