Andy Isherwood, UK channel manager at Hewlett Packard, lends his support for Oracle's Raw Iron project.
If there's one thing that's pretty much constant in sci-fi films, it's the fact that no one ever worries about their computer.
No self-respecting bladerunner or alien-stomping heroine wastes a second of screen time fretting over where the information is coming from, or the compatibility of their OS, or the available bandwidth, or hard disk space ... do they?
OK, I may be going just a little over the top, but how near are we to this automated, information-as-a-utility future? However much we keep talking about it - about how information should be available like a commodity - in real terms, we are probably no nearer to its fruition than we were five or 10 years ago.
Despite what certain sections of the industry might have us believe, we're never going to realise that level of functionality without making a commitment to exploring new ideas and technologies. So far it's been too easy to use the 'I won't get fired for buying product X' argument.
To progress, we've got to try new things.
Oracle's Raw Iron technology is trying to do just that through its thin-server architecture and ought to be commended for doing so. Experimenting with new ventures is the main reason why companies have now decided to throw their weight behind the project. Why? Well, in an increasingly combative IT climate, computing packages - whatever their provenance - must perpetually evolve to justify their own existences, while also remaining profitable for the vendor and the channel, and being effective for the user.
This can be a painful process fraught with teething problems, but it's necessary if the industry and its users are to move forward. And we'll only get out what we put in.
For the uninitiated, Raw Iron takes Oracle's 8i database technology and embeds it into a super fast, single-function internet server to manage information and Web connectivity. It's like using the information as an on-tap utility, with the Web acting as the conduit and the server as a router.
In its capacity, the concept is fully congruent with the vision of information as a utility - a computing utopia if you will, where any piece of information is available at any time, from anywhere.
Technology's ground zero is undergoing a gradual shift - bringing about an intellectual change in the roles of both the IT vendor and its channels. Instead of just being suppliers of kit, companies are becoming purveyors of information. Perhaps IT is finally becoming about what the system does, rather than how it does it. In time, it will come full circle and the building blocks of the system won't matter at all - as long as it delivers the information and the functionality that users need. Whatever happens, hardware will eventually become simply a means to an end for both purchaser and vendor.
In the end, the dealer will be selling business advantage - the availability of information, not just hardware and software. There is a great opportunity here, but we've got to learn some hard lessons before we can take advantage. The biggest part of the margin won't be in the hardware or software, or in the servicing, or even in the installation - it will lie in delivering the business aesthetic.
After all, how much would your clients be willing to pay for the full, intuitive, uninterrupted, completely transparent, enterprise-wide, cheap availability of data?
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