Gartner cuts through the IT hype cycle

24 Aug 2005

IT analyst firm Gartner has given a reality check to chief information officers struggling with growing hype over collaboration technologies such as really simple syndication (RSS), podcasting and corporate blogging as well as next-generation IT architectures and the emergence of the real world web in the form of RFID and sensors.

The annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report, which assesses the maturity, impact and adoption speed of 44 technologies and trends over the coming decade, aims to cut through the hype and buzzwords that are awash in the IT industry and offer an independent overview of the relative maturity of technologies in any given domain. “It provides not only a scorecard to separate hype from reality, but also models that help enterprises to decide when they should adopt a new technology,” said Alexander Linden, research vice-president at Gartner.

The latest report identifies three key technology themes that businesses such watch, namely: collaboration, next generation architecture and real world web.

In terms of collaboration, Gartner highlights podcasting as an extremely efficient methods for delivering audio and spoken word content to niche audiences and as such could become an important corporate communications tool. Peer-to-peer voice over internet protocol, Gartner reckcons, will be important for collaborative and multimedia applications as well as low-cost communications.

In the burgeoning realm of desktop search, which is being hyped by players such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, Gartner says customers are not exhibiting much interest in buying solutions but the fact that desktop search will become a standard feature of Microsoft’s 2006 debut of Longhorn could give it legs and should increase content reuse while raising productivity.

The advent of RSS as a means of bypassing the browser to access information does not come off very well in the Gartner hype cycle. Gartner predicts RSS will be more useful for content that is “nice to know” rather than “need to know”.

Corporate blogging has already peeked in terms of hype but in the corporate world its impact will be on projecting corporate marketing messages primarily and secondarily in competitive intelligence, customer support and recruiting. Wikis, a text-based collection method for webpages, will impact ad-hoc collaboration, group authoring, content management, website management and research and development.

Looking to next-generation IT architecture, David Cearly, research vice-president at Gartner, believes it will constitute the third big era in the IT industry’s history (the first having been the hardware era and second belonging to software). Emerging technologies will form key pillars of the new architecture include: service-oriented architecture (SOA), web services-enabled business models, extensible business reporting language (EBRL) and business process platforms (BPP).

Support for SOA, Gartner says, is expected to grow but changes to vendor organisations and technologies are required before SOA reaches its full potential. In the longer term, Gartner predicts SOA has the potential to be transformational to a business. However, in terms of web services-enabled business models, Gartner says enterprises are still wrestling with what web services will do and clearer examples will be needed before the technology blossoms.

Financial software vendors are already incorporating XBRL as a means of helping organisations meet multiple financial reporting needs and its use is being boosted by regulatory and compliance rules. However, its rollout could be hampered by delays in legislation that will mandate XBRL reporting.

Gartner believes BPPs will enable business process fusion and move innovation from business application vendors to BPP ecosystems. Ultimately they will replace customised business applications and custom development by extending core applications platforms with composite applications.

In terms of the hype surrounding the emergence of the real world web, Gartner fellow Jackie Fenn says a number of new technologies will make a next generation of the world wide web all the more powerful and information aware. A multitude of mobile and sensor devices such as global positioning systems, mesh networks and RFID will create a global ecosystem that will enhance business and personal decision making.

Current real world examples of location aware applications include fleet management applications with mapping navigation and routing functionalities, government inspections and integration with geographic information system applications. Mobile workers will use either a PDA or smart phone, connected via Bluetooth to an external GPS receiver, or stand-alone positioning wireless device.

The advent of RFID, Fenn says, will find life in diverse activities such as manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, animal tracking and laundry automation.

Mesh networks or entire networks of sensors could have potential impacts in areas such as low-cost industrial sensing and networking, low-cost zero management networking, resilient networking, military sensing, product tagging and building automation.

Fenn concluded although the specific technologies change over the years, the report’s underlying message endures. “Don’t invest in a technology just because it is being hyped or ignore a technology just because it is not living up to early over expectations,” she said. “If a technology fits with your overall business strategy you should be evaluating it from the outset, if you are unsure, wait until more research is available.”

By John Kennedy