Friday, October 9, 2009

The Desktop of the Future

Let's start with a simple question. Imagine you are single and looking for a new car. Would you choose a sporty 2-seater convertible or a 7-seater MPV? Of course, unless you had a hobby that required you to have a large vehicle with 7 seats - you'd choose the convertible!

So, when it comes to software - why is the world focused on buying capability and functionality that are probably not going to be used?

My focus is around Enterprise 2.0 - Oracle's vision is to provide a toolset and capability for managing and collaborating around unstructured information, the type of data that each and every one of us interacts with on a daily basis. It can cover music, video, photographs, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, blog-articles or any other type of information that doesn't traditionally fit into a database - this we call structured information.

There are, of course, a large number of vendors who provide solutions for managing unstructured information - some focus on a specific type of information (e.g. web content) and others provide complete enterprise-wide capability, or at least their marketing material would have you believe. Some vendors in the enterprise space go even further by providing capabilities to very specific markets, for example Pharmaceuticals or Aeronautics and if your organisations doesn't produce drugs or aeroplanes - this is capability that you won't be needing anytime soon! The same is true on your workstation - you'll probably be sitting there at your desk or on your sofa at home reading this article using an Intel-powered PC, running Windows, with Office installed and surfing the web with one of the popular web-browser programs. Some of you, like myself, will be running a MAC a similar software footprint (office, browser etc.).

In either case, you'll most probably be affected by what is known in the industry as Bloatware - software or capability that provides you with no benefit and actually slows down your system or uses disk-space or memory that you could put to better use. In the enterprise world - Bloatware costs you money - you pay a premium for a software solution's development and testing cycle around capability and functionality that you actually do not need. Even worse than this is functionality that is delivered as a compromise - the vendor didn't want to invest in the development of a complete solution to a problem - but went half-way there anyway just to say that they had something available.

OpenSource is an option that many organisations are investigating to help create and manage unstructured information - Sun has a product called StarOffice which provides everything that most users would want at a fraction of the cost of the MicroSoft solution. Putting 2 and 2 together and making 5 (as many other people will have done) - taking a commodity hardware platform (Intel-based), deploying an open-source OS like Linux, a browser such as FireFox and an office solution like StarOffice is a real-world and cost-effective alternative to a traditional desktop that you might be running today.

Now for the back-office environment, users today are familiar with web-based tools and environments for information sharing and collaboration - there is a focus around function value and capability mapped with ease-of-use that some traditional ECM solutions simply don't provide. From an IT perspective, managing unstructured information through a database (for metadata management), an index and a collection of file-stores results in a management overhead and complexity that isn't necessary. 20 years ago, when ECM solutions first came to market, there was an issue with the ability to store unstructured information within the database. With Oracle 11g, this issue is resolved and organisations are able to manage unstructured information alongside structured data using a common and consistent toolset.

This approach provides massive benefits to the organisation - at a very basic level around operational costs and reduced IT complexity. Combining this new database capability (with world-class management and deployment ability) with an ECM platform that allows any unstructured information to be stored, managed, leveraged and protected, enables true real-world knowledge management and drives collaboration internally and externally leading to increased customer and partner loyalty. This results in lower costs for the organisation and significantly reduced risk.

Watch this space for more on this topic


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