The time has come for enterprises to shift from a piecemeal approach in mobile working and security to a planned, structured system, according to Gartner.
Speaking at its ITxpo conference in Florida this week, analysts from the company said the shift comes in the midst of changes in hardware, software and system management that will determine the direction of IT for the next 20 years.
In the mobile area, companies can no longer get away with not having a company-wide, centralised architecture, it claimed. Previously, companies used mobile technologies with the understanding that they would eventually be thrown away when something better came along, said analysts William Clark and Nick Jones. Now the technologies are getting so diverse that it's become necessary to invest in middleware that lets various kinds of network devices and systems work together.
Gartner calls this kind of middleware a Multi-Channel Gateway (MAG) and warned that not using such a technology will double companies' costs. Starting in 2007, mobile systems not based on an extensible MAG will cost twice as much over their deployment life cycle as those that are MAG-based. Such systems are available from the likes of Sybase, IBM, Fujitsu and Oracle, but none are particularly good so far, said Clark and Jones.
Companies such as Microsoft and HP have long pinned their mobile hopes on their existing connection to enterprise infrastructure, while newcomers such as Symbian may struggle to get a foothold in a more architecture-centric environment.
Something similar is happening in the area of security, which is moving into a "third wave" based on integrated architectures. That will allow security to be built into new technologies as they emerge, rather than leaving security leaders to react after an attack.
"Increased consumerisation of IT, increased mobility and new trends such as Web 2.0 mean users will gain more control, not less, at the most successful businesses," said Gartner vice president John Pescatore in a statement. "This next phase of security is about building security in as the users' needs move forward, not chasing them."
IT is always changing, but Gartner believes technologies being introduced at the moment will mean the most important changes in 20 years. Windows Vista, for one, will be potentially the most disruptive change in operating systems since Windows 2000. Meanwhile, the introduction of Intel's Core architecture will scrap long-standing ways of measuring price and performance.
The shift from desktops to laptops is just getting started, and Gartner believes companies will spend as much on notebooks as desktops by 2008. Finally, consumerisation means users will be increasingly using their own gear at work, which will have a significant impact on how systems are managed.
Virtualisation may be one way of handling the blurring of the lines between consumer and business IT, Gartner said. It could allow companies to have one OS instance on a machine that's configured for corporate use, while allowing users to have another instance set up the way they like it.