CIO Folder: Is IT learning from the Art World

(Image: Stockfresh)

9 March 2017

A wonderful new IT term came into view recently. Apparently, it has been around for a while but escaped this column’s normally rigorous attention. It was specifically about enterprise resource planning (ERP) and what it called ‘Post-Modern ERP’.

Now those of us who have been referring to Modern ERP and indeed Modern Software-of-Any-Kind since the Post-Mainframe days of personal and client-server computing will mostly welcome an alternative adjective. One problem there is that if have reached Post-Modern how can you go back to Modern? A modest bit of research filled in an ignorance gap and came up with the term Remodernism. That has a distinct flavour of the IT jargon world yet references Art.

“Could we have SaaS Nouveau, for example, or Cloud Nine (a brand whose time has come) or Cubist Cloud or Late Romantic social media?”

Could we have SaaS Nouveau, for example, or Cloud Nine (a brand whose time has come) or Cubist Cloud or Late Romantic social media? Or is our trend towards apps rather than applications suites, a form of Minimalism?

Post-Modern has a tasteful aura of both plain language and an aesthetic or artistic analogy. It could also be applied to much more than ERP. In the sense in which it is used it could also be or become a useful term for all of today’s systems which are mobile and cloud first, rapidly replacing the monolithic integrated corporate systems of applications which have dominated our business world for several decades. That could be called, perhaps, the Classical Period of computing — or should that be the original mainframe period?

Perhaps Classical for mainframes and NeoClassical for centralised client/server? Matching software with Baroque would be amusing — early days Siebel perhaps? Alas, none of the Windows generations could be described as Rococo but on the other hand the GUI was undoubtedly the Renaissance in IT.

But that Post-Modern label does not quite mean ‘Move over’ for SAP and Oracle and IBM and Microsoft and others. In many ways, they have been at the forefront of the transition from those huge software suites of applications to front ends that are essentially mobile apps. The all-important integration occurs back at the ranch, which could be located at a head office location or on a cloud or wherever the relevant function is operational.

The API is the universal connector/link/joint/axis/pivot/hinge or whatever for Post-Modern software. The concept is that we can have an app for almost very function, then join them up to operate as an integrated whole. Small but effective bits of functionality can be delivered at the point and moment of use with the main processing load carried almost entirely centrally. With APIs, they do not even have to be from the same vendor. But apps are light, flexible, easy to use and deploy and all of that.

Since the dawn of portable computing with those loveable luggables, starting with the Osborne and rapidly followed by the twin-floppy IBM, local processing matched by some storage was the essential. It still is because even in the world’s most advanced cities a user can be offline for seconds or minutes.

Smart phones and tablets combine wireless multi-connectivity with on-device processing and essential data storage — that is the portable power. Everything else, potentially capable of handling millions of users and data streams simultaneously, is at the back end. That is enormous power in compute, data storage, networking and everything else. It’s global computing 24×365 with zero downtime because of the failsafe architecture with multi-layered failover. Compared to everything that has gone before in IT it is astronomical progress—and accelerating.

The appropriate art term might be Abstract, because almost everything except the personal device is virtual, essentially software-defined. Which also means that everything is flexible and can change constantly and almost instantaneously. What we have and are only beginning to exploit is global, always-on ICT.

Several times in the past this column has raised the notion of a new technical term (aka bit of jargon) that would shorthand that perennial ‘Anywhere, anytime’ sales mantra for mobility. We would of course add ‘Any device’ and perhaps ‘Anyone’ so that the solution might be ‘The Four As’ or even AAAA or 4A or A4.  Smart, definitely. The only snag is that time and technology have moved on, so detractors could argue that such a term no longer conveys the sheer ubiquity of ICT or our expectations of it.

Today’s tech environment is offering something more like Everything, Everywhere for Everyone.* Or it could be EaaS Everything-as-a-Service.  The Impressionist vision might be of a real world, the earth, completely surrounded by The Cloud. An electronic cloud, which is charged with connectivity and capability in every droplet. Like the Internet, any two points can be connected by any route but the cloud is (or the multiple clouds are) three dimensional. Think of it as Pointillist.

The core devices will get smaller, to the point where they will be tiny but extremely powerful. Beyond ‘wearable’, smaller than a key fob, pocketable or handbag resident. This column over five years ago used the phrase “screen of choice” and that is even more where we are headed. It is the interface that counts, because different styles are suitable in different circumstances or for different tasks. From mouse to stylus, touchpad to touchscreen, voice to gesture — different strokes for different folks. Meantime the data processing and the connectivity and so on can be carried out by that OXO sized cube—or PC in credit card format.

But even 20/20 eyesight will be challenged by spreadsheets on a smartphone, movies are unwatchable on anything smaller than a tablet and decent audio demands earphones at least.  For pure telephony, an in-ear device would be perfectly sufficient. For movie watching in bed, say, a minimum screen size of about 305 – 355mm (12-14”) would be acceptable to most but why not stream the sound through your bedroom surround sound? On the train, your VR headset could be powered by that same pocket cube or card. (Pickpockets might be clocking the opportunity but, hey them is the breaks)

When we dial the vision on to ubiquitous computing, that little pocket device becomes redundant in urban environments or indeed any oasis of Wi-Fi. All you need is some secure identifier to log on to your services. It could be a token with RFID but it could equally be a voiceprint or facial identification to the complementary and similarly ubiquitous CCTV. With high speed connectivity, all of the processing and storage can be centralised on some form of cloud.

Public digital services, for example, might be self-powered. Want to check your current supplementary allowance entitlements? (Touch of idealism here.) Just verify your PPS account or use your new Public Service Card with the RFID identifier. All you need is your screen and device of choice.

In fact, because they will be as cheap as chips, paid services will give them away to encourage you to use and pay for the services. With such ubiquitous computing, there will certainly be multi-factor authentication for security. Your tiny iris scanner or fingerprint reader might be more important than your interface device and screen.

Unfortunately, the existing labels for art styles and periods do not lend themselves to this coming world. We will have to marry the traditions of IT jargon with the Art experts. Surround Digital anyone?




*   EEE? 3E? E3? But anything that’s just ‘3’ is so passé in a 4G world awaiting 5G imminently. Except along the Wild Atlantic Way.

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