April 23, 2001, 1:50 PM — Infrastructure may not be the most glamorous word in the IT lexicon, but in some ways, it's the most important. In the evolution of the industry, we've arrived at the point where businesses can buy off-the-shelf software infrastructure to build distributed applications -- an industry goal for 15 years.
The convergence around Java- (i.e., Sun-) and Microsoft-defined technology has brought about this relatively new conformity, giving customers more flexibility to swap competing vendors' application servers in and out. It has also broadened the playing field for software infrastructure to include more niche players, and it has heightened the need to differentiate. Increasingly, this pressure will push services such as content management and application management to become standard features.
Application servers are the foundation for the next generation of software for the Web-services model. Our Page One news story by Senior Writer Tom Sullivan examines how tomorrow's opportunity is manifesting itself in today's competitive skirmishes.
The story also points to the relative immunity software infrastructure is having from shrinking and postponed IT budgets. The reason is simple: E-business efforts are about connectivity -- the opportunities and efficiencies gained from doing business online -- and the technology pieces need to be in place.
Our In-Depth: Collaborative Commerce coverage, starting on page 40, explores the technology underpinnings and business models driving one of the hottest topics in e-business today.
With the infrastructure pillars established, companies can execute on CEO-led initiatives such as SCM (supply-chain management), business-to-business e-commerce, and collaborative design. Higher-level Web services, used both internally and externally, are designed to give businesses the flexibility and speed these initiatives require.
Given Intel's and Cisco's lower-than-expected financial results, it appears that purchases of hardware building blocks have slowed. Are you still investing in software infrastructure?