The Technology Implications of the Obama Win

January 12, 2009
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There are several megatrends sweeping the technology industry today.  Some of them are about to be accelerated.  I like to use five key topic areas to track megatrends in IT:  – Convergence and trend towards unified communications and user…

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There are several megatrends sweeping the technology industry today.  Some of them are about to be accelerated.  

I like to use five key topic areas to track megatrends in IT: 

– Convergence and trend towards unified communications and user empowerment
– Globalization and increasing internationalization of IT and demographic shifts
– Increasing open development of software and hardware
– Power, Cooling and Space (PCS) impacting data centers and every place computing is done
– Increasing pace of technology development and probability of disruption

    Over the past two months two major events have occurred which are impacting these trends.  

    The
    first was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resulting cascading
    effects on the financial industry.  The impact on IT spending and the
    movement of more enterprises to grid/cloud computing because of that
    are still being assessed, but for some thoughts see: Wall Street Crisis

    The second was the Presidential election of Barack Obama.   

    President-Elect
    Obama has long articulated a technology strategy on his website.  It is
    most definitely worth a read by all enterprise technologists since it
    will form the basis of many of his policies and actions.  For some
    context, here is a paragraph that struck a cord with many enterprise
    technologists:

    Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama
    and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the
    exchange of information between the federal government and citizens
    while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in
    the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability
    and willingness to give and to give back to make government work
    better. Obama will appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer
    (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right
    infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO
    will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency
    effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of
    each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class
    technologies and share best practices.

    But
    perhaps more important than his stated technology platform is the
    energy behind the election and the new spirit that will be coming with
    him into government.   Part of that energy was discussed by Tim O'Reilly in a 29 Oct 2008 Endorsement.  A key slice of that endorsement read:

    I also believe that in an Obama administration, there will be
    significant investment in applying the lessons learned from internet
    campaigning into the tools of internet governance. There are efforts
    already underway to build better tools for two-way communication, for
    government transparency, and for harnessing innovations from outside
    the public sector to improve the work of the public sector.

    Based on the above and my views of enterprise technology today, the
    following is my analysis of the impact of the election on the key IT
    megatrends:

    Convergence and trend towards unified communications and user empowerment

    Consumerization and user empowerment has been the most important trend
    in IT for several years and is driving many other trends in the
    industry.  This trend is almost a force unto itself and I don't believe
    the Obama election or the excitement it generated will do anything to
    change this trend.   In fact, we could argue that this trend itself
    picked the next president.  The Obama team made the best use of the
    consumer technologies touching people everywhere, including social
    media, cell phones and of course the Internet.  So his team had people
    who understood the megatrend and took action to accelerate it into
    their campaign.   What if the critically beneficial trend of
    consumerization of IT had not been in place?  If consumerization had
    not been driving IT would this election have resulted this way?  Hard
    to tell, but to the point of my analysis, this trend is a force of
    nature of its own and I do not believe the exciting results of the
    election will change it other than to help move more social media into
    old government organizations.  

    But, we can assume that the senior team of the President Elect, the
    ones who will be leading the transition of the government, know the
    power of social media and consumer IT very well and will accelerate the
    use of Web2.0/Gov2.0/Social Media in government.

    Globalization and increasing internationalization of IT and demographic shifts

    There is a global competition for talent and for several years it has
    seemed like the US was on the loosing side of this trend.  There is a
    significant chance that this trend will continue, with Asia especially
    generating demand for technology talent.  But the energy of the US and
    the huge respect the country is gaining because of this election may be
    a mitigating factor in the competition for talent. 

    Increasing open development of software and hardware

    This too is a trend all its own.  Open source software is clearly a
    force which is unstoppable already.  Here too, the Obama campaign
    appears to have leveraged open source sofware by extensive use of free
    and open software like MySQL.  (Sun Microsystem's MySQL is the open source technology
    platform that powered BarakObama.com). 

    Power, Cooling and Space (PCS) impacting data centers and every place computing is done

    Although this is another trend that is bigger than any one campaign, we
    have to assume that the energy savings, power savings and space savings
    of modernizing IT will be benefits that are highly regarded by the new
    administration and at least for the federal IT enterprise these trends
    will continue.

    Increasing pace of technology development and probability of disruption.

    I firmly believe that the speed of technology development will
    continue to accelerate.   At this time I don't see the election as
    having a big impact on this trend on the short term.   It is clear that
    the new administration will be working hard to capture the energy and
    excitement of the populace to move the country forward on several
    issues, and in doing so that will hopefully improve the environment for
    startups and other technology generators.  But the bottom line here is
    that positive change and disruption of enterprise IT is going to be a
    fact of life and would be no matter who was elected. 

    The Significance of the Above

    Now what is the meaning of these changes?  Here is a short list of assessments:


    Look for even more use of grid/cloud computing.  This will include more
    cloud computing in government.  Vivek Kundra is
    the model here.   His pioneering efforts in leveraging cloud computing
    have generated real benefits many of us knew were possible but few of
    had the courage to implement.

    – Look for an enhancement to the
    current CNCI (Comprehensive National Cyber Initiative).   IT will be

    secured in government.  With a strong federal CTO we can expect some
    changes to the current approach to the CNCI. Most, if not all, unauthorized intrusions into federal systems could be prevented with a strong CTO in place.

    – Expect to see much much more use of open source software and
    hardware in the federal enterprise, which will continue to drive more
    adoption by open source software in commercial sectors.   Expect to see
    a more widespread adoption of Open Office, Linux, Solaris, ZFS,  and
    MySQL.   This will be done for agility, flexibility, security and
    expense.

    – Expect to see large pushes for automation of backend IT processes.

    – Although federal IT budgets will be under significant downward pressure, good ideas regarding virtualization, automation and other high payoff disruptive technologies will be welcome and there will still be IT modernization efforts underway throughout the government.

    Do you agree, disagree, or have other thoughts?  Please let me know.

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