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Issue of June 2005 

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Most wanted technologies

Here's a list of the ten technologies that CIOs are dying to deploy, says Prashant L Rao with inputs from Deepali Gupta

Only if there is an application that has to talk to several others does it make sense to put it on a Service Oriented Architecture

What would a survey be without a top ten list? Which is why, we bring you a list of technologies that range from the mundane (ERP) to the bleeding edge (SOA) and everything in between (storage management, wireless, what have you..).

ERP—still the toppermost

It’s still the real thing for the Indian CIO. Decades after it made its début, ERP continues to dominate corporate thinking. Of course, along the way it’s managed to subsume other technologies so that you find modules as disparate as HR and supply chain management finding their way into what’s still labelled as ERP. Then, of course, there remains the fact that the migration from an ill assorted mix of legacy applications, accounting software and other sundry tools to ERP is still very much an ongoing part of the Indian IT revolution. “Organisations are optimising the investment made in ERP and other process automation applications by extending it to customers and other stakeholders,” says Radhakrishna Pillai, CIO, SRL Ranbaxy.

Security—lock that system down

This isn’t really a technology but it’s a pressing concern related to it. Survey respondents voted it the second most important technology consideration on their agenda. Living, as we do, in a world where every other day brings news of some new incidence of systems being breached with horrendous results—it’s clear why CIOs think so. India Inc. is just moving from the basic anti-virus and firewall kind of perimeter security to Intrusion Detection Systems, Access Control Devices, cryptography, identity management and security appliances. In terms of security policy, more than 61 percent of organisations that have invested or are planning to invest in security have one. Unfortunately, that fervour doesn’t extend to keeping tabs on the efficacy of said policy. Two out of three companies fail to conduct security audits.

SOA—glue for the enterprise

S Anantha Sayana,
General Manager-
Corporate IT L&T Infotech

Service oriented architecture (SOA) is the latest wrinkle on the Web Services front. Except that SOA goes far beyond what Web Services intended. This technology ties right into the enterprise CIO’s desire to redesign, rejig or otherwise rationalise his or her IT set-up. India Inc. is taking to the concept with a healthy dose of caution. S Anantha Sayana General Manager - Corporate IT, L&T Infotech says, “We are evaluating the technology, to see where it will fit in the organisation. Because one thing that needs to be understood about SOA is that I don’t need it if only two applications need to talk to each other. Only if there is one application that we anticipate will require to talk to several others on several occasions does it make sense to put it on an SOA. So we intend to do a pilot over the next 12 months, and here is how we will go about it.” The pilot will be in several stages where a publisher that can be used by many other applications will be identified. Stores and DNS servers will be created so that applications across the group will know that this new SOA application exists. Finally the published application will be stored, retrieved and managed.

Mani Mulki,
General Manager, Information Systems, Godrej Industries

Mani Mulki, General Manager, Information Systems, Godrej Industries says, “Currently we do not use SOA. We are conducting a pilot, however.” He goes on to add that Indian organisations are not mature enough in terms of technology to use SOA. They are still gearing up for a change and it will be a while before they use SOA.

Corporate data centres

India Inc. is moving from anti-virus and firewall kind of perimeter security to Intrusion Detection Systems, Access Control Devices, cryptography, identity management and security appliances

A data centre isn’t an application, it’s more of an application repository. That said, in the last few years, corporate data centres have, for want of a better word, mushroomed. They are everywhere and the server room has died, unmourned. L&T Infotech is a typical example. The company has an in-house managed data centre and it uses CA Unicenter to monitor the same. This is one area where government/PSU organisations are the most enthusiastic with 42 percent rating data centres as a top technology priority. Auto components, oil/power and manufacturing were other verticals that were bullish about data centres.

Accumulating data in warehouses

Indian organisations are not mature enough in terms of technology to use SOA. They are still gearing up for a change and it will be a while before they use it

There comes a time in the life of an organisation when it finds that its databases are too big to manage and it needs a fresh approach, better tools to handle this monster. That’s when CIOs start combining databases and scrubbing their data to get it ready for mining and analysis. Data warehouses aren’t new, they started long ago. Take the case of Godrej Industries which is moving from its existing Oracle DW with an OLAP front-end platform to a Microsoft system. Of course, as in everything else, each organisation has it’s own way of looking at the problem. L&T Infotech has taken a different approach. “We do not have a consolidated data warehouse for all the business modules. For every individual business we use the SAP module for this. For corporate usage we are looking at solutions to automatically pull the required information rather than having to do it on a need basis,” says S Anantha Sayana, General Manager - Corporate IT, L&T Infotech.

Managing storage

Once you’ve deployed a SAN (or a NAS) you might think that your troubles are over. They’re not, they’re just beginning. Storage management is a quagmire that the wary CIO dreads. Thankfully, things are getting better though inter-operability still remains a concept that’s more theory than practice. The last time we at Network Magazine asked CIOs what their biggest concern regarding storage was, they replied ‘interoperability”. Telecom is the biggest consumer by far of SANs. It’s not unusual that they’re the most concerned about storage management. All those call detail records (CDRs) need careful handling.

Storage software’s popularity has soared over the last couple of years as two trends have converged. First off, concepts such as virtualisation and storage grids have come of age. Secondly, software standards have emerged that permit hardware from several vendors to be managed using a single console (that’s the Holy Grail of storage management; we’re not quite there yet but we’re on the way).

Message in a bottle

Messaging/Collaboration’s presence on this list is a reflection of the ubiquity of e-mail and, of late, Instant Messaging (IM). Messaging is the lifeblood of modern corporate life. With the advent of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), it’s significance has only gone up. Once again, telecom’s interest in this technology is high with half the organisations in this industry segment voting for it. Government/PSU’s are also enthused about it, 33 percent of respondents from this vertical picked messaging/collaboration as a high priority technology.

With Microsoft Exchange dominating the messaging scenario, it follows that many organisations have deployed Windows-based solutions for collaborating. The pioneer in this segment, Lotus Notes has its adherents as well. We expect the number of organisations using this kind of application to grow and even mid-sized companies will employ these tools to their advantage.

Commerce with an ‘e’

Companies that have a mobile workforce, especially those in IT/ITeS or education will benefit enormously if they roll out WLANs in their offices or campuses

When you think of e-commerce, the first segment that springs to mind is FMCG. That’s why it is intriguing that oil/power is the biggest booster to e-commerce with 38 percent of respondents favouring it. BFSI’s next with 31 percent. And what of FMCG? It’s trailing with only 14 percent of participants believing in the value that selling or trading online brings to their businesses.

Radhakrishna Pillai
CIO, SRL Ranbaxy

SRL Ranbaxy’s franchise collection centres and its customers (doctors etc.) use a Web service to get the test results and order tests. “We have already implemented the e- Lab service, the commerce part is missing because we do not transact the service charges through the Web site,” says Radhakrishna Pillai, CIO, SRL Ranbaxy. However, customers can request a test and download the report from the Web site. Billing is done as a separate activity through the company’s back office.

‘W’ is for wireless

For all the hype surrounding wireless LANs, interest is quite tepid. Only 16 percent of respondents across verticals cited this technology. No vertical displayed strong interest with the highest levels emerging from auto components (27 percent), services (26 percent) and FMCG/Retail (22 percent). L&T Infotech’s policy on WLANs seems representative of India Inc’s take on wireless computing. “We have WLANs in conference rooms only. We do not intend to deploy it in sections of the industry that are already wired. There is an obvious constraint of security in a WLAN. We have put in a wireless access security policy in place to help that, and we ensure a central mechanism to authenticate users,” says Sayana of L&T Infotech.

Mulki of Godrej concurs, “We have a WLAN in our conference room. There’s no benefit and WLANs are more vulnerable.”

Despite that, wireless computing is important. It fits right into the ongoing boom in notebooks, wireless ones to be precise. Companies that have a mobile workforce, especially those in IT/ITES or education will benefit enormously if they roll out WLANs in their offices or campuses.

The customer’s king

Organisations are optimising investments made in ERP and other process automation
applications by extending these systems to customers and
other stakeholders

CRM rounds off our list of most wanted technologies. IT/ITeS and auto components are the verticals that are strong for CRM with 29 and 24 percent of respondents from these verticals respectively naming it as a key technology. CRM is a valuable tool for customer facing organisations such as banks or even government organisations that would do well to adopt these tools and change their image for the better. That said, it has to be backed by process changes and it needs a strong ERP foundation. Until India Inc. finishes deploying ERP to its satisfaction, CRM doesn’t have a prayer.

Prashant L Rao can be reached at
Deepali Gupta can be reached at

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