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IBM focuses on "pervasive computing"

IBM's Solutions 99 conference, Integrating the Power of E-business, has focused on what it perceives as the central industry themes of interoperability, integration, standards and the increasing pervasiveness of technology into people's everyday lives.

Opening the Las Vegas developer gathering was Nick Donofrio, senior vice president, technology and manufacturing, IBM. "There have been six orders of magnitude of change in the last 30 years," said Donofrio, explaining that e-business demonstrated a confluence of technology that required faster,bigger and simpler technology to further evolve.

The expansion of technology in general, and e-business in particular, has forced IBM to redefine its products and conceptualisation. In response, Donofrio introduced the term "pervasive computing" outlining IBM's vision of connecting "a million businesses, a billion people and a trillion devices". Steve Mills, IBM's general manager, software solutions, accentuated the idea of pervasive computing with the revelation that e-business would soon pass the trillion-dollar mark on a global scale. However, the process would require the development of open standards between vendors and industry players to ensure that developers have the opportunity to integrate e-business solutions with legacy systems and other vendor products.

"Application integration is one of the key themes driving e-business," explained Mills, who demonstrated IBM's commitment to cross platform operation with the point that IBM software generates 40 per cent of itsrevenues through technology based on an Intel platform. For this reason, IBM reinforced its devotion to Java due to its interoperability that enables it to act as the glue that binds disparateinfrastructures together.

IBM's general manager, Java software, Patricia Sueltz, is evangelistic about Java's and XML's ability to drive e-business into the future. "The issue is how to link existing technology with new technology. It has to be about inclusivity, not exclusivity," explained Sueltz.

With Java's capabilities expanding from a client server focus to enterprise infiltration in the last four years, Sueltz is confident that IBM can offer "end-to-end solutions".

Yet for this to work players must put aside what Sueltz described as industry bickering to create working standards. "E-business is bigger than any single product and any single company," she stressed.

According to Grady Booch, IBM's chief scientist, rational software, standards will help maintain simplicity in what is potentially a complicated situation. "The forces in software at the moment are cost, functionality, compatibility, resilience, churn and the fundamental challenge of managing complexity," said Booch.

And as e-business becomes a reality instead of hype, businesses that are finding it necessary to transform themselves need to ensure that they do it right the first time. "A lot of organisations are building dog houses and then wake up one morning to find a high rise that looks like a lot of little dog houses," warned Booch.

Rebecca Munro is in Las Vegas as a guest of IBM