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Accenture Outlook: Distributed, Decoupled, Analyzed: ITs Next Frontier

Accenture Outlook: Distributed, Decoupled, Analyzed: ITs Next Frontier

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Published by Accenture
While the big picture may be elusive, there are three forces or undercurrents that seem to be shaping much of IT.
While the big picture may be elusive, there are three forces or undercurrents that seem to be shaping much of IT.

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Published by: Accenture on Jan 03, 2012
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01/03/2012

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The journal of high-performance business
On the Edge
Distributed, decoupled,analyzed: IT’s next frontier
By Kishore S. Swaminathan
Three new forces are reshaping the world of information technology.
This article originally appearedin the 2011, No. 3, issue of 
 
2
Outlook 2011
Number 3
 An ancient Indian parable tellsthe story o a group o blind mendescribing an elephant. One eelsthe legs and describes the elephantas big and stocky; another eelsthe tail and describes it as thinand wiry; yet another eels thetrunk and describes it as wet andslithery. Each is correct within hislimited sphere o experience, yetno one gets the ull picture.In my view, there is an elephant inthe world o IT, one that representsbig, impending changes or theuture. Current buzzwords like“cloud computing,” “Big Data” and“service-oriented architecture”are simply well-intentioned blindmen’s descriptions o this elephant— vague, not entirely incorrect,defnitely not comprehensive, eachtrying to describe some aspect o a larger phenomenon that nobody yet comprehends. While the big picture may beelusive, there are three orces or undercurrents that seem to beshaping much o IT.
1. Everything will be distributed
There is no doubt that ully central-ized IT—all applications, data, serversand storage residing in a single datacenter—would be the ideal solutionor most organizations, both archi-tecturally and operationally. Sowhy would anyone distribute their applications and data?In the past, distribution o enterpriseIT was either a matter o accident(departments wanted their owntrophy data centers or the companygrew through mergers and acqui-sitions), a deliberate decision toovercome network congestion andlatency (keeping the applicationsand data closer to the users) or required as a matter o regulatorycompliance (certain data andapplications had to reside in specifcgeographic boundaries).Today, several actors are conspir-ing to make distributed IT thenew normal.The availability o hardware andsotware as services providesinancial incentive to distributecorporate applications and datawith multiple providers. The needand desire to operate intercompanyprocesses by integrating your systems with those o your suppli-ers and partners leads to data andprocess distribution. Integrationstandards enable you to sourcecommon services—say, credit veriication—rom a third party,making system building aster and cheaper. As applications are distributedacross multiple platorms andlocations, corporate data will alsobe distributed. The need to integrateand utilize external data—datarom the Web, data rom emerging“data as a service” vendors—is yetanother reason or dealing withdistributed data. Finally, the sheer  volume o data generated by sen-sors in certain industries (suchas electric utilities) makes it inea-sible to collect all the data in oneplace or processing.The distribution o applicationsand data across many locationsand providers is technically chal-lenging; it also has many businessimplications. Your corporate data is under thecustody o many third partiesthat themselves may be sourcingsome o their sotware and servicesrom other third parties over which you have no control. Third-partyproviders, in order to enhanceperormance and to support backupsand recovery, may maintain multiplecopies o your data within theicomplex and proprietary architec-tures, making it difcult i notimpossible or you to monitor, auditor delete inormation.
 
3
Outlook 2011
Number 3
on applications and not on data.Decoupling or partitioning datais not a trivial proposition—andthis is the problem that’s at theheart o the current interest in“Big Data.” While IT has evolved and changeddramatically in the past 25 years,the main data storage paradigm—the relational database—has remainedconstant. The relational database hasserved us well over the years, acrossa variety o applications; however, itis not very good at being distributed—in more technical terms, it does nothave
 partition tolerance
. As a result, a number o new,non-relational data managementparadigms have emerged. Collectivelycalled NoSQL (which stands or “notonly SQL,” the data access used byrelational database systems), thesedatabases try to address a number o problems: managing distributeddata, real-time data, multimediadata, metadata and so orth.* As such, Big Data is less aboutbig—which is true but incidental—and more about managing newkinds o data and dealing with newkinds o data management para-digms. Among other things, NoSQLor Big Data approaches are aimedat processing very large volumeso inormation—oten in real timethat may or may not be structuredor be in one central database.
3. Everything will be analyzed
The key word here is
everything
.Metadata—data about data, suchas who accessed it and when andwhere it came rom—is growing ata much aster rate (estimates rangerom two times to 20 times) thanthe underlying data. As your systems interoperatemore and more with third parties,there is also the problem o trustand authentication—how would you know that the application you are exchanging data withis your trusted supplier and notan imposter?
2. Everything will be decoupled
Distribution requires decoupling,and decoupling enables distribution. When applications and data are dis-tributed—that is, when they reside inmultiple places, in multiple platormsand are owned by multiple providers—they can no longer be monolithic.In the case o applications, theyhave to be modular and be ableto interoperate with other applica-tions. Fortunately, principles or modular design and standards or interoperability have emerged,matured and gained broad, industry-wide acceptance. Indeed, this wasthe intent o the last big IT hype,service-oriented architecture, whichmany now consider just that: hypewithout much substance. The truth,however, is somewhere in between.Much like the blind men describingthe elephant, many IT expertshad only a partial understandingo the challenges o decoupling.They ocused on decouplingapplications into interoperableand modular “services.” In this,service-oriented architecture hasbeen largely successul. Onlinecompanies have ully embracedSOA principles; any new businessapplication written today is likelyto be service-oriented.But SOA turned out to be onlya partial solution or decouplingbecause its proponents ocused
* To be sure, distribution is not the only orce driving the data access paradigm. The dramaticgrowth in unstructured inormation—now estimated to be 80 percent o all inormationin the world—requires new data management approaches other than relational databases,which were aimed at supporting highly structured data used in business transactions.

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