Nuts and Bolts of ICT


When I look back thirty plus years association of mine with this fascinating industry of communications and computers, there is a sense of "deja-vu." I learnt my programming on IBM Main-frames using FORTRAN when mini-computers started challenging the dominance of monolithic systems for Data-processing also known as. EDP under the exclusive control of finance departments. They used proprietary operating systems and crunching numbers was the singular task and the finance function had the privilege to use them to improve their productivity. They continue to use different forms of computing devices, but EDP Managers have given up "control" to other functionally qualified managers.

Information became multi-dimensional with data, voice and video converging to a single network and programmers have started using open source tools and integrated development environments.

Cometh the faster and smaller foot-print mini and micro-computers, the needs of other functions in an organization were gaining ascendancy. Built on Intel and Motorola processors, they ran "Unix" operating system, functional heads wanted to manage the information flow in their departments. Client-Server was emerging as a dominant theme and programming skills need to be oriented towards decentralization of computing tasks – the Central Computer became a repository and a resource provider.

Departmental productivity showed significant changes due to the use of Client-Server systems A new breed of managers started co-ordinating the inter-departmental needs and conflict for resources – IT Managers started emerging from the shadows of Finance function.

The advent of personal computers in the early 1980s accentuated this trend of decentralization to another level – individual users embraced the use of desktop computers to enhance personal productivity. The computing paradigm dominated by "Wintel" ensured that the pecking order in the use of computer got diffused further and the role of IT managers became more critical. A similar trend was being witnessed in the use of communication technology in an enterprise – from central office exchanges to PABX systems to communication servers. The driver for this quantum change of even more proprietary legacy systems is the adoption of IP technology to carry data and voice in a single network.

Information became multi-dimensional with data, voice and video converging to a single network and programmers have started using open source tools and integrated development environments. The use of IT became ubiquitous in the context of an enterprise and a new management role evolved – that of Chief Information Officers, often stepping into the board rooms from the corridors of influence. They became the hub of functional expertise, administrative skills, human skills and technical knowledge to plan, implement and manage Information and Communication Technologies. The performance of a system is now dependent on the combined power of hardware, software and humanware.

What took nearly 3 decades to change, the social media explosion and mobility adoption have accelerated in less than five years – a new computing ethos in which the user drives the form and fit for consumption, defines the content and context, leaving the CIOs to decide the appropriate delivery mechanism. The computing resources have been federated in to an amorphous pool called "Cloud" and the networks have converged to provide anytime, anywhere access. In this transformation process, there is also a trend of hyper specialization of skills required to design, deploy and operate the computing environment and software applications. Earlier we used to refer to display devices as What You See Is What you Get (WYSIWIG) – nowadays it is more appropriate to call this as What You Seek Is What IT gives!

The dependencies from traditional building blocks of ICT to "NUTS" and "BOLTS" is a journey that is taking twists and turns with every passing year. IT is not Hardware or is hardwired any more, it is not merely layer of software, but it is embedded into devices, the connectivity is not between physical nodes, it is Software Defined Networks now.

Happy Journey!

About the Author

Madhavan Srinivasan is an Entrepreneur, Mentor to Start-ups and Executive Leadership at Newt Global India Pvt Ltd.

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