The 30,000-Foot View

By Joe McKendrick

McKendrick & Associates home page

The Techno-Entrepreneurial Spirit: Hope Springs Eternal

The news we get everyday from the Middle East may seem disheartening, but I want to offer a more optimistic assessment - with an IT slant. That is, ten years from now or so, we may be fretting about the loss of IT jobs to low-cost development shops in Iraq. Even in India, they may be bemoaning the loss of opportunities to this new entrepreneurial-tech hotbed in the Middle East. The Iraqis are a very industrious people, and if the extremists can be kept at bay, we may see an entrepreneurial-tech renaissance in the region. It's happened before in the most unlikely places. A couple of decades back no one could have dreamed that East European, Russian, and Chinese developers would be doing a lot of our IT work. It wasn't that long ago these were militant, lifeless communist societies, where generations of youngsters were brainwashed to hate and be ready to battle against Western societies. India was the poorest of poor countries, wracked by devastating hunger.

My optimism - at least as it relates to the potential within Iraq - is tempered, however, by another trend about the evolution of the IT industry. Some analysts predict that over the long run, the overall number of IT jobs across the world will actually decline. Even though the world is becoming more and more computerized, we may need fewer and fewer people to build and run these systems. The reason is the growth of self-managing, or autonomic computing.

It is likely that in the long run, autonomic computing may take away more existing IT jobs than outsourcing (emphasis on existing jobs). The consensus among the experts I spoke to is that once autonomic computing takes hold, the potential impact on IT employment will be far greater than that of outsourcing, offshore or otherwise. In fact, the number of jobs moved offshore will pale in comparison to the impact of automated computing.

Of course, a lot of what will be automated is the more day-to-day or menial tasks associated with IT. There will be plenty of demand for high-level thinking such as architectural and business process design. In essence, IT workers are being chased deeper into the enterprise. Technology wise, we've still got a long way to go as well. Completely "dark" data centers are a long way off. Instead, we'll be seeing variations of "dim" data centers, with varying levels of autonomics.

So IT will continue to evolve, and new opportunities will spring eternal - even for a budding Baghdad-based IBM or Microsoft.

Note: This originally appeared as an editorial in Database Trends & Applications

Joe's Previous 30,000-Foot Views: How do You 'Can' a Jedi Master? (August 2004)