When will software become a utility, the way you get water when you turn on the tap?
Deb Mukherjee, chief technology officer of Cognizant and one of the main crystal ball gazers in the field, posed this question and gave his answer in two parts.
First, we are not there yet and second, maybe we will get there in three to five years. He was addressing a group of his peers in the city described as the fourth biggest software cluster in the world.
What held the attention of his audience was as much the fascinating journey that software must undertake to reach the holy grail of total indispensability as the attendant question: will getting there be a good thing?
The answer is that it will be good for you and me, maybe for the country at large and IT in general, but will likely not please the entrepreneur.
But it is the entrepreneur/innovator who has to take us there!
Innovators live to create intellectual property and the opportunity for an entrepreneur to tap the fruits of exclusive technology will diminish when software becomes a virtual public good access to which will be impossible to deny.
That happy golden age of software as a utility will be seen to be coming for some time and come in bits and pieces but there will also be a discontinuity, a sort of technological big bang which will forever change the rules of the game, leaving no one in doubt that it marks the beginning of a new age.
Software as utility will reside on the internet. The world wide web will then become an integral part of our lives, for most of our waking and sleeping hours. Email today is a utility but that is just the beginning.
Software as a utility will be a service and will need a service architecture. It will necessarily be global and so will require extensive standardisation. It will have to be ubiquitous, reliable and affordable.
The faster, better and cheaper internet will be enabled through web services that will offer a standardised way of sharing application functions across networks.
Software components will then be able to interact with each other dynamically, using standard Internet technologies to build bridges between systems.
And the killer application for the new e-business of that era will be integration.
That will also be the day when the menace of having to change your visiting card every time a phone number or address changes will be gone with the advent of the digital business card.
With it you will not have to call and speak mostly to an answering machine but also know when the person concerned will be able to personally take your call.
Software as a utility will be a composite of several utilities and the whole will rise in complexity along with growth in usefulness.Applications, private and public web services will take in such diverse entities as the bank the logistic company and the e-tailer, all through the Net.