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Unplanned Obsolescence

Unplanned Obsolescence

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Moving to the wild world of big server application development can be a huge cultural shift, so CIOs have to be sure that it serves the needs of their business.

Gartner estimates that the worldwide market for application development (AD) services will grow from $US82 billion in 2004 to nearly $US93 billion by 2007, and integration services will grow from $US59 billion to $US70 billion in the same time frame. Gartner predicts erosion in these markets as advances in application development tools, integration software and composite application suites - such as SOA - simplify some aspects of development and integration, but says a market of this magnitude will not disappear overnight, and definitely not before 2010.

Java has already become a premier technology for e-business application development, with Gartner surveys showing 80 percent of enterprises have included Java in their technology portfolios, and most are willing to consider using Java for mission-critical, enterprise-class and global-class AD. But Gartner reports a major a shortage of Java developers to fulfil all of these mission-critical enterprise projects. In such a tight labour market, even if the enterprise can find the trained Java developers it needs, the price to hire them will be high.

On the other hand, migrating existing employees to Java and SOA can be both costly and chancy. Another Gartner research note says migration to Java is an expensive, lengthy and risky process, and finds it is between 2.0 times and 2.7 times more cost-effective to hire an accomplished Java developer than to migrate a Cobol, Visual Basic or C++ developer to Java.

Moving to Java, .Net and SOA can also be a huge cultural shift for those with a Cobol background, says Gartner research director Greta James. Even those eager to change are confronted with totally different paradigms. "For example, I have a friend that I used to work with years ago who became very senior. He retired but he has always loved programming so he decided to learn Java as a retirement project. He gave up because it was all too hard, but also part of the reason for giving up was that there was still huge demand for Cobol and so he is having a lovely time doing some Cobol programs."

James notes there will inevitably be some people that will resist change just as some will embrace it and others fall in the middle. But she also points out many organizations are keeping their legacy applications not necessarily because they have not opened their mind to the new thinking but simply because it does not necessarily make business sense to change.

"The crucial thing with architecture is not so much whether basic legacy technologies are kept or not, or that new technologies are used, but that it's driven by the needs of the business rather than being technology for the sake of technology. It's [a question of] understanding, talking to the business people about what their needs are, and then establishing an architecture that is responsive to those needs and supports those needs."

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