Expanding one's technology bandwidth

Date:   Monday , September 03, 2007

Information Technology has carried our country places. As individuals contributing to this industry, it is important for us to keep up with the latest developments in our chosen area and perhaps be aware of the recent trends in other areas as well.

The Internet is now the best source for keeping one up to date. Newsgroups, websites, discussion forums, and many such sources have provided us with a wide range of content on a gamut of topics – from generic to highly specific. With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies such as Blogs and RSS feeds – it has become easier to obtain updates on our topics of interest. The latest addition is the Wikipedia, a unique mechanism of obtaining and contributing to a widely accessed source of knowledge.

Apart from all these we have vendor products and their roadmaps, which are rich in content. These vary with products (Functional or System software oriented) that capture latest extensions to echnology in packages by means of usable methods. Keeping track of the roadmap of products we use, their case studies and seminars will help us update our technical knowledge. Many such features normally have an adoption time – anywhere between a few months to a couple of years – before they are made use of by the product users. They give us a premonition of where the industry is headed.

Technology journals and magazines provide us with a facet of the trends. Spending a few minutes in a week in the library in our neighborhood with an open mind can give us a few surprises every time.

The challenge in expanding one’s bandwidth is in sustaining and growing an interest in areas beyond our day-to-day requirements. A simple example is the growth in Java based technologies almost on a daily basis. When we look into the day–to-day developments in engineering applications using Java based technologies we find ourselves a wave or more behind in using the latest extensions and features available with various components. Apathy to such new developments and lack of knowledge will prove to be a key differentiator in making the jump from being known for sweat coding factories to truly innovative appliers of technology.

The flip side is the fact that not all technologies survive the test of time. Technologies such as proprietary front-end technologies normally make a big ripple when they are announced based on a selected set of true productivity improvement factors. But over time, they lose their charm or get acquired and subsumed into a larger warehouse from an acquiring interest.

Another important fact is the applicability of new technology components. With the existence of the open source phenomenon, the choice is also increasing every day. Some of these applications are breaking conventional boundaries. How device based computing (XML or Java appliances, mobile phones, hand-held devices) has taken component based development to a lower boundary and how needs such as multi-tenanted architectures (SaaS) will lead to a different degree of virtualization of software and hardware components are examples of this.

Software architecture will lead a fair share of new technology innovations – particularly in evolving needs for non-functional aspects like better performance, application security, scalability requirements, and reliability. Different usage patterns (e.g., mash-ups) are stretching the limits of our architecture requirements.

Finally, expanding our bandwidth is also dependent on where our current bandwidth is. The digital divide, as we call it, is pretty deep but is narrowing fast. While in countries like India we have a share of focus (with organizations like ISRO and DRDO) on making sure that technology is applied for a wider social cause and benefit – the technology awareness in both the urban and rural areas is known to be lagging behind. More importantly, our society needs to look at science and technology as an area of emancipation than something esoteric that is more of academic interest than application.

He can be reached at ranganathan.krishnan@hcl.in