Information Technology Trends

Hardware and Software Improvements

To keep up with evolving consumer and market trends, both hardware and software components have seen drastic improvements.

Learning Objectives

Outline the recent technology trends in both hardware and software improvements

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Unlike standard RAM computer memory, in which the user supplies a memory address and the RAM returns the data word stored at that address, a CAM is designed such that the user supplies a data word and the CAM searches its entire memory to see if that data word is stored anywhere in it.
  • CMOS logic gates have allowed computing to become a commodity which is now ubiquitous—embedded in many forms, from greeting cards and telephones to satellites.
  • Improvements in software can largely be attributed to the implementation of software development models, such as the waterfall model, the spiral model, and agile software development.

Key Terms

  • CPU: The main computer case containing the central components of a personal computer.
  • CMOS: Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) is technology for constructing integrated circuits. CMOS technology is used in microprocessors, microncontrollers, static RAM and other digital logic circuits.

Today’s technology is rapidly evolving. To keep up with consumer and market trends, both hardware and software components have seen drastic improvements.

Hardware Improvements

The 21st century has seen the rise of multi-core CPUs. Content-addressable memory (CAM) has become inexpensive enough to be used in networking. CAM is a special type of computer memory used in certain very high speed searching applications. Unlike standard computer memory (random access memory or RAM) in which the user supplies a memory address and the RAM returns the data word stored at that address, a CAM is designed such that the user supplies a data word and the CAM searches its entire memory to see if that data word is stored anywhere in it. If the data word is found, the CAM returns a list of one or more storage addresses where the word was found. Because a CAM is designed to search its entire memory in a single operation, it is much faster than RAM in virtually all search applications.

CMOS logic gates have allowed computing to become a commodity which is now ubiquitous—embedded in many forms, from greeting cards and telephones to satellites. Fiber-optic and photonic devices, which already have been used to transport data over long distances, are now entering the data center—side by side with CPU and semiconductor memory components. This allows the separation of RAM from CPU by optical interconnects.

Software Improvements

Improvements in software can largely be attributed to the implementation of software development models. One example is the waterfall model. The waterfall model shows a process where software developers are to follow these phases in order:

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The Waterfall Model: A diagram laying out the steps of the waterfall model for software development.

  1. Requirements specification (Requirements analysis)
  2. Software design
  3. Implementation and Integration
  4. Testing (or Validation)
  5. Deployment (or Installation)
  6. Maintenance

Reviews may occur before moving to the next phase, which allows for the possibility of changes. Reviews may also be employed to ensure that the phase is indeed complete. The phase completion criteria are often referred to as a “gate” that the project must pass through to move to the next phase. Waterfall discourages revisiting and revising any prior phase once it’s complete.

Another example is the spiral model. The key characteristic of a spiral model is risk management at regular stages in the development cycle. This model combines some key aspects of the waterfall model and rapid prototyping methodologies, but provides emphasis in deliberate iterative risk analysis, particularly suited to large-scale, complex systems. The spiral is visualized as a process passing through some number of iterations, with the four-quadrant diagram representative of the following activities:

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Spiral Model: A diagram laying out the steps in the spiral model of software development.

  1. Formulate plans to identify software targets, implement the program, clarify the project development restrictions.
  2. Risk analysis or assessment of selected programs, to consider how to identify and eliminate risk.
  3. Implementation of software development and verification.
  4. Plan the next iteration.

The spiral model has some restrictive conditions, as follows:

  1. The spiral model emphasizes risk analysis, and thus requires customers to accept this analysis and act on it. This requires both trust in the developer as well as the willingness to spend more to fix the issues, which is the reason why this model is often used for large-scale internal software development.
  2. If the implementation of risk analysis will greatly affect the profits of the project, the spiral model should not be used.
  3. Software developers have to actively look for possible risks, and analyze it accurately for the spiral model to work.

The first stage is to formulate a plan to achieve the objectives with these constraints, and then strive to find and remove all potential risks through careful analysis and, if necessary, by constructing a prototype.

A third model is known as agile software development. Agile software development uses iterative development as a basis but advocates a lighter and more people-centric viewpoint than traditional approaches. Agile processes use feedback, rather than planning, as their primary control mechanism. The feedback is driven by regular tests and releases of the evolving software.

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Agile Software Development: A poster outlining the principles of agile software development.

Consumerization of IT

Consumerization is the growing tendency for new IT to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business and government organizations.

Learning Objectives

Explain the business and technology implications of consumerization in the technology industry

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • It was the growth of the World Wide Web in the mid 1990s that began the modern pattern of consumerization. In particular the rise of free, advertising-based services such as email and search engines.
  • The primary impact of consumerization is that it is forcing businesses, especially large enterprises, to rethink the way they procure and manage IT equipment and services.
  • Products have become easier to use, and cloud-based, software-as-a-service offerings are addressing an ever-widening range of business needs in areas such as video-conferencing, digital imaging, business collaboration, salesforce support and systems back-up.
  • One of the more serious, negative implications of consumerization is that security controls have been slower to be adopted in the consumer space.
  • The giant data centers that have been and are being built by firms such as Google, Apple, Amazon and others are far larger and generally much more efficient than the data centers used by most large enterprises.

Key Terms

  • server: A computer or a program which provides services to other programs or users, either in the same computer or over a computer network.
  • cloud: Regarded as an amorphous omnipresent space for processing and storage on the Internet; the focus of cloud computing.
  • customer relationship management: Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented model for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects.

Consumerization is the growing tendency for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business and government organizations. The emergence of consumer markets as the primary driver of information technology innovation is seen as a major IT industry shift, as large business and government organizations dominated the early decades of computer usage and development.

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Consumerization Facts – Part 1: A survey was conducted in June 2011 in the U.S., Germany and Japan among IT personnel. It found that consumerization has reached a tipping point.

It was the growth of the World Wide Web in the mid 1990s that began the modern pattern of consumerization. In particular the rise of free, advertising-based services such as email and search engines from companies like Hotmail and Yahoo! began to establish the idea that consumer IT offerings based on a simple Internet browser were often viable alternatives to traditional business computing approaches. In recent years, this view has become increasingly accepted due to the widespread reliance on free, advertising-based services from a growing number of firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

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Consumerization Facts – Part 2: The report also found that a strategic approach to consumerization starts with providing IT support to personal devices.

Business Implications

The primary impact of consumerization is that it is forcing businesses, especially large enterprises, to rethink the way they procure and manage IT equipment and services. Historically, central IT organizations controlled the great majority of IT usage within their firms—choosing or, at least, approving the systems and services that employees used. Today, employees and departments are becoming increasingly self-sufficient in meeting their IT needs. Products have become easier to use, and cloud-based, software-as-a-service offerings are addressing an ever-widening range of business needs in areas such as video-conferencing, digital imaging, business collaboration, salesforce support and systems back-up.

Equally important is the fact that large enterprises have become increasingly dependent upon consumerized services that provide search capabilities, mapping, and social interaction. The capabilities of firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are now essential components of many firms’ marketing strategies. One of the most important consumerization questions going forward is to what extent such advertising-based services will spread into major corporate applications such as email, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Intranets.

One of the more serious, negative implications of consumerization is that security controls have been slower to be adopted in the consumer space. As a result, there is an increased risk to the information assets accessed through these less trustworthy consumerized devices. This shortcoming may soon be remedied by the chip manufacturers through technologies such as Intel’s “Trusted Execution Technology” and ARM’s “Trust Zone. ”

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Consumerization Facts – Part 3: Lastly, the report found that new IT tools reduce security risks and management costs.

Technology Implications

In addition to the mass market changes above, consumer markets are now changing large scale computing as well. The giant data centers that have been and are being built by firms such as Google, Apple, Amazon and others are far larger and generally much more efficient than the data centers used by most large enterprises. For example, Google is said to support over 300 million Gmail accounts, while executing more than 1 billion searches per day. Supporting these consumer-driven volumes requires new levels of efficiency and scale, and this is transforming many traditional data center approaches and practices. Among the major changes are reliance on low cost, commodity servers, N+1 system redundancy, and largely unmanned data center operations.

Types of Networks

Networks are often classified by their physical or organizational extent, their purpose, their usage, trust level, and access rights.

Learning Objectives

Compare the usage, trust level, and access rights of the main technology networks

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for communication among computer and information technological devices close to one person.
  • A local area network (LAN) is a network that connects computers and devices in a limited geographical area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, office building, or closely positioned group of buildings.
  • A wide area network (WAN) is a computer network that covers a large geographic area such as a city, country, or even intercontinental distances, using a communications channel that combines many types of media such as telephone lines, cables, and air waves.
  • A backbone network is part of a computer network infrastructure that interconnects various pieces of network, providing a path for the exchange of information between different LANs or subnetworks.
  • A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network in which some of the links between nodes are carried by open connections or virtual circuits in some larger network (e.g., the Internet ) instead of by physical wires.

Key Terms

  • hypervisor: A software or firmware system that provides a virtual machine and allows it to operate directly on underlying hardware (instead of via emulation), but within specified constraints

Networks are often classified by their physical or organizational extent or their purpose. Usage, trust level, and access rights differ between these types of networks, outlined below.

Personal Area Network (PAN)

A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for communication among computer and information technological devices close to one person. Devices used in a PAN include personal computers, printers, fax machines, telephones, PDAs, scanners, and even video game consoles. Home area networks (HANs) are very similar to PANs.

Local Area Network (LAN)

A local area network (LAN) is a network that connects computers and devices in a limited geographical area such as home, school, computer laboratory, office building, or closely positioned group of buildings. Each computer or device on the network is a node. The defining characteristics of LANs, in contrast to WANs (wide area networks), include their higher data transfer rates, smaller geographic range, and no need for leased telecommunication lines. LANs can be connected to wide area networks by using routers.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

A wide area network (WAN) is a computer network that covers a large geographic area such as a city, country, or even intercontinental distances, using a communications channel that combines many types of media such as telephone lines, cables, and air waves. A WAN often uses transmission facilities provided by common carriers, such as telephone companies.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated network that provides access to consolidated, block level data storage. SANs are primarily used to make storage devices, such as disk arrays, tape libraries, and optical jukeboxes, accessible to servers so that the devices appear as locally-attached devices to the operating system. A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are not accessible through the local area network by other devices.

Campus Area Network (CAN)

A campus area network (CAN) is a computer network made up of an interconnection of LANs within a limited geographical area. The networking equipment (switches, routers) and transmission media (optical fiber, copper plant, Cat5 cabling, etc.) are almost entirely owned by the campus tenant or owner: an enterprise, university, government, etc. In the case of a university campus-based campus network, the network is likely to link a variety of campus buildings — including, for example, academic colleges or departments, the university library, and student residence halls. CANs are similar to metropolitan area networks (MANs), which usually span cities or large campuses.

Backbone Network

A backbone network is part of a computer network infrastructure that interconnects various pieces of network, providing a path for the exchange of information between different LANs or subnetworks. A backbone can tie together diverse networks in the same building, in different buildings in a campus environment, or over wide areas. Normally, the backbone’s capacity is greater than that of the networks connected to it.

A large corporation which has many locations may have a backbone network that ties all of these locations together — for example, if a server cluster needs to be accessed by different departments of a company which are located at different geographical locations. The equipment which ties these departments together constitute the network backbone. Network performance management, including network congestion, are critical parameters taken into account when designing a network backbone. Backbone networks are similar to enterprise private networks.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network in which some of the links between nodes are carried by open connections or virtual circuits in some larger network (e.g., the Internet) instead of by physical wires. The data link layer protocols of the virtual network are said to be tunneled through the larger network when this is the case. One common application is secure communications through the public Internet, but a VPN need not have explicit security features, such as authentication or content encryption. VPNs, for example, can be used to separate the traffic of different user communities over an underlying network with strong security features.

Virtual Network

Not to be confused with a Virtual Private Network, a Virtual Network defines data traffic flows between virtual machines within a hypervisor in a virtual computing environment. Virtual Networks may employ virtual security switches, virtual routers, virtual firewalls, and other virtual networking devices to direct and secure data traffic.

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The Internet changed the way the world produces and consumes information: The Internet, represented in this photo, is an aggregation of the different computer networks spanning the globe.