Gene Phifer

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Gene Phifer
Managing VP
13 years at Gartner
36 years IT industry

Gene Phifer is a managing vice president in Gartner Research. Mr. Phifer covers a broad set of Web and cloud-centric technologies, including Web architecture, intranets, extranets, e-business, portals, Web applications, cloud computing… Read Full Bio

Observations on cloud computing from Day 1 of Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit

by Gene Phifer  |  December 7, 2009  |  2 Comments

I am currently in Las Vegas at our AADI Summit. We have over 750 attendees, and the buzz is really good.

This is Gartner’s primary conference for cloud computing in 2009, and the interest in cloud computing is very high. I did a keynote this morning with Dave Cearley and the room was packed. Lots of discussions in the hallways and 1-1 rooms about the cloud.

I would probably categorize most of these conversations as ‘tire kicking’. Clients want to use cloud computing, but there is still a lack of trust of the services and providers of cloud services.

Lack of trust from the enterprise is probably the number one inhibitor of adoption of cloud computing. This trust will come over time, as providers of cloud computing services add enterprise-class capabilities, and as more experience is gained in using the cloud.

Will 2010 be the year that cloud computing reaches the tipping point? Dunno. I’m guessing 2010/2011 will be the timeframe for the use of cloud computing to take off.

But in the interim, tire kicking is good. As long as the client eventually buys one of the tires that they kick.

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On the 20th anniversary of the Web, part 2

by Gene Phifer  |  March 15, 2009  |  2 Comments

Last week I posted a tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Web.  This week I’d like to look toward the future and discuss some potential scenarios for the next 20 years.

I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball that looks 20 years into the future.  Yet I can see some things coming down the pike, and I can predict a few others.

The first prediction is an obvious one: the semantic Web.   The Web was built for human consumption.  The concept of the semantic Web is to make the content of the Web machine consumable.  The semantic Web will allow a programmable Web to evolve.  This also happens to be where Sir Tim Berners-Lee is currently focusing his energies, so he has an excellent opportunity to extend his impact well into the future.

The next prediction is the expansion of devices supporting the Web.  This is also a somewhat obvious prediction, but one that has just begun to be realized.  The PC-browser combination which is by far the most common method of accessing the Web will be supplemented by cell phones, PDAs, netbooks, consumer electronics, automobiles, appliances, home control and pretty much any electronic device that requires human interaction.  Many of these, ex. cell phones and PDA’s, are already enjoying limited Web access.  This ubiquity of access to the Web will impact both our consumer and business lives.

My third prediction relates to end user development.  Web 2.0 extended the creation of content to end users.  However, the creation of Web applications is still mostly a developer task.  Innovations in mashup technologies and Web Oriented Architectural approaches will enable the average end user to build Web applications.  Cloud computing platforms will deliver the environment for these applications to run.

My final prediction is for the growth of cloud computing.  While cloud computing is not entirely Web-centric, the user experience for cloud computing *is* Web-centric.  A vast array of business and consumer services will be available via cloud computing, and this will significantly drive access to and innovation in the Web.

These four predictions will manifest themselves over the next decade.  As to the following decade, the crystal ball gets a little cloudy (pun intended).  What do you think?

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On the 20th anniversary of the Web, part 1

by Gene Phifer  |  March 6, 2009  |  1 Comment

On March 13, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first paper on adding hypertext capabilities to the Internet.  At the time, the Internet was used almost exclusively by defense agencies, defense contractors, and higher education institutions.  The traffic on the Internet was dominated by SMTP-based e-mail, NNTP-based newsgroups,  FTP-based file transfers and TELNET sessions to remote devices.  The Internet of that day was text-based.  Twenty years ago, Tim had a grand vision that became the WorldWideWeb.  The world has never been the same.

The 20th anniversary of Tim’s paper is a good time to look back on the evolution of the Web and how it has changed our lives.  To sum it up, the Web has completely democratized access to information, products, services, applications, and other human beings.  

Prior to the Web, we had to travel to libraries to look up information.  Prior to the Web, we had to go to bookstores to buy books.  Prior to the Web, we had to use travel agents to set up a trip.  And prior to the Web, the best place to meet friends was at church or a bar.

The world has changed dramatically because of the Web.  Due to the simplicy of the Web model, and the ubiquity of Web browsers and Internet access, a wealth of information is now available at our fingertips.  We can buy a huge variety of products and services without having to leave our easy chairs, 24 hours a day.  And we can interact with anybody, around the world, any time of the day or night.

The Web has had a profound impact on our societies, on our cultures, and on our economic models.  The world would be a very different place without the Web.

Sure, there are warts.  But the warts are minute compared to the positive benefits of the Web.  We owe Sir Tim Berners-Lee a hearty ‘hurrah’ for his vision and his efforts to turn that vision into reality.

So what’s in store for the next 20 years?  Stay tuned for part 2.

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Thoughts from the opening session at Lotusphere 2009

by Gene Phifer  |  January 19, 2009  |  1 Comment

I am down in Orlando at IBM’s Lotusphere 2009 event.  Lotusphere is the annual conference targeted at users of Lotus products. It is held in the Disney Dolphin and Swan hotels, so once again I’m communing with Mickey Mouse.

The opening session of Lotusphere 2009 started with an eye-opening segment by the Blue Man Group.   These guys are so cool. The guest keynote was delivered by Dan Aykroyd, who entered the stage in the character of Beldar the Conehead. His spin for Lotusphere was the need for collaboration, and he illustrated this need by telling a story about an unnamed actor who failed to collaborate with his camera crew.  Not bad, and it was good to see Dan, but I prefered last year’s guest keynote by Neil Armstrong.

Then we moved into the meat of the session.  Bob Picciano, General Manager, IBM Workplace, Portal and Lotus Collaboration Software (the big guy at Lotus), ran the rest of the show, which was filled with lots of product details by Bob’s direct reports, and tons of demos. There were three customer testimonials (Coca-Cola, Netjets, HSBC) that were pretty high level.

I saw two things that I really liked among all the announcements.  One was Lotus’ UCC story, which featured Sametime Unified Telephony (SUT).  The demos of SUT were very impressive, with users able to switch context between their collaborative world, messaging world and telephony world rapidly and seamlessly. Their integration with the mobile world, especially with the Blackberry, was really cool.  The other stuff I liked was the announcement of LotusLive, their productization of Bluehouse, and their main entry into the world of the cloud.  They discussed many LotusLive services, and a bundle of services called LotusLive Engage.

I wish the opening session had a better high level message, though.  The product stuff was great,  but there wasn’t much to bind it all together.   High level themes like cost cutting driven by the economy and customer initiatives would have been a great framework within which to deliver the product news, and would have related it to the real world of IT and business.  Oh well.

The Gartner analysts attending Lotusphere 2009 are having dinner tonight so we can lay out our plans for writing research about the event and the things we learned in talking with IBM execs, partners and attendees.  Stay tuned for details.

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Do Web 2.0 User Demographics Matter?

by Gene Phifer  |  November 30, 2008  |  2 Comments

The Gartner analyst community has been having a fun internal debate over the last couple of months over the validity of Web 2.0 user demographics.  For a while we have been talking about digital natives, those who grew up in the era of the Web and who naturally gravitate toward Web 2.0 concepts and technologies, and digital immigrants, those who grew up before the era of the Web.   But some of my colleagues are questioning the validity of this categorization and arguing that age has nothing to do with it, that it is a state mind.

I happen to believe that there is a generational aspect to this.  The people that grew up in the 90′s and 00′s were immersed in the new era of the Web.  They live and breath it.  Take a random sample of 20 tweens, teens and twenty-somethings, and I’d bet 19 will have sent at least one text within the last 24 hours.  Web 2.0 is part of their lifestyle.  

I don’t argue that some digital immigrants exhibit digital native characteristics.  In fact, I’m one of those ‘naturalized digital citizens’, who was born in another era, but adopted the new world to the point where I act like many digital natives.  My point is that it didn’t come naturally to me.  I had to learn and adapt.  Just like an immigrant learns and adapts to their new country to the point where they can become a naturalized citizen.

Unfortunately, some digital immigrants probably won’t fully adapt, just like some immigrants never are fully immersed in their new country.  And there are a handful of digital natives that don’t participate in the new era of the Web, just like some natives choose not to vote.

So I think that there is an age thing working on the basic tendencies of Web 2.0 adoption.  Digital natives are highly inclined to use Web 2.0 concepts and technologies, and digital immigrants are highly inclined (at least initially) to not use them.  But more and more digital immigrants are crossing over, and are beginning to look and act a whole lot like a digital native, to the point where they could legitimately be called naturalized digital citizens.

Does this demographic categorization make sense?  If it does, there are plenty of ramifications to companies and the way that they interact with these demographic groups.

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Category: web     Tags: , ,

Thoughts from Day 1 of the IBM Software Group Analyst Summit

by Gene Phifer  |  November 19, 2008  |  2 Comments

I’m at the IBM Software Group Analsyt Summit today and tomorrow.  I am sitting in the keynote, which is being delivered by Steve Mills.  The focus of the keynote is IBM’s industry solutions.

I heard Steve mutter the word ‘application’ more in this speech than I have in any other.  And he used the term ‘application’ in relation to what IBM is selling.  IBM has run away from the perception that they sell business applications, pushing the infrastructure angle instead.  But things seem to be changing.

IBM doesn’t offer big ERP, CRM etc., suites, and therefore hasn’t historically competed directly with Oracle and SAP in the applications markets.  IBM does deliver ‘industry solutions’, many of which are heavily comprised of packaged composite applications.  And guess what:  industry solutions, heavily comprised of packaged composite apps, are huge strategies of Oracle, SAP and other business applicaiton vendors.

So, while IBM has historically avoided head-to-head competition with the business applications vendors, is that still the situation? 

I asked Steve that question, and he thinks that the situation is unchanged.  

I’m not so sure.  I see a lot of similarities between IBM’s industry solutions and similar offerings from Oracle, SAP and others.  The world may be changing.  

What do you think?

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Keep your eyes on the prize

by Gene Phifer  |  November 14, 2008  |  1 Comment

Last week I was in Detroit delivering a local briefing.  The majority of the audience was from the automakers. You can guess what they were dealing with:  cost cutting above all else.  Being in IT in automakers (and many other industries) is not fun right now. 

But in our zeal to cut costs, which usually involves an inward focus on employee productivity (or having less employees, unfortunately), we must be careful to remember the customer.  If we turn away from the customer and focus 100% on cost cutting, when things get better (and they will) and we turn back to the customer, they may be gone.  We must keep our eyes on the prize of the customer, even though radical cost cutting is called for.

One way to do this is through tactical spending on Web-centric projects.  Large, multi-year, multi-tens of millions of dollar projects aren’t happening right now.  We are in ‘keep the lights on’ mode, with only a little left over for tactical spending.  Be sure to apportion some of the tactical spending to customer facing initiatives.  The use of lightweight, Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) activities, like creating mashups, is an excellent way to spend tactically, yet achieve rapid time-to-market and rapid payback.

The cloud also offers options that are rapid time-to-market, yet can deliver significantly reduced costs over traditional on-premises deployment.

IT must keep their eyes on the prize of the customer by intelligent, tactical investments in technologies like those found in WOA and the cloud.  If they do so, when this crisis ends, their customers will be there, ready to spend money.

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Use of social software where the product buyer is not the user

by Gene Phifer  |  November 10, 2008  |  Comments Off

I ran into an interesting problem last week while doing sales calls.  The client was in an industry where they sell to corporate facilities, not direct to the end user of the product.

The client was trying to find a similar company where social software was used to interact with end users. We have lots of examples where social software is used to interact with end users where intermediaries are involved in the selling process, but I couldn’t think of anything specific to this situation.  Anybody know of any good examples, or something similar?

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Category: web     Tags: ,

What’s after Web 2.0 (hint: it’s not Web 3.0)?

by Gene Phifer  |  October 27, 2008  |  1 Comment

I just had an inquiry with a client who wanted to discuss Web 3.0.  In discussing his questions, I learned that he had equated Web 3.0 to the semantic Web.

Gartner has made it clear that we don’t think there will be a ‘Web 3.0′, at least not any time soon.  Web 2.0 was a sea change, enough so to warrant a ’2.0′ label.  We don’t see a similar sea change on the horizon, at least not enough to warrant the ’3.0′ label.  Instead, we will see more evolutionary changes, so Web 2.1, Web 2.2, etc. will be the logical next set of numbers (if you like numbering schemes).

However, we do see lots of innovation.  In addition to the semantic Web, cloud computing and the mobile Web are leading areas of innovation in and around the Web.  But there are others.

What are your candidates for leading areas of Web innovation that are on the horizon?

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Economic woes mean cutbacks for some, investment for others

by Gene Phifer  |  October 19, 2008  |  2 Comments

I was chastised last week by an attendee at Gartner’s Symposium for our analyst keynote address.  He said that we were telling everybody to cut back, retrench, delay big IT investments and to generally get very frugal due to the economic meltdown.  His beef was that those that continue to cut back past the trough in the economic curve will be investing behind their competitors that start investing just prior to or at the bottom of the trough, and that this would cause serious competitive disadvantage.

He was right.  I don’t think our analyst keynote address was overly negative, just very pragmatic.  But like all situations, the application of our advice varies across industries, company sizes and regions. 

The key is timing.  If significant IT investments are made while we are too far away from the bottom of economic trough, the resulting IT expenditures may cause serious damage to overall company finances.  If these IT investments are delayed until after the recovery is well underway, competitors would get a head start, potentially causing loss of market share.   This is especially true in industries where IT is the driving competitive advantage.

I appreciate the advice of the Symposium attendee, and hope that companies apply our advice based on their specific situation.

Now if we could only get that timing thing right!

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