KEYNOTER ALLEN SEES FUTURE IN TERMS OF VIRTUAL ENTERPRISE

By LIVEwire: Reported by Norris Parker Smith, editor at large LIVEwire

November 20, 1996

  Pittsburgh, Pa. --The future of computing will be shaped by the emergence
of virtual enterprises that ere enabled by high performance computers, global
connectivity, and digitized information, according to IBM Fellow Frances
Allen.

  In the keynote speech at Supercomputing 96 here, Allen also foresaw a
future dominated by large enterprises such as Boeing, Chrysler, major
insurance companies, and  government.

  She anticipates far-reaching disintermediation -- an end to local
representatives such as insurance agents or neighborhood bank branches.
Corporations and government would communicate directly with customers.

  These communications would be very targeted, Allen said, as companies
personalize and customize products and services to match the tastes, known
buying preferences,  and financial means of each individual. This will in
turn require thoughtful attention to issues of privacy and to technical
issues like means of verifying identity.

  This new future for computing would be built on the technological
foundation and human experience of the past 50 years, Allen emphasized. 

  Today's solutions must be scaled up. New contexts should be found for
old methods, she remarked. Old algorithms would be given new work.

  Specifically, this transformation would draw upon rapidly-evolving
solutions like decision support, based in turn on data mining, and stress
visualization to assure full understanding of the results -- and their
implications.

  On the organizational level, this would require integration and
collaboration within institutions -- many of which are now burdened with
multiple, incompatible systems.

  Change should encourage the development of new process models that should
lead in turn to new efficiencies.
  
THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT MODEL
  Allen described crisis management -- responses to unpredictable but
nevertheless inescapable events like hurricanes, earthquakes, major
accidents such as the recent TWA crash, and terrorist incidents like the
bombing in Oklahoma City.

  Effective management of crises like this depends upon the availability and
use of databases. Such applications may have a national or even global scale.
These events tend to be important, big and urgent. Preparations may be made
fur such eventualities, but the specifics are unpredictable. They stretch the
limits of computing and communication.

  Furthermore, such crises primarily involve responsibilities of the public
sector.

  Solutions must be found quickly to solve problems or provide services.
Different organizations and bureaus must form dynamic alliances and
collaborations. The entire enterprise must be highly adaptive.

  It must also be realized, Allen emphasized, that people are part of the
enterprise -- not technical operators standing off to one side. People are
in the middle of the problem and the solution, she said. Computer specialists
have not been very good at developing a people-centric attitude, she added.
 
COPING WITH THE CURRENT LIMITS
  In the broader context of the new virtual enterprise, current limits should
be acknowledged. These include the need for more communications bandwidth
and, in many circumstances, the lack of adequate networks.

  Software is also a problem, Allen said. And this is another area in which
[computer specialists] have not done a great job.

  She was confident,  however, that these problems would be solved.

  The next 50 years of computing will face the need to develop the global
reach and credibility that people have come to expect from telephone
services. 

  Furthermore, these changes will be accompanied by serious dislocations
in the marketplace as accustomed patterns of human interaction and
communication change rapidly. This will have profound impacts on
education, health, government, and business.

  Other the next 50 years, moreover, computing should become a tool for
improving the environment and helping to provide opportunities for all
people.

---------------------

Norris Parker Smith is a technology journalist specializing
in coverage of high performance computing. Reader comments and suggestions
are welcome.

--------------------

LIVEwire is a free special supplement produced on location at Supercomputing
96 by HPCwire, the publication of record for high-performance computing.


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