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September 26, 2012

Industrial Revolution, Industrialization and IT

Posted by Suman Sasmal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:44 AM

The industrial revolution was a turning point in modern history, and had a profound impact on the economy, society and culture of those times. As industries matured and the industrial age set in, most things, from automobiles to consumer durables became more affordable. Management and manufacturing sciences came together to bring in automation, mass production, supply chain management, economies-of-scale, statistical quality control, productivity tools and such like. These techniques helped a growing world meet its needs and influenced the progress of many industries creating a mature state where both buyers and sellers saw their interests align. That took focus off manufacturing and engineering quality - which became a given - and trained it on utility, service and quality of experience.

Fast forward to today's wired world. Information Technology (IT) is not only ubiquitous, here, but is also changing social and business paradigms. The way we interact, listen to music, shop around, access information and accomplish things - these have changed. Also, the I (Information) in IT is slowly separating from the T (Technology). To an end-user, all that matters is the way in which the information that is needed is being delivered. IT is simply another service to be purchased.  The industrialization of IT is bringing in scale, consistency, quality and affordability of consumption, best illustrated by the 99 cents industry grade app, which needs practically no maintenance. These are early signs. 

Let's look at another phenomenon shaping the IT landscape - the mind-boggling scale of software needs. An order entry system built years ago had only about 1.7 million lines of code (MLOC), whereas the radio cum navigation system in that S Class Mercedes-Benz alone has 20 MLOC!!  Virtually every product we use has inbuilt software.  The world is connecting through intelligent devices, making the internet of things a reality, and fuelling further demand for software code. Automation is a key driver of software development; one day, custom developed or handcrafted software will evolve to include manufactured software. Whether it is assembly-based development of pre-fabricated components, availability of an enterprise App store, or a large partner ecosystem in the supply chain, things are changing fast and leading us to this holy grail of software development. For example, salesforce.com has launched force.com, a Cloud platform on which customers may deploy social and mobile applications. Similarly, Infosys SocialEdge helps to build an ecosystem of social apps along with analytics capability for greater insight into the interrelated nature of social interactions.

Moving on to infrastructure, during the industrial revolution, between 1838 and 1850, Britain's railway lines multiplied 10 times, making it easy and cost effective to connect factories with centers of purchase and sale.  Now factories can be set up almost anywhere and on-demand. We can find a parallel to this today, when the Cloud ecosystem is making a similar impact on IT. With virtual infrastructure available on demand at a fraction of on-premise costs, an IT shop may be located anywhere. The Cloud has also solved the problem of capacity planning and utilization. All that one has to do is connect the dots.

Virtualized infrastructure offering scale and economy, a mature market where buyers seek business value, and an ecosystem, evolving to assemble software from components and benefit from a mature supply chain, are at the core of this IT industrial revolution. Its potential benefits include consistent, predictable high-quality software delivered using virtualized shared infrastructure. The software leverages a partner ecosystem (supply chain) and comes at a significantly lower cost. 
Did someone design all of this consciously by taking lessons from the world of manufacturing? Unlikely. A happy accident? Perhaps. The most plausible answer is that the industrial revolution template for industrial growth and maturity holds good even today, and industries will invariably end up following it.
How do you think industrialization will play out in the future for applications maintenance and development? How will manufactured software and handcrafted software occupy this space? Let's talk.

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