In 1987, Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) presciently coined the term “client/server” to describe a massive shift in how companies would deploy technology. Fifteen years later, fundamental technology trends have already begun to create a new corporate technology architecture shift that Forrester calls Organic IT. Unlike the rip-and-replace nature of the client/server revolution, Organic IT will enable global companies to squeeze 50% more value from sunk technology investments inside their datacenter, commoditizing some technologies, lowering internal management costs, and increasing business flexibility and response. Meanwhile, the shift to Organic IT will drive brutal vendor transformations as vendors begin revamping their products now through 2004.

To learn more about this new Organic IT report, view Forrester’s Organic IT VideoView.

Organic IT Defined
Organic IT is not one set of technologies; it consists of four independent technology developments, which will converge between 2002 and 2006. Forrester defines Organic IT as computing infrastructure built on cheap, redundant components that automatically shares and manages enterprise computing resources — software, processors, storage, and networks — across all applications within a datacenter.

“Global 3,500 firms have spent the last 40 years thinking in technology silos, being incapable of sharing underused resources across like networks, servers, storage, and software infrastructure,” said Frank E. Gillett, principal analyst at Forrester. “Organic IT is based on the principle that shared resources is a good thing. It will overhaul all the backroom technology from top to bottom, unifying these silos into a coherent, flexible whole.”

How Organic IT Tackles The Technology Deployment Dilemma
Organic IT attacks three key problems that firms face in deploying technology today:

  • Low use. Organic IT scales up and down to match demand — with no sudden failures of business capacity — similar to the reliability and efficiency of the electrical grid or the telephone network.
  • Expensive integration. Organic IT quickly and easily connects dissimilar technologies within and between firms, with the ease of sending email or visiting a Web site.
  • Complex manageability. Organic IT automates installation, load balancing, failover, and recovery, leaving IT administrators free to manage unusual exceptions.

Organic IT Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Four Parts
To quickly adjust and respond to changing business conditions, IT shops need abstracted infrastructure to manage the datacenter as a whole rather than as a collection of parts. Abstraction is the result of technology improvements that simplify controls and conceal complexity behind a simple interface.

For instance, automobile engines used to require hand-cranked starts, manual choke adjustments of air/fuel mixture, and constant roadside tweaks. Drivers today just turn a key and press the accelerator, and the engine systems manage all the details.

Organic IT incorporates the principles of abstraction in an exceptional way to radically overhaul and automate the four key elements of computing infrastructure:

  • Networks. Today’s networks are fragmented in a complicated tangle of software, hardware, and providers. Organic IT will enable firms to safely replace expensive, leased equipment with a cheaper, more reliable redundant array of Internet links (RAIL), resulting in fewer business interruptions.
  • Storage. Instead of managing disks scattered across the network, Organic IT will enable a shared storage pool that is accessible from any server, at a cost savings of 30%. In fast-changing business situations, firms will benefit from this flexibility in storage capacity.
  • Processors. Organic IT will create a new generation of server infrastructure comprising cheap processor/memory nodes that are shared easily across applications on a network computing fabric. This yields an infrastructure that can adjust computer power for unpredictable business circumstances.
  • Software. Today’s software doesn’t communicate well with other applications. Organic IT will use Web services standards to enable software developers to bridge disparate apps, taking a huge chunk out of today’s $6 million-plus integration budgets over the next four years.

When operating together, these four elements will create integrated infrastructure benefits greater than the sum of its parts, while meeting the needs of business line managers, such as response to business situations at the speed of software and one point of contact for IT resources and provisioning.

More Organic IT Research Coming Soon
For the April report “Organic IT” Forrester interviewed both users and vendors of server hardware, network hardware, management software, and high-performance computing, as well as industry experts on Web services.

In the coming months, Forrester will continue to explore what the Organic IT voyage will mean for technology users, vendors, and outsourcers. Forrester’s May 2002 report “Making Storage Organic” focuses on how Global 3,500 firms can abstract storage from the physical disk infrastructure with virtualization technology.