What's ahead? Standards

Michael Dell

Since the days of Univac I, the revolutionary data processing system adopted by the Census Bureau in the 1950s, and Arpanet, the Defense Department initiative in the late 1970s that evolved into today's Internet, IT and the government have been critically linked.

Many of the challenges we face today as an industry and as a society reside at the government level. Today, accelerated by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the government sector again will lead in the deployment of new information technologies. These technologies will help the government serve constituents better, make informed decisions more quickly, protect critical information and privacy, and get people online instead of waiting in line.

Three major trends in government IT will help us achieve these goals: interoperability, security and disaster recovery, and mobility.

The need for disparate networks and databases to communicate and exchange information has never been more critical. Government is responding to the need on many fronts. In my home state, the Texas Health Alert Network provides an early warning mechanism that could help contain infectious disease outbreaks and bioterrorism attacks. The network uses servers to connect 64 health organizations across the state. It lets local health officials quickly disseminate information about symptoms and treatments across the state using e-mail, fax machines, cell phones and pagers.

Now that the impossible is probable, and the unthinkable has happened, backing up critical data and applications has never been more important. Better intrusion detection, authentication and encryption technologies are important to help prevent cyberterrorism attacks.

Demand for the mobility of notebook and handheld computers with wireless communications is increasing. This is particularly true among military troops, Customs Service agents, Border Patrol officers and law enforcement departments. Their ability to protect and serve is greatly enhanced by access to real-time data and persistent communications.

Open-source software

A key enabler of all three trends is the movement toward industry standards. Today, nine of every 10 servers sold is based on standard technology'a sharp contrast from just a few years ago, when the market was dominated by proprietary systems. Industry analysts estimate that by 2004, 90 percent of large enterprises will use open-source software as well.

Standardization is winning because it benefits users. Over 70 percent of IT execs are planning to adopt standards in their data centers within 24 months, and more than 80 of those executives say that the potential disadvantages of standardized hardware have already been overcome.

It's clear that with the critical need for efficient and effective global information sharing, now is the time for focused adoption and implementation of standards.

Congratulations to Government Computer News for bringing us 20 years of coverage of significant developments in the government sector. GCN has always been a valued source to Dell and to private and public enterprises nationwide.

Michael Dell is chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp.

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