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Change Your Infrastructure, or Die, Burton Group Says

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SAN DIEGO -- The enterprise of the future will need to have a flexible, general purpose infrastructure in order to survive in an economy increasingly defined by electronic commerce, according to Jamie Lewis, CEO of The Burton Group.

Lewis said enterprises that continue to have rigid infrastructures that are inwardly focused and built for application specific purposes will be big losers in the digital economy.

The Burton Group's Catalyst Conference is a yearly conference put on by the Midvale, Utah-based consulting firm and dedicated to evaluating the evolution of enterprise network infrastructure, especially directories and security. This year it also features a track on network "plumbing" issues and telecom.

Lewis said enterprises should focus on creating a general purpose "reusable infrastructure" that is scalable and flexible. With reusable infrastructure, enterprises will be able to more easily service their own users and also integrate new applications, business partners and suppliers into their networks and then manage those resources.

The reusable infrastructure will consist of a directory for identity management, security for risk management, converged network infrastructure for communications and an architecture that allows companies to constantly recreate their internal organization on the Internet.

"This is the hard stuff, this is the important stuff," said Lewis. "But to succeed in the digital economy you have to build this infrastructure. The companies with the proper infrastructure will flourish in this new economy."

Overall, the result will be intranets and extranets converging into a Virtual Enterprise Network (VEN), he said.

Those VENs will foster business webs, or interconnections between enterprises and their partners, suppliers and customers. The webs will be a place where enterprises will no longer have to internally control every network function, but can rely on partners within the web for some services. The webs will use the Internet as the primary infrastructure because of its ability to dramatically reduce the cost of communications and transactions.

In order for business webs to evolve, however, enterprises must build their infrastructure to be more general-purpose to accommodate integration with similar networks.

Lewis admits that the change won't be easy. He says there is no clear leader among vendors for providing the technology needed. Directory interoperability needs to be improved, and security integration and interoperability is difficult especially across the Web, he says.

Lewis, however, says there are plenty of economic incentives and pressures from enterprises in place to solve the problem, but that the evolution to a general-purpose infrastructure will take time.

He said enterprises should be thinking long term about creating that type of reusable infrastructure as they as begin to expand into the digital economy.

The Catalyst Conference runs through Wednesday.

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