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Tech standards set tone for on-demand systems

IT managers cite need for flexibility, ease of integration

By Pat Thibodeau
October 29, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - NEW YORK -- When New York's Museum of Modern Art undertook an $858 million renovation and expansion project eight years ago, it gave CIO Steve Peltzman a blank canvas for rebuilding his data center and systems.
Peltzman said this week that he's making the most of the opportunity. His staff is removing IT silos and integrating systems, with the goal of creating what he described as an "Amazon-like" flow of information that gives MOMA's business units the ability to access data no matter where it's stored.
Peltzman, an IBM user, spoke at a forum held by the vendor to mark the second anniversary of its "on-demand computing" initiative. Other vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard Co., with its "adaptive enterprise" strategy, also are championing highly integrated and flexible systems. But underpinning those marketing terms is something IT managers have understood for years: the need to support open standards.
"Anybody who realizes that integration has got to be the way, and who is dealing with a lot of legacy information, it's got to be obvious [to them] that open standards is going to make that easier," Peltzman said in an interview.
Peltzman and other users said adherence to open technologies such as XML, J2EE and SOAP is critical. But many complained that vendors continue to knock on their doors with proprietary products in hand.
Chris Dorsey, CIO at Chase-Pitkin Home & Garden, a division of Wegmans Food Markets Inc. in Rochester, N.Y., is building an integrated inventory and order management system for the home improvement retailer. The ability to share information and improve business intelligence is central to the project, Dorsey said.
But he noted that one vendor pitched an order entry system with a graphical user interface that looked as if it used Java and XML when it didn't. The vendor put "window dressing on it to make it appear to be more open-standards-based and user-friendly, when in reality it isn't that flexible or customizable," Dorsey said.

Users said that in many cases, they're willing to give up functionality that's included in a proprietary product because one built on open standards gives them more leverage with technology vendors.
The ability to "pluck out" applications that aren't meeting business needs "gives me leverage and also challenges vendors in a different kind of way," said Sherra Pierre, vice president of information services at Sesame Workshop, the New York-based nonprofit group that produces Sesame Street and other educational programming for children.
"IT is no longer about building specific applications; it really has become more fluid in its delivery," Pierre said, adding that end users

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