“Any team can have a bad century.” – Jack Brickhouse, explaining the Chicago Cubs inability to win a World Series since 1908.

Everyone knows most Americans have five pounds of undigested beef in their intestines. They know it because a character in Beverly Hills Cop said so. From there it became accepted truth, just because everyone knows it.

Just because everyone knows something doesn’t make it right.

Let’s start 2005 the right way … by ridiculing other people, ideas, and events, and in particular, what everyone knows.

For example, last year most Americans were thrilled when Burt Rutan’s privately funded SpaceShipOne reached outer space. Me too.

Everyone knows the flight demonstrated the power of private enterprise. It’s the BIG/GAS (Business Is Great/Government and Academics are Stupid) theory in full flower: The flight just barely exceeded what the government-funded X-15 achieved in the 1960s. Somehow, achieving parity four decades later doesn’t strike me as a demonstration of the free market’s superiority, no matter how exciting the accomplishment.

My apologies for the tedious nitpicking.

Everyone also knows that:

  • The U.S. economy is roaring back. The state of the economy has a lot to do with what you as an IT leader will have to contend with this year, so a prediction at the year’s start doesn’t seem inappropriate.Despite what everyone knows, the economy is dreadfully fragile. I’ll spare you the detailed economic analysis and jump to the clincher: Every administration in history, Democratic as well as Republican, has done everything possible to inflate the economy prior to a presidential election. If what we saw in the fourth quarter of 2004 was the best the incumbent could manage, imagine how bad it’s going to be now that the election is over. Plan accordingly. At worst you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • You should move to a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). And I agree, SOAs are a superior way to organize, build, and integrate applications, although the methodologies for deciding how to decompose your business into services are less mature than those used to design object hierarchies.What everyone doesn’t know is how to move to an SOA when you have only limited influence over the architecture of vendor-supplied applications. Agreeing that SOAs are the future is easier than figuring out how to make them the present.
  • Storage management is a big honking expense for IT. Except that storage now costs, in round numbers, nothing. It’s less than a dollar per gigabyte on a PC. You can add a terabyte or so of network attached storage (NAS) for chump change. But lots of smart people say, over and over again, that storage management is eating CIOs alive.If storage costs next to nothing, and storage management is such a huge expense, spend your money on storage, not on storage management. Yes, I know it can’t be that simple. I just don’t know what I’m missing. Help me out.
  • Spyware is the next big security threat. Everyone knows this. And this time, everyone is right. Spyware is a mess. It’s far worse than spam because legitimate businesses use it every day, assuming, of course, that you consider Doubleclick’s clients legitimate businesses.This is a repetitively self-inflicted wound, too. For decades, American business has mounted a huge BIG/GAS lobby to de-legitimize any and all governmental regulation. For years, American businesses have craved as much information about their customer’s habits as they can get. And for years, American software companies have lobbied and litigated to make sure their software licenses give buyers as few of the traditional rights of ownership as possible.We’re reached the point where a PC’s putative owner has little more right to control its use and contents than the providers of the software that runs on it and the owners of the websites it visits.So when Doubleclick pioneered the technique of surreptitiously installing code on PCs to track users’ browsing habits, who would complain? Too many corporate victims are also perpetrators, using Doubleclick or similar services for marketing purposes. As for consumers, who, other than Ralph Nader, cares about them?

    In the up-is-down world of computer software, the pattern has been set, and it doesn’t support the right of the PC owner or user. The result: American businesses are simultaneously on the receiving end of a world of customer information and of IT aggravation.

    If you haven’t already, have your security team select a high-quality, enterprise-class spyware detection system in 2005. Purveyors of spyware might have a legal right to install it, but you have an equally legal right to uninstall it. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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I suppose I should end on an optimistic note. This is, after all, the start of a new year, and the notions of clean starts and limitless possibilities are traditional.

As they should be. 2005 will bring its share of challenges. So has every other year. That’s the problem with not living in utopia. But that’s okay.

Utopia would, after all, be an incredibly boring place to live.