THE DOMINANCE OF THE INTRANET
Would you believe that the past and future growth of the Internet is just “ho-hum” as compared to what we are going to see in the growth of “Intranets”. But before defining what an Intranet is, let me just state that a recent Culpepper & Associates conference IDC\Link estimated that the number of Internet and Intranet servers is about 75,000 each. By the year 2000, IDC\Link estimates that annual shipments of Internet servers will approximate 450,000, while the shipments of Intranet servers will approximate 4,500,000! The installed base by the year 2000 of Web servers is estimated to approximate 10.2 million sites, of which 9.2 million will be Intranet sites and 1 million will be Internet sites. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it.
Now what is an Intranet? Open Text has defined it as a “private web”. The best definition comes from JBS Computer Systems, Ltd.: - “it is the implementation of Internet technologies within a corporate organization, rather than for external connection to the global Internet”. It lies behind fire walls, but accessible internally by employees either directly or through the Internet and often by suppliers and customers who are password protected. Ford is reported to have more than 80 internal web servers with 56,000 licensed Netscape navigator clients. Hewlett Packard has more than 500 web servers for internal use; Silicon Graphics, more than 300. Tyson Foods uses an Intranet to connect 100 sites and more than 5,000 employees. More than half of Netscape’s $20M sales were for internal webs. Fortune Magazine-November 27, 1995. Current estimates are 70% of Netscape's’s sales are from Intranet sites. Fortune Magazine-February 19, 1996.
Some say that the Intranet is an ideal solution for any organization with more than 100 users, and/or with remote locations distributed over a wide geographical areas. For a comprehensive discussion of Intranet computing, take a look at the Web Site of Process Software Corporation.
Why are Intranet sites growing the way they are? The answer is that they are:
Early adapters have used Intranets for:
The Intranet Market
For software developers and sellers, the Intranet phenomenon is a market which numerous companies have now recognized and which should beckon many more. Sun’s CIO, Bill Raduchel, has said, “We think the Internet is where the majority of profits will be made over the next five years. It will be the dominant force in organizational computing very, very quickly.” Fortune - 2/19/96. We think this applies in spades to the Intranet market.
Intranet vs. Groupware
The question which inevitably arises is to what extent Intranets will compete with groupware, particularly Lotus Notes. For many, any Intranet is a much cheaper, more quickly developed, more easily managed solution than Lotus Notes. And users can participate intimately without a specialized Lotus Notes developer. A recent study indicated the average cost of a Notes application was around $250,000 while an Intranet could be set up for less than $10,000. However, at the current time Intranet technology does not have the groupware collaboration benefits and security that Notes has. We doubt whether that will be the case two years from now. One only has to consider Netscape’s recent acquisition of Collabra Software, a groupware developer.
Of course, IBM/Lotus has recently announced the technology to allow Notes servers to act as Web servers and to easily port Notes content to the Web. We would not presume to guess the outcome of a Intranet vs. Notes battle, but it would not be surprising to see the two technologies merge together.
Nonetheless, the Lotus Notes approach may be a Rolls-Royce solution that is simply over-kill for many organizations. Moving the responsibility of content management from MIS to the department that creates the information can result in considerable cost benefits.
Amid all the hoopla, several things appear to be certain. First, the use of Internet technology to provide Intranet networks will grow immensely in the next few years. Secondly, software developers should examine this market. Thirdly, all users should now review the use of Intranet technology to ascertain to what extent it can meet both their communication and groupware needs.
And to end on a philosophical note, it seems to us and to a number of others that the Internet (internal and external) is the computing platform of the future, succeeding (but at the same time riding on top of) the mainframe, minicomputer, and PC. We just have to determine how to use it to the benefit of our companies, employees, customers, and suppliers benefit.
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March 7, 2006