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Issue No. 01 - January/February (2012 vol. 14)
ISSN: 1520-9202
pp: 2-4
Simon Liu , US National Agricultural Library
Last year marked the demise of IT legends. Steve Jobs passed away on 5 Oct. 2011, at the age of 56; we lost Dennis Ritchie one week later, at the age of 70; and John McCarthy passed away on October 24th, at the age of 84.
Jobs created technology and integrated it into people's lives at work, school, and home—he even integrated it into their pockets. Ritchie is the father of the C programming language and one of the primary developers of the Unix operating system. 1 C and Unix lie at the heart of everything from Internet servers to mobile devices, social networks, and other modern software. John McCarthy is the creator of Lisp and arguably the father of modern artificial intelligence. He also played a major role in the development of time-sharing systems and services, which are the essence of cloud computing and many modern systems.
Closing out the year of fallen IT giants, it's important to remember that their contributions not only impact how we live and interact with one another today but also power technology advances in the future. With the rapid rise of cloud computing, mobile technologies, and social networking, IT professionals have an opportunity to reinvent IT's image. With the increasing automation of business processes, such as healthcare delivery and space exploration, and the rise of emerging markets, new business IT roles will transpire and develop. To help you prepare, in 2012, IT Professional will preview technology trends, introduce new technologies, address IT challenges, and propose practical solutions. In particular, our special issues will cover the following topics.
Cloud Computing
The cloud is a style of computing that provides scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities as a service to customers through a network. It presents a new computing paradigm and different business opportunity. The promise of on-demand services delivering computing platforms, storage, networks, a common infrastructure, and applications over the Internet has enterprises looking for ways to leverage the technology. In fact, cloud computing has gradually become the foundation of many enterprises' technology strategies to improve IT efficiency, increase IT effectiveness, reduce IT costs, support the mobile workforce, and promote customer services.
Cloud computing is constantly evolving. While the transition to cloud computing seems inevitable across industries, many obstacles exist, including those related to security, privacy, performance, and reliability. Specific doubts remain that externally controlled cloud services can be adequately protected, and enterprises are carefully analyzing industry offerings to ensure adequate security and privacy. Transitioning to the cloud in a corporate environment is a complex endeavor with many challenges. This issue examines the realities, challenges, risks, and future impacts of cloud computing.
NASA Contributions to IT
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is well known for its contributions to technological advancements in the aviation and space industries—NASA has impacted the development of the McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III, the Boeing 777, and GPS navigation. However, NASA has also had a major impact on advancing IT in areas such as science data processing, data analysis, scientific visualization, mass storage management, engineering and development tools, high performance computing, grid computing, and telecommunications.
Similarly, NASA has helped advance best practices in the IT system life cycle—making contributions to the conceptual design process, engineering tool development, integration and testing, operational processes, scientific analysis, and quality control. Applying these best practices can help us develop creative IT solutions to support business needs. The March/April issue will present a historic overview of some of the programs that NASA was involved in and some current projects relevant to the IT industry.
Health IT
Health IT plays a major role in healthcare reform. It offers unprecedented opportunities for improving the quality of healthcare delivery, increasing patient safety, decreasing medical errors, reducing healthcare costs, and strengthening the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. Also, mobile technologies in healthcare applications provide significant benefits during natural or man-made disasters. The earthquakes and tsunami in Japan highlighted the need for highly mobile, flexible, and adaptable solutions to help disaster response teams operate in difficult and dynamic conditions.
However, we must address challenges related to mobility and agility, rapid deployment, communication reliability, disaster victim identification, patient triaging, patient medical-records exchange, disaster victim and family reunification, and security and privacy concerns. The May/June issue will explore how IT, e-health, and wireless technology can improve the quality and efficiency of disaster medical response.
IT in Emerging Markets
IT is a path to growth, particularly in emerging markets, which can leverage IT to help healthcare professionals improve patient health, help teachers and students enhance learning experiences, provide financial and banking services for customers, provide needed government services, deliver timely and accurate weather forecast to save lives and property, and enhance many other business operations. Countries that exploit new IT will leapfrog others technologically, socially, and economically.
Emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia, and South Korea are embracing IT for socioeconomic development. However, each market has distinct requirements and faces unique challenges. The July/August issue will investigate how IT can address real-world problems in these emerging markets; the unique challenges and requirements emerging markets face; the success, failure, and lessons learned from IT applications in emerging markets; and emerging markets' impact on the IT industry.
Mobile and Wireless Technologies
With the rapid technological advancements in integrated circuitry, microprocessors, artificial intelligence, and modern software, the future of mobile computing looks increasingly exciting. The recent explosive growth of mobile computing is just the beginning of a mobile revolution that will affect how we compute, communicate, and interact. Specifically, the massive commercialization of next-generation mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads, have released immense possibilities in diverse areas including e-commerce, healthcare, finance, banking, transportation, hospitality, tourism, media, and entertainment.
To ensure truly reliable and high performance mobile computing, we must carefully evaluate, enhance, or redesign our communication networks, mobile devices, algorithms, and software applications. In addition, studies are required to better understand mobile and multidevice user experience, mobile social computing, next-generation mobile solutions, and mobile cloud services and infrastructure. The September/October issue will investigate issues and challenges in these areas.
Social Computing
Social computing is an emerging and dynamic area that supports interactions among individuals within virtual social systems. It creates or recreates social conventions and social contexts through the use of software and technology. The value of social computing lies not in its technology but in its support of the interactions within enterprise social systems. Social computing has gradually become one of the central themes across various fields and attracted significant interest not only from researchers but also software and online game vendors, the media, entrepreneurs, political analysts, and digital government practitioners.
Various social computing applications, such as blogs, email, instant messaging, social networking sites (such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn), wikis, and social bookmarking, let people socialize via cyberspace. These applications have had profound effects on our lifestyles and social behavior. While people can enjoy or even indulge in the benefits brought about by social computing, such as freedom and convenience, various critical issues still remain, such as privacy protection, human and computer interface design, and modeling of social behavior in computing space. The November/December issue will address these challenges.
As we move into this new era of IT, I want to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy and prosperous new year. I look forward to your continuing support and welcome your feedback on how we're doing and how we can make the magazine even more useful and practical. Please send your comments to
Selected CS articles and columns are available for free at


Simon Liu is the director of the US National Agricultural Library. His research interests include IT architecture, cybersecurity, software engineering, and database and data mining. Liu has two doctoral degrees in computer science and higher education administration from George Washington University. Contact him at
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