In a recent rant, Alex Bell lamented the state of silver bullet technology in the software industry. There is quite a bit of reliance on new gee-wiz technology to provide comprehensive IT solutions, and Alex outlines an excellent example with XML. Unfortunately, the reality of silver bullets is that there are none and in fact your technology infrastructure must be carefully designed and orchestrated using a variety of programming and integration techniques.
Oddly enough the platforms that have provided the greatest impact to the IT industry have been the most accessible and least expensive solutions available. Over the past decade, the web browser has accelerated the delivery of data to businesses and home users alike. Needless to say, the web revolution would not have been able to happen if proprietary technologies were used – and this is where it is easy to spot the silver bullets.
All of the technologies that manage the Internet were initially developed as research or academic projects, and companies then attempted to profit from them. In nearly every case, these companies ended up giving the product away either as part of another solution or as a free download.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have to pay money to install technology that purports to be of silver bullet caliber then you are probably wasting free cash flow. While there are some early adopters who can afford to tinker with bleeding edge venture-funded startup companies, most stable IT shops should plan to wait for that technology to become free. Technologies that are freely available or that integrate as an update to an existing platform are the software applications that are most likely to provide a modicum of silver bullet capability.