Some of the biggest challenges facing IT organisations in 2010 are more cultural than technical. From breaking the trend of working in domains, or silos, and aligning IT services better with business needs, IT departments face many formidable tasks in 2010. Virtualisation and cloud computing, for instance, require actions be taken across IT domains and will push IT organisations to break down such barriers to new technologies.

"A big limitation today in achieving the true value of some of the latest tools is IT organisation, especially in enterprises. Enterprises work in silos, not only between different domain areas (for instance, network, application, server, desktop and storage) but also within domain areas such as Linux server management, mainframe management, Windows management and virtualisation management," says David Williams, research vice president at Gartner. "This situation is understood and is slowly starting to be addressed with new roles and cross-domain teams being established. In 2010, IT organisations will continue to visit how they are organised to allow IT operations to become more service-centric and business-aligned."

Analysts say if the cultural hurdles can be cleared, a handful of tools will make adopting advanced technologies in 2010 easier for the majority of IT departments. Here is a brief look at five technologies industry watchers say could become mandatory for optimised IT service delivery and advanced data centre operations in the coming year.

No. 1: IT service assurance Managing the performance of IT service delivery involves myriad technologies reporting on various perspectives, including the user experience with an application.

That means IT departments need to be able to get visibility into network traffic flows as well as application performance across multiple components supporting IT services. From advanced discovery technology to traffic flow analysis to transaction monitoring, IT departments need to see the entire path of a service -- even as it exists in the corporate network and travels through external cloud environments, for instance.

The premise of IT service assurance isn't entirely new and until recently was more commonly a concern for service providers, but enterprise IT organisations have started to evolve into service providers in their own right. Companies such as BMC, CA, HP, IBM and now EMC are touting the ability to provide insight into the life cycle of an IT service. The speed at which companies are adopting and expanding their use of virtualisation and the growing interest in internal and external cloud computing environments heightens the need for such technology in 2010. "One need is to have a true end-to-end picture, which means having comprehensive visibility and control into the quality of experiences for the end user and the quality of service," says Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. "This means we need to see how traffic flows across the network, systems, applications and databases, which all are participating in the services. IT organisations realise they need to manage the services rather than the infrastructure."

No. 2: Virtual systems management Vendors looking ahead to 2010 seemed to get quiet on virtual systems management in favour of touting cloud management capabilities, but industry watchers say that without support for heterogeneous virtual systems and advanced features covering performance and capacity management, there can be no cloud management.

"Virtualisation and automation technologies are directly related to the cloud. Virtual servers comprise the computing environment, and automation is responsible for the cloud being monitoring, management, secured and made compliant," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. "Virtualisation is fundamentally mainstream now, and there is a lot of activity around virtual systems management. Niche players are expanding support beyond VMware and enabling their technology to cover more of the enterprise."

Virtual systems management in 2009 became mandatory for vendors and in 2010, enterprise IT organisations will be certain to equip their toolboxes with multi-hypervisor virtual system support. And while companies such as VKernel, Surgient, Fortisphere, ManageIQ, Embotics and Veeam burst onto the scene with VMware management capabilities in the past few years, analysts say expect to see some of these innovative newcomers get acquired as the larger systems management players look to fill gaps in their product portfolios.

"Expect many acquisitions, especially in the virtualisation management space, in which smaller vendors are due for consolidation," says Mary Johnston Turner, research director at IDC.

No. 3: IT service catalogue

As IT departments start to optimise service delivery, they will also be improving how they communicate the services they offer to the user community. Analysts say the trend toward putting available IT services into an easily digestible Web-based IT service catalogue will explode in 2010 as IT organisations streamline processes and better align their efforts with business demands.

"Service catalogues are very useful, but with cloud adoption, they become fundamental," says EMA's Mann. "IT organisations realise they must be able to communicate to end users what they are allowed to get and at what frequency and in some cases for how much. It is hard to imagine broad cloud computing adoption without an IT service catalogue."

The premise of an IT service catalogue isn't new, but industry watchers suggest this past year's recession could have given new life to efforts around identifying, describing and publishing a list of IT services for users to consume. Best practice frameworks such as ITIL lay out how IT departments could establish an IT service catalogue, and vendors such as BMC, Digital Fuel, newScale, Oblicore and PMG have also developed products to help IT departments create catalogues.

"People are trying to get their service catalogues in order so that their customers know what they can get and how much it will cost. This enables IT operations to structure their people and organise their work around the actual demand," Forrester's Hubbert says.

No. 4: IT process automation Virtualisation and cloud computing initiatives will rely on automation more than any other technology. Analysts say IT process automation has already become a mandatory tool for companies deploying virtual servers, but add to that the potential of cloud computing services and IT organisations simply cannot function without automation.

"People need automation for everything from provisioning virtual servers to auditing environments to ensuring consistent configurations. On the monitoring side, automation will be able to keep up with the pace of virtual environments and recognise when changes happen in ways a human operator simply could not," says Jim Frey, research director at EMA. "Automation will even be used to perform analytics and help find potential problems before they harm IT service delivery in these environments."

IT process automation is expected to be in such demand that companies that aren't directly focused on management software are even putting money into the technology. For instance, Microsoft recently acquired IT process automation player Opalis and analysts say the vendor realises how critical automation will be to IT organisations in 2010. (See related story, "10 big IT management moves in 2009.")

"IT process automation is a real needed technology and it becomes more important when you talk about virtual systems because virtualisation requires rapid responses, it requires things be done at automation speed, not human speed," Mann says. "Microsoft was one of the vendors in the dark on automation so this acquisition gives the vendor a chance to extend automation to Azure and other cloud environments, because cloud computing requires a level of workflow and orchestration that Microsoft could not have done well in the short-term on its own."

No. 5: IT resource planning

IT organisations already using virtualisation and hoping to explore cloud computing will also need to adopt IT resource planning processes and ultimately technologies in 2010. Combining tenets of capacity planning and financial management as well as usage and service measurement, IT resource planning will enable IT departments to understand how services are being consumed and ensure that even in the most dynamic environments they can respond quickly to business demand.

"Capacity planning today is all about trying to ensure that you have enough capacity and memory cycles to meet workload demand. But virtualisation causes new variables to be taken into consideration, and power consumption is just one among many," says Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner. "For IT resource planning (ITRP) there are several more elements to consider and the process must become much more strategic within an enterprise."

Gartner analysts earlier this year detailed in a report the many variables that must be taken into account for appropriate enterprise IT resource planning. Traditional IT capacity metrics need to be considered alongside business requirements, human capital, financial metrics, facilities and power data, risk and compliance information as well as workload placement. Other considerations include configuration management, asset management, change management, event management and performance management, according to the Gartner report.

"I can imagine the day when the IT capacity planner will have to look at the resources they need on any given day and consider if they should turn to in-house sources or external providers to get the best overall value," Haight says. "It is not that far from reality that IT organisations will need to get the tools in place to quickly analyze the cost, quality and performance of services from multiple sources and select the best option on a case-by-case basis