The top trends affecting technology infrastructure over the next five years can be summed up as largely a list representing where IT and users are battling for control over technology.
The ability for users to be mavericks and bypass IT systems via social networks, application development with mashups, and conduct business on their mobile devices, is rapidly increasing, according to industry research firm Gartner's forecast.
However, conversely, IT is poised to strike back with technologies such as client virtualisation. Centrally managed virtualised clients bring a new approach of "let's give them what they actually need, not what they want," said David Cappuccio, chief of research for the Infrastructure teams at Gartner.
"That's a cultural change as much as it is technology," said Ted Meisky, assistant director of IT infrastructure, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, of the push to client virtualisation.
It's also in contrast to what Meisky and Cappuccio both agreed was another problem, and that is the rise of dead servers in data centres, a growing problem for virtualised environments where servers can be rapidly created but gradually fall into disuse. "We really don't have a lifecycle view of this," said Meisky.
The second major theme in Gartner's list is energy and even here, users are more aware today of the problem and raising questions about usage as well.
Client virtualisation was first on the list. Gartner's other trends are ranked from those that are well under way to the more emerging ones further down. Here are the others:
- No. 2: The amount of enterprise data will grow about 650% over the next five years, the vast majority of it unstructured, or not included in any database. This growth "is going to cost us dearly if we dont pay attention," said Cappuccio. Cutting that growth will mean adopting methodologies such as data deduplication and automated tiering of storage, which involves moving underutilised data to less costly storage systems based on risk and need.
- No. 3: Green IT is about efficiency and that is prompting the business to ask "how IT runs its shop and what they're spending" on energy. In most cases, IT managers aren't able to say because energy cost are paid out of a separate facilities budget, said Cappuccio,
- No. 4: A closely related trend to Green IT is what's called complex resource tracking, which gives you the tools to monitor energy consumption as well as automate energy usage to optimal levels. "Instead of monitoring systems performance, let's monitor consumption as well," Cappuccio said.
- No. 5: Companies are beginning to realise that if you don't allow workplace use of Wikis, Twitter, or Facebook, to communicate for business "people are going to use it anyways, they'll find a way around it," said Cappuccio, who recommends establishing rules around it, monitoring, participating, as well as bringing a "social dimension" to external websites.
- No. 6: Companies are trying to unify as much of their communications as possible, tying in web communications, social networking and other platforms "so we have some control with what's going on," Cappuccio said.
- No. 7: More and more people are utilising applications for mobile and wireless applications that are either free or modestly priced. "As people get more and more handhelds, they are saying they want these apps and they want them now," said Cappuccio, and those users aren't interested in seeing what IT can produce in six months.
- No. 8: The energy cost of supporting a server will exceed the cost of the server in three years. It is helping to usher a "build what you need" approach in the data centre. Blades are leading a move to componentised servers: plug-and-play resources as needed, storage, processors, I/O , etc. "Think about that concept across an entire data centre," Cappuccio said.
- No. 9: Mashups created by users are also something that IT has to manage. "If we aren't careful, these things are going to take off like crazy," Cappuccio warned.
- No. 10: Cloud computing, particularly a private cloud, separates users from the technology decision because it turns IT into a set of services. "If you do that, it frees up IT to make decisions on what technology to buy, when to buy... suddenly the constraints all go away," Cappuccio said. The public cloud will grow slower than the private cloud, he said.
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