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Top 10 IT Trends

Gartner Inc.released a list of 10 trends for IT professionals will be focused on over the next five years.

The trends were discussed in a Thursday Webinar by David J. Cappuccio, a research vice president at Gartner. He noted that IT pros are busy enough with daily operations, with "74 percent" of IT budgets devoted to those concerns. Still, he contended that there are lots of new technologies and trends that will have an impact on IT departments.

Gartner expects these trends will affect IT over the next five years:

  1. "Software-defined networks
  2. "Software-defined storage
  3. "Hybrid cloud services
  4. "Integrated systems
  5. "Applications acceleration
  6. "The Internet of things
  7. "Open Compute Project
  8. "Intelligent datacenters
  9. "IT demand
  10. "Organizational entrenchment and disruptions"

End user expectations are affecting IT. New workers getting out of college are expecting access to everything all of the time, from any device, from anywhere, Cappuccio said. They typically own between three and four devices today, he added.

Software-defined networking (SDN) came into general awareness about two years ago, expecially after SDN pioneer Nicira came out of stealth mode, Cappuccio said. Nicira's idea was to create a software stack that would manage the real-world physical network. The concept resonated well with the marketplace, and Nicira was bought by VMware in a $1.4 billion purchase. SDN represents a new way to operate networks, which can be configured from one place rather than in many places, he explained. The idea is to enhance workloads and eventually enhance traffic loads. SDN creates a control plane to manage hardware changes through a series of rules, and then it can be configured on the fly. For IT pros, SDN could markedly shorten provisioning times. It could help as workloads begin to cross datacenter boundaries. Cappuccio suggested that it might be worthwhile to get senior people in an IT department involved in SDN and create a small lab. But SDN could encroach upon the turf of highly paid networking personnel. With that consideration in mind, he advised against creating an environment where it's "us vs. them" mentality of SDN vs. traditional networks.

Software-defined storage is becoming important because of data growth. In the next five years, the average enterprise will see their data capacities grow more than 800 percent, Cappuccio said. SDN technology can help with achieving low-cost, heterogeneous storage because it's much more controllable and manageable than traditional approaches. Cappuccio said that this approach had initially been defined in the early 1980s by IBM, but it was vendor-specific solution at that time. Now, multiple vendors can be involved.

Hybrid cloud services are enabling IT pros to deliver services faster to end users. The downside from an IT perspective is that the IT department still owns that end user experience. Over time, Gartner expects that the integration of these services will proliferate. The research and consulting firm is already seeing an evolution of cloud brokers, which are collecting and managing service providers, and handing the services and the contracts for organizations. That's the good news for IT departments. The bad news is that IT may come to be viewed as just another service provider by end users. While auditability, compliance and regulatory controls all come into play, Gartner still feels that hybrid cloud services are beginning to take off.

Integrated systems in the form of locked-down appliances perhaps have been around for several years. Vendors saw that they can integrate common devices into dedicated solutions, and, if sold as an integrated system, the vendor gets a single control point. The old approach of static servers has been moving more toward a fabric-enabled infrastructure where organizations can bring in a system to get just the capacity that they need. The resources could be as small as a processor, memory or I/O, Cappuccio explained. Over time, it could lead to a plug-and-play kind of environment, where system components are added as needed.

Applications acceleration is being accompanied by mobile device proliferation and user expectations. About 85 percent of the world's population has wireless coverage today, and the smartphone and tablet market place has grown markedly over the last few years. The expectations of end users have changed. Users realize it's not about taking a smartphone or tablet and adding a company's app to it. Rather, it's about a new way of working. People expect that wherever they are that their devices are going to work and data will be available. Gartner expects to see rapid version control over apps. Apps are becoming more single purpose now, and developers are starting to build small lean apps that are context and location aware. Those capabilities can build efficiency into sales teams that tap CRM systems, for instance, Cappuccio explained.

The Internet of things and wearable smart electronics will emerge as a $10 billion industy by 2016, according to Gartner. Cappuccio described so-called "smart objects" that can create self-monitoring mesh networks, which are location aware in many cases. Some of those devices in the labs don't require batteries but can tap power from wireless networks, he added. These devices all have Internet addresses and need to be managed. This trend is being driven by embedded sensors, which have been in automobiles for years. Hospitals are using sensors to track wheelchairs in a building. There are designs for baby diapers that can sense moisture. Light poles can sense if a light is on or off, and potentially monitor traffic flow. The business opportunities are around situational decision support and remote sensing, he said.

The Open Compute Project is focused on datacenter energy efficiency and was founded by Facebook and Rackspace. Facebook created an open project where they put the specs online and asked other vendors to get involved. The idea is to standardize datacenter environments, which was initially conceived as a way to achieve faster maintenance. However, if many OEMs get involved, it will be possible for IT organizations to buy datacenter equipment from anyone. Cappuccio said that the Open Compute Project isn't a global phenomenon yet, but it's something to watch.

Intelligent datacenters, also known as "software-defined datacenters," is a concept where workloads can be shared globally and resource location becomes irrelevant, Cappuccio explained. Workloads could be changed based on business needs, such as during natural disasters. Currently, datacenters require fuel trucks to support back-up generators during natural disasters, but the intelligent datacenter concept envisions just shifting entire critical workloads in cases where disasters threaten operations. However, for this sort of scenario to play out, staff with a more holistic view of network operations would be needed, he cautioned, but that skill set is not predominant in companies today.

IT demand will be shaped over the next four years by increases in server workloads, network bandwidth requirements and storage capacities. However, IT departments will still be required to do more with less. Cappuccio said that Gartner expects to see IT budgets grow by just 3 percent to 3.5 percent next year.

Organizational entrenchment and disruptions are coming, along with skill shifts. Over next 18 years, a lot of IT pros with corporate knowledge are going to be retiring. Cloud services are going to have a huge effect on organizations, Cappuccio said. IT organizations will face faster upgrade times as well as consumerization-of-IT pressures. Cappuccio was supportive of the latter trend. IT doesn't have time to think out of the box in many cases, but it could follow the lead of the creative personnel that are embracing consumerization-of-IT approaches.

The talk, "Ten Trends and Technologies to Impact IT Over the Next Five Years," can be accessed on demand here.

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