Making Sense of IT’s Swirling Trends

Information technology managers are facing a massive rollout of new demands and computing models that could potentially make inroads in enterprise computing in 2008. As the technology continues to evolve and the landscape continues to change, IT managers have to pick and choose carefully in deciding which new, talked-about technologies to implement in their enterprises.

For instance, IT departments are showing more interest in Software as a Service (Saas). In fact, a recent Forrester study notes that decision-makers at North American enterprises will continue to spend an average of 29 percent of their total IT budgets on software-related costs this year. Furthermore, the adoption of SaaS will rise to the level of a top priority for IT departments by year’s end.

Another corporate need that could further burden an already overtaxed IT departments is the chore of overseeing the good name of its marketing organization. IT managers are being asked more frequently to gauge, monitor and report what is being written about their companies in the blogosphere. The goal is to protect the brand and to rapidly respond to public sentiment conveyed in these postings.

More pointedly, however, hardware and software sophistication is often mentioned in discussions with IT people. Companies are increasingly looking for platforms and applications that make running their businesses easier. IT managers have many new options, both online and offline, that will potentially allow them to worry less about compatibility or security issues.

“Today’s IT is focused on managing programs and emerging computer models. We are seeing lots of new activity and experimentation,” Mike Ferron-Jones, manager of the emerging model program of the digital office platform division for Intel, told TechNewsWorld. “Everyone is experimenting. We see really high interest. But we don’t see any broad deployment of any one model. There is no clear winner yet. It is a virtual tie among options.”

Virtual Platform

Virtualization is quickly growing out of the virtual machine mold to become a reliable platform that IT will use for application lifecycle management, disaster recovery and even security remediation. As these new virtual platforms continue to take shape, IT managers will have to assume a new role of testing. No longer the role of just software developers and Q&A teams, IT will begin to play a major role in product operations.

With a spotlight shining on virtualization, numerous options give IT managers choices they never had before. For instance, there are virtual desktops, trusted desktops, VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and more, noted Feron-Jones.

A trusted desktop is a computer that is designated for synchronizing and backing up secure databases. A virtual desktop is created with software to give users multiple screen environments on a hardware display. Users can move icons and application windows among a predefined number of desktop screens on one physical computer.

VDI is a form of virtualization that enables a service provider to host individual desktops inside virtual machines that are running in an enterprise’s data center. Users access these desktops remotely from a PC or a thin client using a remote display protocol.

OS Streaming

Other developing computing models will vie for the attentions of IT managers, noted Feron-Jones. One key development is using the OS (operating system) and its applications on servers instead of loading several virtualizations. This will give a full PC experience that is locked down on a central server.

With OS streaming, the client PC gets a bootloader command which pulls down all components from various servers. The centrally managed image is delivered on demand to the client. This is different from desktop hosting because the execution is faster on local hardware, he explained.

A variation of this concept is application streaming that works off the corporate network. It is the only option to allow this, according to Feron-Jones.

“We at Intel have to bet on all [of these options]. Intel’s view is that all of them will have a place in the industry. Whether IT goes to server side or client side options, sometimes both make sense,” he said.

Powering Down

Another essential task IT managers will be forced to confront this year is downsizing corporate power needs. IT departments can no longer be concerned with only securing the corporate network infrastructure. IT managers will have to produce real savings in power consumption to run the computing hardware.

“IT departments and their CIOs have to worry about the computing footprint. How much are they spending for hardware and support? The big issue is how much power does it take to run the computers. The larger the power drain, the more corporations will have a need for their own power grid,” Mike Lang, CEO of information technology solutions provider Alliance Technologies, told TechNewsWorld.

Lang likened this IT predicament to consumers buying hybrid cars. It is not acceptable to save on the cost of gasoline but spend more money on the higher cost of the vehicle. In business, IT has to accomplish both, said Lang.

“The big challenge for IT managers will be managing the projects to get a return on the IT investments. Some IT managers will lose sight of this and get into trouble,” he warned.

Security Redirection

IT departments traditionally have focused on securing the network. However, IT managers are facing demands that will take them in a new security direction, suggested Jim Freeze, vice president of marketing for Crossbeam Systems, developer of a platform that virtualizes delivery of security applications.

“One of the emerging trends is outsourced security management. This is something that IT departments never would have considered in the past. But the nature of security management is changing, and companies are starting to prioritize what assets they will control in-house and what will be outsourced,” Freeze told TechNewsWorld.

IT departments are increasingly overwhelmed by security costs and complexity and are in desperate need of outsourced solutions, he explained. This has created enormous pent-up demand for new carrier “in-the-cloud” services.

“New developments in technology are now making the promise of in-the-cloud security services a reality,” he said.

Green Factor

The push for corporations to go green will confront IT managers more this year than ever before, Freeze predicted. Two factors are driving this trend. One is the need to reduce the capital cost of equipment. The second is the need to better manage computing resources through optimization and consolidation.

IT can consolidate the ever-expanding collection of computers and can thus also save on the operational costs. This produces both a large physical savings and a reduced physical footprint.

“Going green is saving money,” he noted.

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