Technology worth watching in 2005

With analyst companies such as IDC and Forrester Research Inc. predicting an increase in IT spending, 2005 will witness additional developments in operating systems, service-oriented architectures (SOAs), on-demand computing, storage, open source, and — of ever increasing importance — security.

Computing without wires

In wireless, 2005 will be a year of pilot projects and evaluations. To comply with the first Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and U.S. Department of Defense mandates for RFID tags, in January thousands of suppliers were to deploy RFID tags but only in what is being called a “slap-and-ship” model.

After the tags are applied to satisfy customers’ requirements, however, suppliers will start their own pilot projects to see how RFID might reduce costs in their supply chain. RFID will not be generally deployed until late 2006 or 2007.

Mergers among the wireless carriers — in the U.S. AT&T Corp. and Cingular Wireless LLC; Nextel Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp.; in Canada Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. and Microcell Telecommunications Inc. (Fido) — will set off a battle royale for consumer and enterprise market share. Carriers will eventually offer seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and WAN on dual-mode handsets as a way to capture new customers, but they will have to wait out the year for the outcome of enterprise evaluations before they know whether seamless roaming is a killer feature.

Setting up the defence

When it comes to security, all eyes will be on Redmond, as Microsoft Corp. is expected to announce a series of new products and an increased emphasis on protection in its current product line.

Meanwhile, traditional security vendors will have plenty to offer in 2005, and networking and storage companies will continue to integrate security features into their lineups. Cisco Systems Inc.’s year-end purchase of Protego, a network edge security appliance company, presages the direction the industry will take — with consolidation likely to continue, as point products get swooped up by larger security vendors. At the same time, those big vendors are likely to expand outside the security space, as Symantec Corp. did in acquiring Veritas Software Corp.

Waiting for Longhorn

Whether 2005 will witness the first solid beta of Microsoft’s much talked about Longhorn remains to be seen. Company officials have indicated their hope to deliver the next-generation beta by the end of 2005. That first beta of the upcoming operating system is supposed to contain greatly improved security capabilities; a built-in Web services architecture, Indigo; and a brand-new graphics subsystem, code-named Avalon. To the disappointment of many, however, the OS will not contain WinFS, the hallowed file system Microsoft has been promising since its Cairo initiative back in the mid-1990s.

Microsoft’s archrival in the operating systems market, the Linux community, will hardly be sitting still during the coming months. The market revenue for desktops, servers, and packaged software running on Linux will top US$35 billion by 2008, according to IDC. Linux-compatible packaged software is expected to reach US$14 billion in that same time frame.

In the emerging open source database market, MySQL AB in 2005 plans to ship Version 5.0 of its MySQL database with stored procedures and triggers capabilities. Enterprise-level, commercial database companies have declared their open source rivals not ready for the enterprise, but MySQL is looking to change that.

Storage spreads out

In 2005, IT managers can expect to see more acquisitions among storage software vendors, as storage management increases in importance and tiered storage continues to come of age. Storage resource management software will continue to grow, as will storage archive software.

Dell Inc.’s success with its AX100 storage device will no doubt translate to more storage systems with ease-of-use features, not only from Dell but from other companies as well.

Meanwhile, Microsoft will increase its stake in storage by adding products that feature tighter integration with Windows to its storage lineup. Other products to look for include EMC Corp.’s storage switch, which the company planned to release early in the year.

Tape vendors will continue to integrate disk into their products and will offer better integration into storage networks. In the same vein, expect to hear a lot about information lifecycle management (ILM) from the major storage vendors and to see plenty of products with iSCSI as the technology begins to take off this year.

Networks will grow faster, more complex, and larger in 2005. As more 10 Gigabit Ethernet products come to market, the network core will see a marked increase in performance. At the same time, the network edge will see a performance boost as Gigabit Ethernet extends to the outer edge.

App dev matters

Security will not be the only reason attention will be focused on Microsoft in 2005. The software giant is also expected to ship next-generation upgrades to its Visual Studio developer toolbox and to its SQL Server 2005 database.

Code-named Yukon and talked about as far back as 2001, SQL Server 2005 will feature enhancements in business intelligence, database administration, development, and security.

Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, will come in a new flavour, Team System, which features application lifecycle management and collaborative development. Competing with Microsoft, Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to upgrade its Java Studio Creator tool, with additional application server support planned for spring.

On-demand and SOA

A technology trend that will take an even deeper hold in the enterprise during the course of this year will be the “dynamic IT” environments such as those endorsed by Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

“There will be a new focus on a new foundation in IT (during 2005), what we call ‘dynamic IT’ but the vendors call ‘on-demand’ or ‘adaptive,’” said Frank Gens, senior vice-president of research at IDC. “It’s about the ability to apply flexible approaches based on things like SOAs, Web services, virtualization, and standard components. It is this technical foundation underneath the enterprise that will be the driver for change.”

SOA was the acronym du jour in 2004, and all the big players, including BEA Systems Inc., IBM, Microsoft, Oracle Corp., and Sun, are vying in the SOA space, promoting the use of component-based interchangeable application architectures as the new wave of IT infrastructure.

Search gains significance

Enterprise search platforms will grow in prominence in 2005, fueled by skyrocketing volumes of unstructured content and the closing in of government regulations that mandate quick discovery of a wide range of corporate content — from e-mails, to documents, to chat conversations. Led by IBM and its Masala project, large software vendors will accelerate the commoditization of full-text search in the enterprise. In addition, enterprise search will continue to blur more and more with content management and business analytics.

“In 2005, search vendors must pick a path and strike the right deals or partnerships to move forward,” said Laura Ramos, vice-president of Forrester Research.

In addition to continued platform expansions by Autonomy Corp. PLC, Fast Search & Transfer, and Verity Inc., new search-related product entrants are expected to be launched by Oracle and Sun in 2005.

Meanwhile, the emerging desktop search market is expected to heat up both in enterprise and in consumer markets throughout the year. Hosted search, another nascent space, will gain more prominence in the enterprise this year, as vendors push the benefits of quicker startup time and lower cost of ownership.

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