Gartner’s top 10 strategic technologies for 2008

At the top of Gartner Inc.’s 10 strategic technologies for next year is “Green IT”. The research firm says that if businesses don’t improve data centre energy efficiency, the government may force them to do so.

But social networking technologies are also on the list, along with some further-off technological developments, such as server designs that use a resource-sharing approach called a computing fabric.

A strategic technology is something that may have an impact on a business. And impact could mean driving an investment or posing a threat, said David Cearley, a Gartner analyst. If your competitors adopt one of these technologies “does that put you at a competitive disadvantage?” he said at the Stamford, Conn.-based firm’s ITxpo in Orlando.

Here’s a look at Gartner’s list:

1.Green IT. This is a path that more and more companies are taking as a socially responsible strategy. A green approach is multifaceted and can affect data centre operations in a number of ways, such as moving workloads based on energy efficiency and using the most power-inefficient servers only at times of peak usage, said Carl Claunch, an analyst.

But data centres also face the threat of regulatory action to curb power usage. The problem, said Claunch, is you can’t predict what may trigger regulation or when mandates will arrive.

“Some event somewhere, a popular movie, some shift in election politics, and suddenly you are forced to change dramatically and it comes with little warning,” he said. “You need to be thinking what to do.”

2.Unified communications. The move to unified communications systems is happening as the world shifts from analog to digital over IP networks. But it’s not just the obvious things that will converge, such as telephony and messaging. Companies may make security videos part of this convergence, which may give businesses, for instance, new ways to analyze a retail outlet’s traffic patterns. This video data would require a lot of storage, so using it in this way could prompt IT managers to introduce the security team to the networking group.

3.Business process management. This is not a technology, its a way of using technologies to enable companies to simulate, model and design the processes that run their businesses. A key trend is the evolution of the business process management suite, Cearley said. This may include, model-driven development, content and document management, collaboration capabilities, system connectivity, business intelligence activity monitoring and management, rules and systems management.

4.Metadata management. This is becoming important as companies integrate data – for instance, customer and product data and warehouse data.

5.Virtualization. Virtualization technology is critical, but not just for consolidation; it also offers a way to mirror production systems for disaster recovery. In Gartner’s view, Virtualization is now into its 2.0 version, as software vendors begin to ship their software in virtual machines with the operating system and needed middleware. This approach avoids the “deleterious effects of one piece of software on another,” Claunch said.

6.Mashups. Mashup tools allow users to take things from multiple Web sites and combine them together to create a Web-centric composite application. “You want to start building mashability into everything you do,” Cearley said.

7.The Web platform. This is the model for services in the future. An example, said Cearley, is the cloud computing announcement this week by Google Inc. and IBM, which are jointly offering a platform for use by universities for application development initiatives, including Web 2.0 projects. “Put this on your radar screen,” he said.

8.Computing fabric. A server design that is still a work in progress, computing fabric involves treating memory, processors and I/O cards as a pooled resource instead of a fixed arrangement. Blade servers allow you to do some of this pooling with I/O, Claunch said. “Be aware of this, because blades are not the final step,” he said.

9.Real World Web. This is the name of the computing experience made possible by ubiquitous access to networks of even-increasing bandwidth via mobile technologies. Thanks to the Real World Web, users can have ready access to all kinds of information, including travel information or the location of a jar of pickles in a grocery store.

10.Social software. Social software includes podcasts, blogs and wikis – anything that fosters the development of social networks.

One IT manager at the session, Ted Stoddard, director of operations at Federal Signal Corp. in Oak Brook Ill., a company that makes security and safety products, said he suspects that many people, as he has, have already assembled their strategic plans for next year.

While some of the items on Gartner’s list, such as virtualization, are part of his plan, he hasn’t considered others, such as social networking technologies like blogs. Those are probably worth looking at, Stoddard said, “but there are more important things to work on now.”

Related content:

CIOs spill secrets for innovative IT

Web 2.0 needs more support from management, say users

The top 10 developments in the world of e-commerce

Green IT products: Five that can save you money

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