October 11, 2007

Gartner’s top 10 technologies for 2008

Gartner has outlined its top 10 Strategic Technology Areas for 2008:

Here is the snap short of the technologies and what David Cearley and Carl Claunch said Gartner's Symposium ITxpo 2007.

Green IT is the application of environmental consciousness to the computer and information technology industries. Green IT companies are changing the way technology is used to cut down on waste, eliminate unnecessary energy use and help the environment.

The technologies for green IT practices–multicore chips, power supplies, fans and power management software–are all mature, says Carl Claunch, an analyst at Gartner. So what’s new about green IT for 2008?

Claunch argues that there may be limits put on data center choices, regulations may become more prominent and then there’s the cost savings to your electric bill. “Green really matters and there’s a lot of work coming from the technology vendor sphere,” says Claunch.

Cearley notes that he has talked with many technology managers that haven’t been prodded for green IT practices. His advice: Plan ahead because “at some point someone will knock on your door about it and it’ll be easier if you plan ahead.”

Unified Communications is a commonly used term for the integration of disparate communications systems and media, desktop computers, applications and mobility. This potentially includes the integration of voice both fixed and mobility , e-mail, instant messaging, desktop and advanced business applications, Internet Protocol (IP)-PBX, voice over IP (VoIP), presence, voice-mail, fax, audio video and web conferencing, unified messaging, unified voicemail, and whiteboarding into a single environment offering the user a more complete but simpler experience.

Claunch says converging things like Web services, contact centers, email and phone services will lead to combinations with storage networks, video from security cameras and sensors. “All sorts of potential applications emerge,” says Claunch. Timeline: 2010.

Business Process Modeling (also known as Business Process Discovery, BPD) is the activity of representing both the current and future ("to be") processes of an enterprise, so that the current process may be analyzed and improved. BPM is typically performed by business analysts and managers who are seeking to improve process efficiency and quality. The process improvements identified by BPM may or may not require IT involvement, although that is a common driver for the need to model a business process, by creating a process master.

Meta-data Management involves storing information about other information. With different types of media being used references to the location of the data can allow management of diverse repositories. URLs, images, video etc. may be referenced from a triples table of object, attribute and value.

Mashup is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool; a typical example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data from Craigslist, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally envisaged by either source.

Composite Application expresses a perspective of software engineering that defines an application built by combining multiple services. People often compare composite applications to mashups. However, composite applications leverage enterprise and enterprise-ready sources (e.g., commercial web services) of information, while mashups usually rely on web-based, and often free, sources.

The composite application consists of functionality drawn from several different sources within a service oriented architecture (SOA). The components may be individual web services, selected functions from within other applications, or entire systems whose outputs have been packaged as web services (often legacy systems).

Computing fabrics: Claunch says blade servers are just an intermediate stage. A fabric will allow several blades to be merged. “Blades are not the final step,” says Clough. His description:

The fabric based server of the future will treat memory, processors and I/O cards are components in a pool, combining and recombining them into particular arrangements to suit the owner’s needs. That is, a large server can be created by combining 32 processors and a number of memory modules from the pool, operating together over the fabric to appear to an operating system as a single fixed server. Any combination of the components can be configured, as they will not longer be defined as blades.

Virtualization is a broad term that refers to the abstraction of computer resources. One useful definition is "a technique for hiding the physical characteristics of computing resources from the way in which other systems, applications, or end users interact with those resources. This includes making a single physical resource (such as a server, an operating system, an application, or storage device) appear to function as multiple logical resources; or it can include making multiple physical resources (such as storage devices or servers) appear as a single logical resource."

Virtualization is more than just consolidation of hardware. Claunch argues that virtualization is all about flexibility and the ability to adapt. These advantages go beyond mere hardware savings.

Here’s a chart outlining what Gartner calls Virtualization 2.0:

Web platforms (also known as SaaS today). Software as a service (SaaS) is a software application delivery model where a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts and operates (either independently or through a third-party) the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers do not pay for owning the software itself but rather for using it. They use it through an API accessible over the Web and often written using Web Services or REST. The term SaaS has become the industry preferred term, generally replacing the earlier terms Application Service Provider (ASP), On-Demand and "Utility computing".

Cearley says that 25 percent of Gartner customers have some form of SaaS already. Cearley advises that IT managers build in SaaS providers into their sourcing strategies.

Longer term, however, Web platforms will be the model for the future. Ultimately everything –infrastructure, information, widgets and business processes–will be delivered as a service. All of these intertwined APIs will give us a acronym: WOA (Web oriented architecture.) “Put this on your radar screen and start with some ‘what if’ models,” says Cearley. These Web platforms will also make mashups more common in the enterprise. In fact, Cearley argues that enterprises will need an architecture just to manage mashups.

Real World Web: Claunch defines the Real World Web as one where all devices–wireless devices, cameras, PCs etc.–combine to analyze location, intent and even emotions over a network. This will augment reality, says Claunch. Many verticals–military, healthcare, travel and retail–are expected to adopt applications for the Real World Web.

Social software is normally applied to a range of web-enabled software programs. The programs usually allow users to interact, share, and meet other users. This computer-mediated communication has become very popular with sites like MySpace and YouTube and has resulted in large user bases and billion dollar purchases of the software and their communities by large corporations (News Corp purchased MySpace and Google purchased YouTube).

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