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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gartner's Top 10 Technologies for 2011

I have been using my own small list of technology trends as discussion points with my customers. It seems that every CIO and Director has objectives put in place to transform their organization, but sometime the transformation has many steps and requires their infrastructure to be ready.
The common misconception is that to have Unified Communication, one must have IP Telephony in place. Yes and No. A voice mailbox appearing in Outlook doesn’t require an IP telephone set, it can be associated with a traditional digital or analog telephone set. Having an IP Softphone on a laptop only requires the PBX infrastructure to be current in its software and the WAN to support a secure VPN connection. This would then entail adding a security appliance to the solution to support the new application. However, if you want the full suite of UC applications to be available then a new PBX infrastructure is required with supporting LAN and WAN components. This is very important when video is added to the mix. Most 10/100MB LAN switches will create bottlenecks and WAN bandwidths need to accommodate the demand for High Definition streaming. The old 3Com LAN switches with a simple data T1 will provide a major constraint in achieving real time communications in the moment.
This is all a moot point as most organizations are looking at MPLS networks for their voice and data transport, larger Internet access connections, and an overhaul of their LAN infrastructure to support additional layers of switching with 1GB ports and POE connections. Replace the12 year old PBX with a new one and add a data center or two with SAN capability, and give everyone a laptop with a dual core CPU and a 500 GB hardrive. Pretty simple!!

Let’s see what the good folks at Gartner have come up with and my comments.
Gartner's Top 10 Technologies for 2011
October 20, 2010 Larry Dignan
1: Cloud computing
This group of technologies has been on the top 10 lists for a few years. Now everything as a service will alter business models and IT procurement. Gartner analyst David Cearley said what has changed is that there are multiple services. Companies will probably need cloud computing brokers. Things to watch:
• Where does the public cloud fit? IT is generally scared of the public cloud, but select workloads are fine.
• Beware cloud washing. IT execs are comfortable with the vendors cloud washing but may not get real capability.
• Limit access to specific clouds based on community and groups. That approach would minimize security risks. Gartner has exclusive clouds and community clouds as services to watch.
• Private clouds are custom and packaged.
My impression: A safe pick for sure, but the cloud is getting more granular as it matures. Think cloud washing magnified.
John’s Opinion: We are seeing a lot of this from Google and Apple and some others for the home user and the Smartphone user community but until business really starts adopting devices that will seek its apps from corporate clouds then it can’t be the number one topic. I think security within the corporate cloud attaching to the public cloud to be the biggest concern.
2: Mobile apps and media tablets
Tablets and touch aren't new. Claunch said that the selection of applications changes the game for businesses. "Apple has leveraged the ecosystem of the iPhone," Claunch said. "And Apple has created consistency." In addition, Apple's iPad is the poster child for how consumerization is affecting corporate IT. Things to think about for enterprise IT:
• Enterprise apps will need to be designed for the tablet.
• Delivering these apps gets complicated due to the selection of platforms.
• Context-aware computing can connect to customers better.
• Marketing will drive a lot of projects to utilize tablets, but these devices can be used for inspections, surveys, image capture, documentation, and training.
Cearley added, "The PC era is over. Think of mobile design points."
My impression: It's stunning how many iPads are in this crowd of 7,000-plus IT execs and managers. Another thread: Almost all of these IT execs are carrying PCs not Macs. Typically, CIOs and the like are the last to get on board an early adoption curve for a new device. There's a frenzy over tablets.
John’s Opinion: I am starting to see more and more interest from the business community in rolling out these devices as it could simplify and lower the TCO. However, the iPad isn’t really ready for business prime time. I would see next year as the pivot point for iPad 2.0 and a real look at what the RIM playbook will truly be. However, Cisco and Avaya have their versions of tablets and although they appear very much application limited it is the one device that’s truly embedded into the corporate telecom infrastructure. We are all getting tired carrying a 10 lb laptop, power supply, mouse, cables etc. and a simple tablet would shed many pounds. However, I still need access to corporate applications and should be able to print and use Microsoft Office very easily. This could be a struggle if Apple or RIM or Android doesn’t allow others into their ecosystem. It’s a safe bet the TCO for a tablet would be lower than a laptop. Of course, the fixed desktop users get to keep their P2 machine for ever and ever as their use seems specific to a user profile community unaffected by the tablet/Smartphone hype.

3: Next-gen analytics
Companies need to develop "operational analytics" to make predictions and use data mashups. "There's value in very current information. We are now shifting our focus to start doing simulations and modeling to predict the future," Claunch said. These simulations would ultimately be run on Smartphone’s and other devices. Algorithms will really matter to companies to support the right type of prediction.
Gartner didn't advocate doing a lot of analytics investment yet, but be ready to invest.
My impression: Analytics is largely untapped ground for many companies. Claunch's key point: "This is just being enabled now." Another key item: A show of hands revealed that the entire room had business intelligence software. A show of hands also indicated that no one thought those applications were delivering real value.
John’s Opinion: Now is the time to add these applications to your business decision making toolkit. This is how you put buying trends, customer profiles, consumer behavior, sales segmentation and other reports to assist in generating more revenue. If you don’t know your customer or can use the data for forecasting then you will be out of business very very soon. Quickly – What do your customers located in Alberta buy the most of??? When do you sell the most of the 735 widget?
4: Social analytics
This concept revolves around taking social networking data and incorporating it into enterprise analysis. Sentiment, context, and influence are key areas for companies. "We're starting to see the tipping point," Cearley said. "It's moving from bleeding edge to mainstream activity." For now, look at communities you have to support and analyze an entry.
My impression: CIOs should be watching this stuff, but given the crowd response to business intelligence, I'm not seeing much progress on the analytics-social intersection.
John’s Opinion: This is still new and those selling through Facebook have a good handle on it but if you have no BI tools in place today then you can’t break it down and add social tabs to the spreadsheet. I would hope that if you get a good chunk of business though Groupon you are tracking it.
5: Social communication and collaboration
Social collaboration is "inevitable," Cearley said. "Over the next few years, it will be impossible to ignore this," he added. By now, companies should have policies, high value social uses identified, and have experiments to link social with CRM systems. Meanwhile, unified communications will merge with social. Expertise location will probably be the best use case.
My impression: Gartner makes a good point, but I'd be willing to bet that enterprises are way behind the curve on social communication and what it means for collaboration and productivity.
John’s Opinion: Agreed, today’s marketing departments talk a good story but are way behind what I would consider effective and integrated strategies for social networking. However, the Unified Communication space is showing interest and I think Avaya right now is in the lead with a credible storyline. I wouldn’t rule out Cisco but they are up to something but maybe haven’t been exactly clear on where they fit. The new guys definitely get it – Look at Kobo, Skype and Amazon. It’s coming but we just need it tied into business a lot better. It looks like Microsoft’s new Lync platform might be the enabler we all need in business or Cisco’s Quad platform.
6: Video
Corporate use of video is becoming mainstream. Low-cost video recorders are everywhere. Companies will need video content management systems and better design skills, and they'll need to address privacy issues and policy concerns. Will all conference rooms be recorded by default? E-learning, merchandising, marketing, webinars, and Telepresence will all be key video uses. The tipping point will come in 2011 to 2013. In addition, video will be needed to reach younger employees.
My impression: Video has hit mainstream, but networks haven't. Will Vlogs really be the best use of employee time? One other key point: How will business intelligence systems digest video content?
John’s Opinion: Once you get off the ISDN BRI lines and onto a real MPLS network do things happen very easily. I disagree, video has been on an uptrend and being used more and more as the picture quality is much improved, LCD screens are cheap, networks are faster and better and the UC manufacturers are on the ball right now. Cisco has added Tandberg and Avaya have a new product launch and its all video aware intelligence to the endpoints and true call and watch functionality. Microsoft has beefed up their offering with the new Lync servers. I doubt the other UC providers have the bench strength for a seamless user experience like these big three.
7: Context-aware computing
The idea here is that social analytics and computing leads to knowledge about preferences. User interfaces would change based on context. Today, it's all reactive. By 2011 to 2013, there will be more proactive alerts. By 2014 to 2018, you'll have context integrated with enterprise systems. Ultimately, there will be a context platform. Portals, mashups, mobile, and social will combine. Vendors will offer "user experience platforms."
My impression: I have a hard time seeing strapped enterprises going all contextual. Look for business units such as marketing to launch these projects to drive sales. Companies will need to deliver context-aware services to businesses. Can't wait for all of those user experience platform pitches.
John’s Opinion: This is all heady stuff and its coming but I expect the new start ups to really make headway in this regard and be swallowed up by the larger players. I can get a coupon from Starbucks on my smart device while in store using their free wifi connection, but that’s simple as they have me log onto the connection. If Amazon suggests a book while I am in the Kindle store it is pretty easy as well. I doubt anyone can succeed in this without a Business Intelligence platform with recent user data. If you really want to offer me a Pizza coupon from another Pizza shop Friday nights then they need to know who I order the pizza from, what I order, do I have it delivered? And what time I order and my preferred communication method. Google can do this if I do it all through the Google Pizza Portal but without it the back end computers need to really crunch numbers. It would be easier to just send me a flyer at my doorstep…no?
8: Ubiquitous computing
This topic has been discussed in previous years on Gartner's lists. In a nutshell, computers melt into objects. There will be machine-to-machine connections, portable personalities, and connectivity changes across multiple devices. There will be thousands of computers for each person on the planet, and you'll have multiple devices.
My impression: Ubiquitous computing is more a guiding principle for projects than something you think about in terms of budget. The timeline here is decades. What's also notable: Everyone has punted on getting one device to consolidate them all. We're doomed to carry a bunch of devices.
John’s Opinion: Yeah that’s a good one. I still need a Kindle to read books, an iPad to read PDF magazines and check emails, a Blackberry for work and BBM, a flashlight, a Western Digital 2 TB pocket drive, and a thumbnail mp3 player, a Kodak Zi HD video camera and my trusty Nikon D300 digital SLR. Hey it’s just me but add a Sony Shortwave portable radio to the list as well. What we should push for is Ubiquitous batteries.
9: Storage class memory
When Flash meets RAM, there are differences in speed and costs. Persistent storage will also alter management. Claunch said that storage class memory goes beyond solid state drives. This new class of storage will lead to software where operating systems determine where data goes. Storage class memory will become more important over the next two to three years.
My impression: It's a bit experimental, but storage class memory will ride shotgun with analytics. Companies will have to define what data goes into fast memory.
John’s Opinion: I don’t understand anything of the above but I can show you the bills for 16MB Compact Flash cards from 10 years ago that cost hundreds of dollars. For every memory device I have purchased the storage size was double at half the price a few weeks after I bought it. Maybe I better take notice as my LG Blueray player requires a persistent memory device for storage of Live content. I use a Cisco 4GB USB stick for that.
10: Fabric based infrastructure and computers
Every vendor will talk fabric computing, so get ready for fabric-washing. The overall idea here is that you'll have infrastructure that manages resources in an integrated fashion. Cisco UCS and HP Matrix are examples. New ways of building servers will mean you buy pools of processors and memory instead of physically swapping boxes.
My impression: Forming your own flexible servers sounds appealing. The fabric thing sounds way futuristic for now, but the seeds are being planted.
John’s Opinion: Its here and a factor in the virtualization game and Cisco is positioned for it in their Human Powered network philosophy. This should be on every IT road map as it will be the way to manage storage and computing resources. Probably a key infrastructure requirement for the new applications and services coming our way and supports all of the above technologies in a way. IBM is the seasoned expert and a nice tie into their blade servers and data center centric methodology.
My top picks still are wireless and mobile devices creeping into the business community, more and more adoption of Unified Communication applications to drive productivity and sales revenues (now with video) and more Web 2.0/3.0 applications becoming prevalent and changing our behavior.
John Leonardelli
Senior UC Consultant
This article reprinted courtesy of TechRepublic.

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