Tech predictions for 2010: Reality check

We were dead-right about server virtualization mainstreaming in 2010, but how did we miss the tablet rage? Read how our predictions for IT services trends went right--and wrong.

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Trends often move or develop so quickly in the high-tech industry that sometimes we journalists don't pause and indulge in thorough follow-up to see if a product has shipped as anticipated; or a technology has been adopted in the manner that one of our stories predicted; or even if a vendor's new program fell as flat as we expected.

In that spirit, SearchITChannel.com asked me to revisit my "Ten IT services trends for 2010" predictions story from January 2010. Overall, you and I did pretty well, although there are some things we mutually left off the list, like the explosion of interest in table computing technology. Below, we'll recap each item. And, of course, stay tuned for our next batch of predictions coming right after the New Year, which will be headlined by the aforementioned tablet phenomenon.

2010 Trend 1: With businesses finally ready to spend on client technology (or at least think about it), desktop virtualization and thin clients will be part of key discussions.

Year-end update: Customers are asking questions, but there has been little progress.
Although IT solution providers say that desktop virtualization and other low-energy, easy-to-manage client technologies are compelling, few businesses have been willing to invest beyond pilot projects.

"I haven't personally seen a lot of deployments of virtual desktop infrastructure and the larger ones that I have seen have been failures and have resulted in litigation," said Oli Thordarson, CEO of managed service provider Alvaka Networks in Irvine, Calif.

Some of the more basic issues with these technologies have to do with the compatibility of legacy applications, as well as the true scalability of the deployments to hundreds and thousands of desktops.

That said, solution providers are still watching these technologies closely, because they believe virtualized applications will be key to enterprise support of the table computer format. "With all the investments being made in core data center infrastructure, there is really good potential for thin client deployments," noted M.J. Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer for Jenaly Technology Group Inc., a solution provider in Portsmouth, N.H.

 

2010 Trend 2: Disaster recovery solutions will get their due in small businesses.

Year-end update: DR is part of most server virtualization projects.
Derek Downs, vice president of the VocalMash business unit of solution provider INX Inc. in Houston, said that disaster recovery is a topic in project conversation. "In the past, people would talk, but they now have much more visibility into the business case," Downs said.

That business case has been greatly aided by the replication and business continuity features made possible through the primary server virtualization platforms.

Patrick Ciccarelli, CEO and senior consultant with Varsity Technologies, a VAR in San Francisco that has made a name in referring green IT solutions, said most SMB customers still are not willing to make a huge investment in on-site disaster recovery technology. Many companies are exploring cloud-based services that offer them this option. "People are realizing that their options are improving dramatically," Ciccarelli said.

 

2010 Trend 3: Windows 7 will get you in the door.

Year-end update: Dead wrong.
Let's be clear, businesses do care about Windows 7, but few were in a hurry to upgrade. According to a report on Windows 7 adoption published by Forrester Research in November, Windows XP runs on close to 75% of all commercial desktops in North America in Europe. Windows 7 is only on roughly 10% of the PCs in those markets, the report estimates.

"The reality is that clients are hearing great things about Windows 7, but they aren't in any rush," said Ciccarelli.

One reason, he said, is that many businesses are exploring Software as a Service (SaaS), which typically is delivered through a browser interface. When a company relies on more applications that are hosted, the operating systems matter less, he said.

"Windows 7 will be successful, but I don't think adoption will really happen until hardware is refreshed," said Thordarson. "It will be a silent success."

Indeed, Forrester predicts that nearly 90% of businesses will migrate to Windows 7 over time. By December 2011, the number is likely to be close to 50%, as companies finish up Windows 7 evaluation cycles.

 

2010 Trend 4: Businesses will get ready for their close-ups with more videoconferencing.

Year-end update: Dead right.
Downs believes that video became part of the common language of business in 2010, a factor that will drive even stronger sales of videoconferencing and collaboration solutions in 2011. "I think we are going to see it take off at a greater pace next year," he said.

Thordarson said security concerns about air travel were a factor in business videconferencing adoption along with the availability of quality technology options at a lower price point than in the past. This is especially true of the high-end, room-based systems. "They historically have been very pricey and I think we will see the competition heat up in this segment," Thordarson said.

 

2010 Trend 5: Security and compliance concerns will inspire people to buy into the paperless office concept with more document management solutions.

Year-end update: Unclear.
To be honest, meaningful predictions about the progress of the so-called paperless office through enterprise content management or document management solutions are basically impossible to find. However, there is one big indicator pointing to the march toward digital information delivery: the explosion in sales for both e-readers and media tablets.

Market research firm Gartner Inc. believes that when 2010 becomes a memory, sales of connected e-readers will have topped 6.6 million units for the year. That is a leap of almost 80% compared to the 3.6 million units solid in 2009. Predictions for 2011 call for sales of 11 million units, another close to 70% increase. The only factor that might cannibalize this prediction, Gartner reports, is the success of more general-purpose media tablets.

No, IT solution providers don't traditionally sell consumer electronics devices like these, but increasingly they will need to support them with content. That's why even though not a single VAR interviewed brought up enterprise content management, I think it is one of those sleeper trends that will suddenly "arrive."

 

2010 Trend 6: Cloud computing and Software as a Service will drive questions, if not investments.

Year-end update: And then some.
Shoer believes that the conversation about SaaS and cloud computing adoption are out of proportion with actual adoption. "I don't see a lot of customers saying, 'take me to the cloud,' " he said. "The consumer awareness and understanding is there, but they don't see where it fits."

Questions surrounding security (is my information safe?) and availability (can I get to my applications and data when I need them?) remain unanswered, Shoer believes.

Thordarson believes SaaS is already a bonafide success, and recent data from Gartner bears him out. This year, the amount of revenue tied to SaaS-delivered enterprise software applications is projected to reach $9.2 billion, according to Gartner, up about 16% from 2009. Gartner expects that growth to continue in 2011, with anticipated SaaS revenue of $10.7 billion.

Solution providers do agree on this: The cloud is part of almost every conversation.

"There has been more movement in the past 12 months figuring this all out," said Ciccarelli. "I think 2011 is really going to be the place where we move from hype to execution."

 

2010 Trend 7: Businesses will try to make sense out of identity management.

Year-end update: Ho-hum.
The good news: Gartner projects growth of 8% for the identity and access management technology sector to $9.9 billion by year-end 2010. The not-so-good news: IT solution providers said even though security projects in general still continue to drive interest with customer prospects, identity management still is mainly of interest to a few verticals, such as healthcare.

Thordarson said that the bigger focus for security has been data loss protection. "For years, people have been losing data to employees and unauthorized users," he said. "I think the WikiLeaks situation will hit home with CIOs, CFOs and security officers. They will ask, 'Holy cow, if governments are losing data, what are we losing?"

 

2010 Trend 8: More people will wonder about wireless as a broadband option.

Year-end update: Still wondering.
As we reported in October 2010, the extent to which you believe wireless broadband adoption is imminent or far-off depends greatly on where you live. No one doubts that wireless adoption will continue to grow, but don't discount low-cost wireless LAN network options that are still being deployed by retailers and local municipalities.

Ciccarelli said the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network being deployed by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility will prompt more evaluations as businesses and consumers study this option to the WiMax (or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology championed by Sprint and Clearwire.

"Wireless broadband will be very important for virtual office and cloud deployments," he said. "Wherever your people are, they will be able to have cable-like access speed."

 

2010 Trend 9: The green IT mantra will be revived, but subtly.

Year-end update: Most small businesses are still color-blind, although they will respond to the cost message.
Thordarson's perspective is fairly typical: "I think people will buy green when it makes economical sense. But if you have two identical products, if green costs more, few people will consume the green products."

Others see continued opportunity to use the mantra of energy efficiency, in particular, as an argument for data center projects in large enterprises.

"This is a huge component of the green data center movement," said Mike Thompson, president and CEO of Groupware Technology, Campbell, Calif.

"You can do more with less, including less power. They won't pay more, but they will respond to green."

That said, being a green IT generalist isn't a viable strategy, noted Ciccarelli. Unless your team can offer specifics about the confusing elements of green IT -- including potential utility company incentives and the nuances of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program -- your message will fall on deaf ears. "Someone who is talking generally won't distinguish themselves," Ciccarelli said.

 

2010 Trend 10: Server virtualization will maintain its mojo.

Year-end update: Right on, and then some.
It actually is difficult to find IT solution providers for whom server virtualization has not been huge in 2010.

Thompson suggests that storage virtualization will be the broader theme as data center virtualization in general continues to become a more mainstream IT strategy.

"This train is still building momentum," echoed Thordarson. "It has a good head of steam, and it shows no signs of slowing down."

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York area with more than 20 years experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a B2B trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at bdarrow@techtarget.com, or follow us on twitter.

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