Data Management

Five Tech Trends to Watch in 2008

Hits and misses, must-haves and have-nots, blockbusters and duds. It’s that time of year: time to take a close look at what technologies have established a sound foundation to become IT’s hottest as the new year unfolds, and which ones may take a hit after a great deal of hype.

With the ballots tallied, Vista, WiMax, virtualization, unified communications and green computing look like the attention-getters for 2008.

No. 1: Vista Moves Into the Corporate Mainstream

One cannot underestimate the power of Microsoft and its titanium grip on the desktop. Microsoft accounts for close to 93 percent of all the operating system sales, with Apple Macintoshes garnering about 6 percent, and Linux struggling to reach the 1 percent mark, according to estimates from Net Applications, which collects statistics and sells services focusing on Internet application infrastructure.

Because of that dominant position, the buildup to Vista’s arrival was long and grandiose. So, will the new OS’s performance match its marketing deluge? The answer appears to be yes. While the new operating system garnered less than 1 percent of total operating system shipment in January, it grew to close to 10 percent by November, according to Net Applications.

Microsoft seems in a good position to leverage its foundation for even greater market penetration in 2008. A number of server-based applications, such as Exchange and SharePoint, are poised for delivery, and that could drive further sales of its operating system. Delivery of Service Pack 1 for Vista — a collection of updates, fixes and enhancements to the program — is working its way into the marketplace.

No. 2: WiMax Enters Put Up or Shut Up Phase

The need for more speed is incessant in computer networks. As a result, the WiMax (the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) standard has emerged as a way to deliver more bandwidth in wireless wide area networks (WANs).

WiMax standards, which fall under the IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.16 banner, support wireless WANs with speeds ranging from 1 mbps (megabit per second) to 70 mbps and compete with broadband services, like digital subscriber lines (DSL), cellular data services and WAN WiFi.

WiMax, which has been hyped during the past few years, faces a critical test in 2008. After a few false starts, products are beginning to ship, and that has forced influential vendors, such as Cisco, into the marketplace. Also, WAN WiFi has been losing its luster as a number of local governments’ planned deployments have been put on hold, so there is an opening for a new high-bandwidth network option.

However, WiMax may not take advantage of the emerging opportunity. “Carriers have been rolling out WiMax services more slowly than anticipated,” noted Craig Mathias, principal analyst at market research firm Farpoint Group. Sprint Nextel had a much ballyhooed deal with Clearwire, a startup backed by wireless industry maven Craig McCaw, to build a nationwide WiMax network in the U.S. That deal went south for a variety of reasons, with the most significant ones centering on Sprint’s lackluster financial performance recently.

As 2008 approaches, WiMax is at a crossroads. Will it become the most popular next-generation wireless WAN transport that supporters envisioned, or will it wither on the vine? “WiMax will gain a great deal of acceptance in underserved countries, but will not be as popular in industrialized nations like the U.S. and Europe,” Mathias told TechNewsWorld.

No. 3: Unified Communications Streamline Information Flow

With users possessing an ever widening range of communications devices (cell phones, handhelds, laptops, desktops, personal digital assistants), contacting associates has become a challenge for many executives. Important calls do not connect, and messages sometimes get buried.

Unified communications helps executives dig out from the clutter and takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out how to reach someone ASAP. The sender enters a single number, and the company’s unified communications system goes through the process of tracking down the recipient.

Because of recent changes in how companies support voice communications, unified messaging may now be poised for a major uptick in usage. “Many businesses now have VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology running, and are looking to add new applications, such as unified communications, on top of it,” Rich Costello, research director at market research firm Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

No. 4: Virtualization Maximizes Hardware Investments

Companies have invested oodles of money in their computer hardware. Rather than have these systems sit idly, they want to maximize their use of these resources. Virtualization refers to running multiple operating systems simultaneously on the same computer. While the concept has been around for a long time on high-end servers, new software and hardware advanced the idea.

“Many companies are now in the middle of virtualization projects,” Pete Lindstrom, senior analyst at the Burton Group, told TechNewsWorld. Virtualization offers companies a wide range of advantages, ranging from scrapping old hardware to reducing their maintenance requirements to even cutting electricity bills.

No. 5: IT Looks to Help Mother Earth

IT technology has helped companies streamline business processes and improve efficiency, but it has never been kind to the environment. The amount of processing power and bandwidth IT systems use has been increasing, so the amount of energy they consume and the volume of toxins they emit have also been on the rise.

Every product shortcoming represents a potential new opportunity for enterprising entrepreneurs, so it is not surprising that recently vendors have begun promoting their products’ greenness. In July 2007, HP, which recycles its printer cartridges, mobile batteries, network equipment and computers, set a target of reusing 2 billion pounds of products by 2010.

The movement has also expanded beyond the corporate boundaries. The IEEE formed an Energy Efficient Ethernet to study developing extensions to its 802.3 Ethernet specifications to make them more environmentally friendly.

As such products make their way to market, the question becomes: Will companies pay a premium for them? The answer to that question may be clear at this time next year, when talk will shift to the top trends for 2009.

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