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Gartner Identifies Key Trends That Will Drive Technology Further into the Business

  • May 19 2006, 1:00am EDT

IT is creating an unstoppable whirlwind of change that will bring about a level of transformation in people's personal lives, within the enterprise, and within society that is possibly greater than at any time since the industrial revolution, according to Gartner, Inc.During the opening keynote today at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, being held in San Francisco through May 18, Gartner analysts examined four pairs of trends that are driving this transformation. The four pairs of trends are: commoditization and consumerization; virtualization and tera-architectures; software delivery models and development styles; and community and collaboration.

"Over the next 30 years, we will continue to see technology driving further into the business, but the real transformation will be the way technology reaches us as individuals and changes the way we work and play," said David Willis, research vice president at Gartner. "If the last 30 years have been about delivering technology to the enterprise, the next 30 years will be about technology transforming the lives of individuals."

Trend One: Commoditization and Consumerization

Many technology segments are already commoditized today. PCs, storage and bandwidth are essentially commodities, where buyers can get essentially the same "product" irrespective of who they choose. Gartner analysts see this trend continuing to encompass elements of software and services as well.

With the growing affordability of technology that commoditization brings, the IT industry is starting to experience a major move towards what Gartner describes as the consumerization of IT. The consumerization of IT refers to the impact that technologies, products and approaches adopted by consumers, or designed for consumer use, have on the rest of the IT world (developers, technology providers and enterprises).

"Overall, commoditization and consumerization are about the increasing affordability of technology, the changes in societal behavior that come about because of this and the impact those changes have on an enterprise in terms of how it meets the rapidly changing demand and expectations of its customers and employees," said Steve Prentice, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Together, these trends mark a major shift in the balance of power between the technology providers, business, individuals and even the state."

Trend Two: Virtualization and Tera-Architectures

The second pair of trends are about the pooling of IT resources in a way which masks the physical nature and finite boundaries of those devices from users.

An example of where virtualization can have a significant impact on IT infrastructure is within the server industry. It is becoming commonplace to find instances where server virtualization creates multiple virtual machines or partitions on a single physical device. Its most common use is to collapse several under-utilized servers into virtual servers on one physical machine. This can improve server utilization by 80 percent.

"Applications are no longer bound to boxes, as IT managers can deploy virtual servers to the resources that best match their computing demands," said Martin Reynolds, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "This gives these IT leaders the flexibility to manage rapidly changing priorities in the demand for computing resources, and to better use their computing infrastructure."

IT infrastructure needs to be built of granular components that discover each other, and self-assemble into a computing resource. It becomes scalable without human intervention beyond racking and power. "This scalable, zero-management approach leads to the tera-architecture, infrastructure systems capable of increasing computing capabilities by orders of magnitude over what we can do today, within the same budget envelope," Mr. Reynolds said.

Trend Three: Software Delivery Models and Development Styles

The concept of increasing granularity, new ways of managing and delivering services to meet the needs of business, is also important in the evolution of the software industry. The third pair of trends is the way software is developed, and the changing way in which users are acquiring software. Gartner analysts said the new software delivery and development models really focus on people.

"Control is moving from programmers to everyone," said Daryl Plummer, group vice president and chief Gartner Fellow. "We are moving from a world where people were expected to behave the way computers work to a world where computers work the way people actually behave. It's about what we do with the software instead of what the software is, or how it is implemented."

There are three guiding principals for the new delivery model. For software: Don't own, rent; don't buy applications, buy solutions; and don't buy features, buy capabilities.

The software industry continues to move towards software as a service. Software as a service provides flexibility that leads to agility. It provides IT leaders with many options, and then it lets the business decide how those options will be used.

Trend Four: Community and Collaboration

Individuals, as employees and customers, have embraced virtual communities, so companies can't avoid doing the same. Gartner analysts said the average knowledge worker participates in 10 virtual communities today. Within 10 years, 80 percent of the work performed by employees will be collaborative rather than people working alone.

The people now entering the work force are highly collaborative and community-centric. College and high school students are embracing social networking communities. However, when Gartner analysts talk to companies, many companies don't recognize collaboration and community technologies to be mandatory investments.

"To date, community and collaboration have been on the fringe of people's thinking, they were secondary to other considerations," said Kathy Harris, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "From now on, these technologies have to be the first order of consideration when you prioritize your IT investments."

The latest generation of Internet technology, including Web 2.0, and service oriented architecture (SOA), will extend the scope, scale and potential for communities and collaborative working. Gartner analysts said the change will go beyond cool features and widgets. This next generation will support new collaborative approaches to software development and will integrate consumer-class technologies into corporate computing environments.

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