In a panel discussion at its annual Symposium/ITXpo conference in Cannes, France, Gartner analysts outlined the key technology developments relevant to businesses in Europe. They recommended what technologies businesses should consider implementing now, which trends to watch closely because they will need to be actioned soon, and the technologies that are over-hyped and can be put on the back-burner for the foreseeable future.

"Although IT spending has been depressed for the past two years, enterprise technologies have improved dramatically in that period. Many are now ready for prime time," said Steve Prentice, chief of research at Gartner, leading the panel discussion. "However, it's important for businesses to realize which technologies can really deliver value today and which, although promising, should be monitored rather than bought over the next three years."

"We are encouraging businesses to evaluate migrating their telecom services to IP VPN, refresh their desktops and outsource IT services offshore right now. IT managers should also be evaluating and preparing to adopt Web services, PC virtualization and wireless services in the next three years. However, there is a lot of hype surrounding 'on-demand' computing, 3G, 64 bit computing, grids and artificial intelligence, which we believe enterprises should hold off until at least 2008," said Prentice.

Analysts on the panel highlighted three focus areas that will be affected by technology developments – infrastructure management, risk management and IT management.

Now

Gartner believes that businesses can safely leverage the following technologies right now:

Infrastructure Management

  • Companies that are investing in new wide area networks are advised to migrate to IP virtual private network (VPN) technologies instead of frame, ATM and leased Lines. IP VPNs greatly increase network flexibility and, by choosing the right type for the right job, can result in WAN total cost of ownership (TCO) improvements for the enterprise in the order of 30 percent
  • IP Telephony has sufficiently matured for mainstream deployment and can lower TCO provided it does not require you to prematurely write-off existing equipment.
  • Cisco dominates most sectors of enterprise network equipment and often provides end-to-end solutions. However, the "Cisco premium" is rising to the point where enterprises should start looking at best of breed, buying from the other viable players in each sector. Doing so can result in 20 percent or more TCO savings.
  • Server and Storage Virtualization can deliver efficiency – evaluate it NOW!
  • Refresh the desktop. Over-capacity and favorable exchange rates make EMEA a buyers' market for hardware and software.
  • Price differentials and potential disposal costs mean it is time to switch to flat panel displays.
  • Watch service contract terms and conditions carefully! Maintenance and support services are where vendors recoup losses from discounts.

Risk Management

  • Deploy 802.11 wireless LANs within your enterprise or your users will! Wireless LANs can be made secure, but if deployed by end users they typically won't be. It is better for the IT organization to set up a professionally managed solution than ignore this trend. Either way a WLAN policy should be implemented.
  • Manage mobile devices before they manage you! Employees will use smart phones purchased individually whether or not they are company sanctioned. Vital and sensitive corporate data will be carried on these terminals and businesses need a strategy to deal with the potential risk, the provisioning and the tracking of all the devices used.
  • If you don't have a Sourcing Strategy you should be working to define it now, and it should include nearshore/offshore evaluation. Without a coherent enterprise-wide strategy any ad hoc sourcing deal will fail to achieve full value, and you will be in a weaker negotiating position with the ESP.
  • Disaster Recovery, security audit and policy, BASEL II, Sarbanes- Oxley – your data and your business are at risk unless you invest in the technologies needed to implement these processes and systems NOW!

IT Management

  • Transforming Business Processes should dominate your thinking - identify and recruit people who understand how to transform business processes across your organization.
  • Gartner analysts said: "Migrating telecom services should be a priority for all businesses," said Neil Rickard, research director at Gartner. "Now is the time to future-proof and build in flexibility to your telecoms, rather than sign up to a legacy service. Where organizations require a change and the former contract is up, it should migrate. It's still early, but IP telephony deployments can be justified because the initial cost will be returned by expected improvements in VoIP features and functionality."

    "Server and storage virtualisation is not just about consolidation to larger resources," said Andy Butler, vice president of Gartner Research. "Virtualization is the pooling of various IT resources in a way that masks the physical nature and boundaries of those resources from users. Virtualization technologies will allow you to consolidate more effectively. However, virtualization technologies will also make distributed resources easier to manage, reprovision and use efficiently."

    "New PC contracts should specify flat panel displays – they will last longer than conventional monitors and will cost less to dispose of at the end of their lives. Now is the time to start recovering desktop space for your users," said Brian Gammage, research area leader in the Hardware and Platforms group at Gartner. "Cathode Ray Tube displays still cost less than flat panel displays, but the differential is falling and will continue to do so – especially when the EC directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment forces vendors to factor in disposal costs at the end of next year."

    Next Year

    Gartner recommends that companies monitor the following trends and evaluate them for action in the next 12 to 36 months:

    Infrastructure Management:

    • SSL VPNs offer an easy to deploy alternative to IP Sec VPNs for remote access and extranets. However some of their benefits, such as access from non-company owned PC and kiosks, also present security challenges.
    • Telecoms and IT Services are converging rapidly. As outsourced hosted applications and business processes need to be delivered across networks it is becoming difficult to distinguish IT and network services. Is hosted e-mail a value-added network option or an IT service that is delivered across a network, for example? These two worlds will never totally overlap but the areas that do are significant and growing, and will create exploitable synergies.
    • Voice over WiFi will be a viable alternative to DECT by 2005. DECT standard cordless phones provide on-site voice mobility where cellular phones are not justified. As more organizations deploy WiFi they will find it convenient to use voice over the WiFi infrastructure rather than build a dedicated voice infrastructure. The power consumption and quality of service issues needed to make this happen will be addressed in the next 12-18 months.
    • Wait for Public WiFi hotspots. Telecom operators and public hotspot providers will not have seamless roaming and billing solutions in the next year. Only provide access to public hotspots to employees with a proven need, and proceed with caution.
    • Virtualization is coming to PCs by 2007, reducing migration costs by breaking the ties between hardware and software.
    • Linux on the desktop will become viable for some users. Long-term impact depends on Microsoft – look for price cuts in Windows and Office.
    • Itanium will offer scalability and performance to challenge RISC- based UNIX in the middle and back-office.
    • The IT utility is still a vision, but moves by major outsourcers and systems vendors are quickly making it a reality.
    • Advanced, secure Web services will be a reality by 2005.

    Risk Management:

    • Consolidation in the software sector will continue. More than 50 percent of software vendors will disappear by 2005, so corporations must plan for it.

    IT Management:

    • Enterprises need to deploy and strictly enforce a service-orientated architecture policy in order to combine operational and management processes and greatly improve business performance.

    Gartner analysts said: "Linux on the desktop has been one of this year's most topical subjects, but the discussion is over-hyped," said Brian Gammage. "Most of the attention has centered on a few state-sector contracts where local authorities were looking to avoid paying Microsoft's licensing fees. The real volume of contracts signed has been low. Moreover, we believe some Linux decisions were poorly made and will have higher costs later on. Linux does have a place on the desktop, especially for structured task workers operating in closed domains. How much market share Linux takes depends on whether Microsoft lowers prices, partly eliminating the main motivation for considering Linux. Some notable price moves have already taken place in emerging markets or particular deals and we expect to see more."
    "Virtualization promises to simplify the task and reduce the cost of migrating users from one PC to another. With PCs costing less and the potential that software prices might also come down, it is essential for users that the costs of migration also decrease. Hardware support is already on the horizon, but the solution will require multiple software layers that decouple the user ‘image’ from the underlying hardware. Who makes these layers and what licenses they incur will be key to achieving the objective. Look for Intel, Microsoft and the PC industry to reach agreements on this," said Gammage.

    "IT as a utility service is still a vision, but moves by major outsourcers and systems vendors are quickly making it a reality," said Nicole France, principal analyst for Services and Sourcing at Gartner. "Successful one-to-many service offerings in IT infrastructure will be established by 2005 and continue to develop through 2008." "By 2004, Web services will represent the dominant mode of deployment for new application solutions for Fortune 2000 companies," added Steve Prentice. "Advanced, secure Web services will be a reality by 2005."

    "When negotiating large-scale IT services contracts, buyers should assume there is a 50 percent chance that the service provider they are negotiating with will be involved in a merger or acquisition within 18 months. Contingency planning to deal with such a possibility should be included in the contract," said Nicole France.

    Not Yet

    Gartner believes that companies should ignore the excessive hype surrounding the following technologies because they will not be sufficiently mature to deliver tangible return on investment until at least 2007:

    • IP Version 6 remains strictly for network operators. IPv6 will be useful for fixing address space shortages, especially for emerging IP uses such as mobile networks. However, as most enterprises now use private IP addressing and translation to whatever public networks they touch, they will not need to change their internal networks, which would be hugely disruptive and expensive.
    • 3G will remain irrelevant through 2007.
    • Ultra-Wide Broadband (UWB) and Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO) radio antennas are still years away from deployment.
    • WiFi has won the battle as the standard set for Wireless LANs. Bluetooth, while fulfilling an important role as a cable replacement for personal area networks, does not make a "cheap W-LAN," partly due to range and throughput limitations, but also due to the poorer availability of equipment and supporting software.
    • RFID will appear in retail, but not for a long time in knowledge and service industries.
    • Home networking will not become mainstream before 2008.
    • Fiber to the home will not become mainstream before 2010.
    • Commercial grid application development remains too difficult and will wait until 2008.
    • 64 bit on the desktop won't be needed before 2008.
    • On-demand computing has made promising developments in discrete areas (hardware pricing, managed services) but marketing hype is way ahead of delivery. True "on-demand" IT infrastructure outsourcing does not yet exist.
    • Artificial intelligence, despite useful developments, remains a rich source of over-stated capabilities for the next decade (or more!).

    Gartner said: "Grid technology is relatively new, associated with the frontiers of science, and increasingly featured in magazines and conversations," said Andy Butler. "Vendors are motivated to sell products and services related to grids in order to participate in the high levels of funding available. This 'feeding frenzy' has caught the attention and imagination of the wider commercial markets, hoping to garner growth if grid catches on for more general needs outside of big science and defense projects. It is currently difficult to find agreement on what constitutes grid, particularly when evaluating the marketing uses of vendors and the more long- range, visionary pronouncements of advocates. Thus, we see many faces that claim to be grid, in some cases applying the term to large swaths of the IT landscape and many older technologies."

    Register or login for access to this item and much more

    All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

    Community members receive:
    • All recent and archived articles
    • Conference offers and updates
    • A full menu of enewsletter options
    • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

    Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access