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Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009

by David Cearley  |  October 14, 2008  |  29 Comments

Every year at fall Symposium we release our top 10 strategic technologies list. Along with my colleague Carl Claunch I have the honor of creating this list based on input from the broad Gartner analyst community, analysis of Gartner surveys and other market data and direct input from various Gartner clients. Here is our list for 2009:
1. Virtualization
2. Business Intelligence
3. Cloud Computing
4. Green IT
5. Unified Communications
6. Social Software and Social Networking
7. Web Oriented Architecture
8. Enterprise Mashups
9. Specialized Systems
10. Servers – Beyond Blades

Here is a little more detail on the topics:

Virtualization. Much of the current buzz is focused on server virtualization, but virtualization in storage and client devices is also moving rapidly. Virtualization to eliminate duplicate copies of data on the real storage devices while maintaining the illusion to the accessing systems that the files are as originally stored (data deduplication) can significantly decrease the cost of storage devices and media to hold information. Hosted virtual images deliver a near-identical result to blade-based PCs. But, instead of the motherboard function being located in the data center as hardware, it is located there as a virtual machine bubble.  Various virtualization approaches have significant potential to reduce IT costs

Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence (BI), the top technology priority in Gartner’s 2008 CIO survey, can have a direct positive impact on a company’s business performance, dramatically improving its ability to accomplish its mission by making smarter decisions at every level of the business from corporate strategy to operational processes. BI is particularly strategic because it is directed toward business managers and knowledge workers who make up the pool of thinkers and decision makers that are tasked with running, growing and transforming the business. Tools that let these users make faster, better and more-informed decisions are particularly valuable in a difficult business environment.

Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is a style of computing that characterizes a model in which providers deliver a variety of IT-enabled capabilities to consumers. They key characteristics of cloud computing are 1) delivery of capabilities “as a service,” 2) delivery of services in a highly scalable and elastic fashion, 3) using Internet technologies and techniques to develop and deliver the services, and 4) designing for delivery to external customers. Although cost is a potential benefit for small companies, the biggest benefits are the built-in elasticity and scalability, which not only reduce barriers to entry, but also enable these companies to grow quickly. As certain IT functions are industrializing and becoming less customized, there are more possibilities for larger organizations to benefit from cloud computing.  However, caution is advised since significant privacy and security issues exist.  Cloud computing is not appropriate for the full spectrum of enterprise applications.

Green IT. Shifting to more efficient products and approaches can allow for more equipment to fit within an energy footprint, or to fit into a previously filled center. Regulations are multiplying and have the potential to seriously constrain companies in building data centers, as the effect of power grids, carbon emissions from increased use and other environmental impacts are under scrutiny. Organizations should consider regulations and have alternative plans for data center and capacity growth.  In the near term the environmental benefits will likely take a back seat to the cost savings from lower energy use.

Unified Communications. During the next five years, the number of different communications vendors with which a typical organization works with will be reduced by at least 50 percent. This change is driven by increases in the capability of application servers and the general shift of communications applications to common off-the-shelf server and operating systems. As this occurs, formerly distinct markets, each with distinct vendors, converge, resulting in massive consolidation in the communications industry. Organizations must build careful, detailed plans for when each category of communications function is replaced or converged, coupling this step with the prior completion of appropriate administrative team convergence.  Unified communications can be used to streamline existing business processes improving operational efficiencies in the near term and supporting more aggressive transformational efforts longer term.

Social Software and Social Networking. Social software includes a broad range of technologies, such as social networking, social collaboration, social media and social validation.  Enterprises should establish a strategy to monitor and engage in external social networking as it relates to their business because the greatest risk lies in failure to engage and thereby, being left mute in a dialogue where your voice must be heard.  Enterprises should consider adding a social dimension to conventional Web sites to enhance the customer experience – an important consideration in a highly competitive slow/no growth economy.  Enterprises should also examine use of social software to extend internal collaboration applications to support specific and targeted communication and coordination needs.

Web-Oriented Architectures. The Internet is arguably the best example of an agile, interoperable and scalable service-oriented environment in existence. This level of flexibility is achieved because of key design principles inherent in the Internet/Web approach, as well as the emergence of Web-centric technologies and standards that promote these principles. The use of Web-centric models to build global-class solutions cannot address the full breadth of enterprise computing needs. However, Gartner expects that continued evolution of the Web-centric approach will enable its use in an ever-broadening set of enterprise solutions during the next five years.

Enterprise Mashups. Enterprises are now investigating taking mashups from cool Web hobby to enterprise-class systems to augment their models for delivering and managing applications. Through 2010, the enterprise mashup product environment will experience significant flux and consolidation, and application architects and IT leaders should investigate this growing space for the significant and transformational potential it may offer their enterprises.  In the near term mashups should be used to create visualization dashboards and opportunistic end user applications that fill gaps in the current application portfolio and provide support for existing business process needs.

Specialized Systems. Appliances have been used to accomplish IT purposes, but only with a few classes of function have appliances prevailed. Heterogeneous systems are an emerging trend in high-performance computing to address the requirements of the most demanding workloads, and this approach will eventually reach the general-purpose computing market. Heterogeneous systems are also specialized systems with the same single-purpose imitations of appliances, but the heterogeneous system is a server system into which the owner installs software to accomplish its function.

Servers — Beyond Blades. Servers are evolving beyond the blade server stage that exists today. This evolution will simplify the provisioning of capacity to meet growing needs. The organization tracks the various resource types, for example, memory, separately and replenishes only the type that is in short supply. This eliminates the need to pay for all three resource types to upgrade capacity. It also simplifies the inventory of systems, eliminating the need to track and purchase various sizes and configurations. The result will be higher utilization because of lessened “waste” of resources that are in the wrong configuration or that come along with the needed processors and memory in a fixed bundle.  This trend should be factored into longer range strategic planning during 2009 but most organizations will not be purchasing such systems in 2009.

What do you think? What did we leave out that you feel is important? Are there items on the list that you would not have included?

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Category: top-10  

Tags: add-new-tag  top-10  

David W. Cearley

18 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

David Cearley is a vice president and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research and is a leading authority on information technology. As a member of Gartner Research, Mr. Cearley analyzes emerging business and technology trends and explores how these trends shape the way individuals....Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009

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  3. Ophir Kra-Oz says:

    Hi Dave,

    Two more points beyond my other long blog post.
    One might claim that servers don’t need to too far beyond blades.And I’m not sure why specialized systems are needed as well.
    It seems to world is moving to using simple commodity servers and networks and using sophisticated software to get the ultimate flexibility.
    If the hypervisor is the ultimate platform the servers only need to run x86 as fast as possible. When there is a need for dedicated functions use dedicated virtual appliances. When a specialized system is needed a set of Virtual Appliances can be tied together to a single prototype ( maybe similar to VMWARE vApp concept ).

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  5. Dave

    can you comment on why the ordering here is different to the order that has been shared quite widely on the web. I used on my own blog at after seeing on ZDNet



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  8. Nigel Walsh says:

    as for Enterprise Mashups, the more people I ask the more varying answers we get. We have put together a very simple poll here on what an Enterprise Mashup is and isnt.

    Once we have completed the poll we will happily report back

    Nigel Walsh | Corizon

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