2009 Will be a Year of Change, Challenge and Opportunity for Data Center Managers

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The old maxim, "may you live in interesting times" certainly holds true for data managers and professionals these days. The year 2008 was full of changes and challenges, and 2009 promises even more. To look ahead on the challenges emerging, we canvassed industry leaders across the IT landscape to get their views on what to expect in the year ahead.

1) IT Will Be The Primary Engine For Businesses Recovery In 2009: Pam Taylor, president of SHARE, observes that "technology has rapidly evolved from being 'cool stuff' to being the very foundation upon which our businesses-whether they be corporate, government, or academic-depend for continued success. In the recent period of economic growth, we've deployed technology to improve the efficiency of our internal business, automated transactions between and among all kinds of businesses all over the world, made our Internet space just as important and dynamic as our physical space, made our staffs both more mobile and more inter-connected, and amassed vast storehouses of data from which we can derive information that informs our decisions."

While 2009 may see emphasis on expense management and delaying capital investments, this presents new opportunities for IT to demonstrate value to the business as well. Areas IT can concentrate on include project prioritization, use of external resources such as cloud computing, and understanding how to re-factor and re-combine existing solutions to rapidly respond to changing needs. "If we're smart about what we undertake during the economic downturn, we can position our enterprise IT to be immediately ready to take on the demands of growth. That's the kind of value that a business can ill-afford to ignore. Doing it successfully and demonstrably to business leaders is a recipe for IT success even in the most challenging times." Taylor adds that economic conditions may also "accelerate initiatives to reduce power costs and recover stranded capacity in deployed infrastructure, leading to more total enterprise virtualization and green data centers. At the same time, the heightened need for competitive differentiation in a tight economy "will likely emphasize the need for IT agility, accelerating projects to deploy broader service orientation and to utilize alternative models such as cloud computing or SaaS resources."

2) More 'Silver Linings' Will Emerge from Tough Economic Conditions: Jim Swartz, CIO of Sybase, says that the turbulent economy will drive greater IT-business alignment. "Many organizations have already begun to cut their bottom line by transitioning to a green data center," he points out. "In 2009, enterprises can reduce business costs even further by streamlining both IT and business practices. To do so, the task at hand is two-fold: Understand overall needs from business units across the enterprise and identify any overlap, and align IT infrastructure to meet business process and data storage needs."

3) Rise of the Well-Managed 'Intra-Cloud': "Ultimately, the ideal mix for larger enterprises may be to have a combination of both public and private clouds, which will allow enterprises control over their critical resources and private data while simultaneously enabling the scalability and efficiency inherent in cloud computing," according to Brian Ott, vice president and CTO of systems and technology for Unisys. "Right now, cloud computing is much more geared toward consumer and retail applications, but we're starting to see a shift toward the enterprise cloud or, as some people call it, an intra-cloud."

4) Green IT Will Meet the Cloud: "Cloud computing can help organizations of all sizes go green by providing a shared infrastructure with virtualization capabilities," says David McQueeney, vice president of technology and strategy for IBM Software Group. "By leveraging shared infrastructure to deploy and balance IT resources for computing tasks in real-time, enterprises can significantly reduce their carbon footprints while freeing up IT resources and decreasing infrastructure operating and maintenance costs."

5) Clouds and Grids Will Converge: "We believe that 2009 will be the year that cloud and grid computing become practical," says Gerry Libertelli, CEO, ReadyTechs. "Companies will realize that they can create entire replicas of their internal networks in a co-located, remote cloud; drastically reducing the cost of building and maintaining a disaster recovery site. They scale their systems by being able to incrementally add processing power over time-creating their own unique upgrade path, independent of the hardware vendors."

6) More Urgent Calls for Data Governance: "The current financial crisis has underscored the need for improved data governance, better transparency and the need to more accurately calculate risk. Data governance will emerge as a required discipline for organizations, giving rise to greater trust," says Steven B. Adler, program director for IBM Data Governance Solutions and chairman of the IBM Data Governance Council.

7) Virtualization Will Mature as an Enterprise Approach: Virtualization is reaching maturity this year, presenting new capabilities and new challenges. Luc Blanchet, director of software and support services for Amadeus, says that his company is moving from the test stage to the mission-critical production stage for virtualization. "For the really large data centers, like the one we run at Amadeus, virtualization still has only been running in test environments. We are now comfortable that we can begin to introduce virtualization technology into our production environment. This is partly because of advances in virtualization products, but mostly because we now feel we have spent sufficient time working with the technology to understand how to achieve the resource and efficiency benefits it offers in a robust and secure way."

8) More 'Baking In' of Virtualization into Enterprise IT Planning: However, Andrew Hillier, CTO and co-founder of CiRBA, cautions that virtualization will add complexity to systems decisions. "As virtualization enters 'grade two,' there will be a lot more homework, there will be fewer games where everyone is a winner, and there will be a lot more people reading the report cards," he said. "This will underscore the need for quantitative ways of evaluating options, understanding the decisions, and the days of simply cutting a PO to the 'default vendor' will be gone. This trend will be compounded by economic uncertainty, which will cause a high priority to be placed on exploiting proven cost-cutting measures. Ultimately, virtualization planning will become a much more rigorous process."

9) More Concern About Virtualization Security: Along with increased virtualization will come concerns about associated security practices. Chris Whitener, chief strategist for HP Secure Advantage, points out that "organizations should select a virtualization technology that provides strong security isolation between 'guest OS' instances if needed. Additionally, while deploying workloads on virtualized platforms increases mobility, flexibility and agility, this does not mean that the physical infrastructure can be ignored."

10) Economy Will Drive More Open Source: Tough economic times make it more difficult to raise funding for new systems, and open source solutions will be more attractive than ever as an initial low-cost alternative. "On the whole, too few CIOs have made the switch to open source and SaaS-based sourcing strategies. This period of economic uncertainty should change all that," says Doug Harr, CIO of Ingres Corp. "Bad economic times can be a perfect time to swap out old investments for new."