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Other Voices: 8 IT Predictions for 2010

Jake Sorofman works at rPath, a company that provides tools for automating application deployment and maintenance across physical, virtual, and cloud environments. Contact Jake at [email protected]

To paraphrase philosopher Thomas Hobbes, 2009 was nasty, brutish and not short enough. It was a year characterized by uncertainty and punctuated by pain. It was a year of survival -- a year of sacrificing to serve the most basic needs. It was a year many of us may prefer to forget.

Another famous philosopher (Plato) rightly observed that necessity is the mother of invention. Adversity forces us to innovate, economize and solve problems creatively.

That's why -- despite hardscrabble days -- 2009 is a year we shouldn't soon forget. In fact, it's a year we ought to remember -- as the year that changed enterprise IT. You see, 2009 brought us to the brink -- and on the way, it forced us to think.

And in the process, we learned to adapt. Which is a good thing because this adaptation is by no means temporary.

Mercifully, the tone next year is bound to be more positive -- more hope, less sky-is-falling despair. But I can assure you that the IT agenda will focus, once again, on cost reduction. Only this time, it won't be tactical. It will be strategic.

Which brings me to my 2010 predictions, offered in no particular order:

1. Virtualization Rising. Not surprisingly, this juggernaut will continue to top the agenda for 2010, as physical hardware spending continues to contract under the "halo of the hypervisor" -- a technology with a cap ex ROI that is hard to beat.

2. Clouds Forming. Still early days for cloud, but 2009 science projects will give way to real enterprise production usage, as IT leaders are emboldened by non-production experience and competitive pressures mount. Expect the first half of the year to be more of the same, with real success stories appearing in the back half.

3. Storm Warnings. Cloud will march on, but we'll see more handwringing about the hidden costs of this approach. Security and data privacy will continue to top the discussion, but we'll see a heightened awareness of the climbing management costs caused by explosive growth in the number of running software systems.

4. Self-service IT Takes Shape. Inspired by the rise of the cloud and the pressure to remove the IT bottleneck, leadership will get serious about service catalogs and self-service initiatives that delegate key IT tasks to decentralized stakeholders, reducing costs and allowing IT to -- finally -- move at the speed of business.

5. Conquering Complexity. The growing diversity of software and interdependency of software systems will collide with the accelerating pace of change and compounding growth in server volume to create a complexity mess of nightmarish proportions. Taking this on will be a major priority for IT leadership.

6. Automation Expands. IT will expand investment in process automation to deal with exploding complexity, enable self-service initiatives, standardize ad hoc processes, and "do more with less." Particularly notable will be release automation because it offsets the system management costs of virtualization and cloud.

7. IT Roles Shift. The emergence of cloud and other self-service compute models and the continued growth of process automation will force IT roles to shift from doing to directing. Defining and enforcing policies will become the new role of IT.

8. The Application-Centric Data Center Emerges. IT will "get lean," shifting from infrastructure- to application-centric in orientation. Systems will become complete, self-contained and self-describing, including just the infrastructure they require to run. They'll be set free to run anywhere -- internal and external, physical, virtual or cloud. The application will become the unit of deployment and the unit of management -- and IT will get out of the infrastructure business.

So, that's it -- eight IT predictions for 2010. Let's see if I hit the mark after we ring in the New Year. In the meantime, let me know what you see on the horizon.

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