Virtualisation leads top 10 strategic technologies

Research firm lists most important computing trends for 2009

Gartner has ranked virtualisation as the number one strategic technology for next year, not for its "tremendously obvious" ability to virtualise servers, but for its increasing capability to virtualise just about everything else in a datacentre.

Much of what's on this annual list, released at the recent Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando, Florida, is familiar from last year. But Gartner has tweaked the rankings as it looked at the progress of these technologies, and has weighed its client and research feedback.

Here's the 2009 list:

1. Virtualisation (Ranked No. 5 last year.) In forecasting the impact of the economy on IT spending, Gartner put virtualisation near the top of must-have technologies. But to make the strategic technology list, it had to have other characteristics as well, namely a Swiss Army Knife-like capability to be applied beyond servers.

Gartner analyst Carl Claunch says that in storage, for example, virtualisation allows users to "to combine different kinds and generations of storage technology". That gives them the freedom to mix and match storage technologies based on competitive bids, he said.

2. Cloud computing (New to the list) Gartner sees cloud computing as having a massive game-changing role, not only as the platform for software as a service, but as a computing and storage infrastructure provider, as well as a platform for information and business processes.

3. Computing fabrics (No. 8 last year). Server technology is evolving to a point where users buy the physical resources they need, whether that is memory, I/O or processor, and fashion them together to create resource pools. A computing fabric "combines those [resources] as you need them," said Claunch. IT shops will, potentially, be able to dispense with their separate pools of small, medium and large servers under this model. Blade servers have some of this capability -- the ability to move memory and processor capability -- but it's limited to what's inside the chassis, he says.

4. Web-oriented architecture (New but similar to "the Web platform" -- No. 7 last year). Gartner talked last year about how the web will be the model for services delivery. This year, it discussed in terms of an architectural approach, how web models will influence service-oriented architectures. The architecture, as the name implies, uses web standards, identifiers, formats and protocols.

5. Enterprise mashups (No. 6 last year). Mashups, are becoming a serious enterprise tool, allowing users to use public APIs to combine various services and capabilities quickly. The content aggregation tools give business users the flexibility to combine data inside and outside the enterprise.

6. Specialised systems (New to the list). A Cisco router is an obvious example, but there are specialised appliances for Java, data warehousing and other processes. It's an approach that could lead to some cost savings, and "could be wide open" as an emerging trend, says Claunch.

7. Social software and social networking (No. 10 last year). The tools offer "the ability to work across the organisation in dynamic fashion," says Claunch.

8. Unified communications (No. 2 last year). Gartner said that over the next five year, "the number of different communications vendors companies may be reduced by at least 50%," thanks to unified communications.

9. Business intelligence (New). This is hardly new to enterprises, but increases in computing power are giving companies the means to expand business intelligence capabilities, such as applying BI analytics directly into business processes.

10. Green IT (No. 1 last year.) For IT, green is important, and that includes anything that can help cut the energy bill and reduce fuel use.

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