Gartner kicks off 20th anniversary tech symposium

Total IT spending, now at $1.9 trillion, is expected to grow to $2.8 trillion by 2014

ORLANDO -- Gartner kicked off the 20th anniversary of its tech symposium with a call for enterprises to do more outsourcing to cloud service providers, try to influence their businesses through technical innovations, and make use of information gained in social networking.

Gartner warns of emerging 'super vendors'

Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's senior vice president of research, recapped some key growth statistics in his opening remarks. It took roughly 10 years for PC sales to reach 100 million units in 1990. The PC is now at 1.4 billion units and expected to reach 2 billion units in 2015, he said. Meanwhile, growth of mobile phones is at roughly 10 billion units today. (See "Nearly 20 million tablets to be sold in 2010, Gartner predicts".)  

The Web now totals about 250 million sites and a trillion pages, with about 1.8 billion unique users worldwide. There are now 31 billion Google searches performed each month, and the IT universe is driven by consumers and businesses in search of information.

Total IT spending, now at $1.9 trillion, is expected to grow to $2.8 trillion by 2014 -- though IT spending in financial services, transportation and manufacturing won't recover from their 2008 levels until 2012 due to the impact of the recession, Sondergaard noted.

"The Web is now the default communication channel for the world's population," Sondergaard said. "We've created a platform for massive change. Information will be the oil of the 21st century."

The next great wave that will rise up on this ocean is going to include cloud computing, defined as scalable and elastic services for IT capabilities, as well as "context-aware computing," which will "change the IT industry, and change the financial model," Sondergaard said. There's going to be a sense of "discontinuity" because of it, he added.

Context-aware computing will include an effort to identify users based on attributes such as language, geography, identity, community and wireless technologies, to make use of physical and virtual locations to determine patterns of behavior.

Pattern-based strategy will be a way of computing to adapt accordingly in business over the next five years through social networking analysis and predictive analytics tools.

While the full confluence of these trends is unknown, the eventual changes will be "diametrically opposite" to many practices of IT in the last 40 years, Sondergaard said, because IT will not be so internally focused on just the process of optimizing IT. And it will impact all the vendors, and possibly give rise to the notion of "super vendors" that will use cash flow to purchase innovation -- and be challenged to maintain it.

Gartner analysts are now sounding the drum on a need for radical change within the IT department to meet the expectations of a future where social networking will likely play a large role in how their enterprises interact with customers.

And as data centers come up for structural changes -- Gartner analyst Eric Knipp said more than half of the attending audience will be structurally changing or replacing their data centers in five years -- there's going to be a sense of disruption because the old way of building solutions to fit a specific purpose may not meet more fast-paced business needs.

"The new CIO and team will have to be entrepreneurial," said Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst Nick Jones. "They will have to be comfortable with ambiguity and incomplete requirements. Ultimately, these new CIOs will be business people."

Jones said cloud computing could potentially save 50% in operational costs by moving IT functions to the cloud. There will be a greater sense of "seize the moment.""IT needs to learn acceptable risk," Sondergaard said, and there's a "re-focusing of the role of the CIO." He added: "No risk means no business value.

In a session Monday, Gartner analyst David Cappuccio picked up the theme in a presentation on 10 infrastructure and operations trends to watch.

The 10 trends Gartner identified are virtualization; "Big Data" and swelling data-processing; energy efficiency and monitoring; unified communications; staff retention and re-training; social networks; legacy migration; compute density; cloud computing and converged fabrics.

"Business trends are shaping storage," Cappuccio said. "Cloud-based services offer an alternative to on-premises IT infrastructure."

He suggested to Gartner attendees that when it comes to cloud computing, they evaluate commodity services to see what's not considered "mission critical," and evaluate whether a cloud delivery model would work. In the future, the concept of "fabric computing," a blending of infrastructure, where virtualization will be everywhere, is "the future, eventually."

In a presentation on leading in times of transition, Mark McDonald, Gartner group vice president, struck a similar chord, saying, "A fundamental shift is going on deep in the way people are thinking about IT."

The recession has left a lot of scars, "and left the world fundamentally different," McDonald argued. The focus now is not so much making things efficient -- "you have to do that anyway" he pointed out -- but now you "need speed and scale."

The processing systems that IT has put in place can be a means to start towards other goals, though he also advised that enterprises determine "the commodity stuff and put it in the cloud."

"You are the primary driver of scale inside your enterprise," McDonald said. He said 2011 will be a year of transition that will drive enterprises in search of new customers, with e-commerce playing a major role, and there's a need to "create a flexible business and technical infrastructure."

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