Last week, we talked about where management and security software seem to be from an investment perspective - why IT is buying more in the present but remaining cautious about committing to buying in the future. It's a logical outcome of a willingness to step up to the need to be more competitive, but continued reticence to embark in long-term technology "building."\u00a0 We also suggested that 2004 should, hopefully, be a turnaround year in terms of support for more long-term planning.\u00a0\u00a0But beyond the obvious, high-level investment in management as a control system to help IT become more effective, efficient and business-aligned, what are the hot "catalysts" underneath, and what's fundamentally missing?\u00a0\u00a0 Many of this year's catalysts, I have to say, are not that different from those of last year.\u00a0 Real, meaningful growth areas, even in high tech - are not 'bubbles" but deeper, more significant trends.So here are a few areas that I believe will be next year's catalysts, with a few caveats.\u00a0 This is not a complete list - for instance there are many, smaller "sub-markets" of innovation that aren't touched.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0* Managing the service: Investments in service-level management (SLM) and related disciplines, such as usage-based modeling and even accounting, will grow steadily in 2004.\u00a0 The slowness here is because SLM is at the core of an oceanic trend with deep cultural and organizational issues.* Managing the assets: As SLM evolves, it must take on more of a business perspective.\u00a0 In EMA's next generation architecture paper, service management evolves into a virtually new approach to "asset management," where the IT infrastructure is understood and measured as a performing asset (investment) against a delivered service (product).\u00a0 Watch this space because there are a few real signs of life that might just begin to explode within one to three years.* VoIP management: This sector is attracting more and more attention, although more from the vendor community than the user.\u00a0 Is 2004 truly the year when VoIP will pop forward?\u00a0 Maybe. Cost savings are appealing; if only the cost of initial investments such as phones could drop.\u00a0 Management is key for VoIP, but so is an integrated strategy for incorporating and deploying VoIP across an enterprise as a part of broader service planning, including organization and process changes.\u00a0 That's why to some degree, trying to accelerate VoIP deployments by focusing on technology and segregating them from a broader service planning strategy will generally prove counterproductive. Trick question: What 'new' VoIP-enabled service will end-users actually care about?\u00a0* Integrated storage management: Bringing storage into more mainstream infrastructure control may, in my view, become near-term a higher priority in the real world than VoIP.\u00a0 The cost savings may turn out to be even greater, and the flexibility in giving end-users access to globally distributed data should provide strong productivity benefits.\u00a0* VPN management: This area is demonstrably receiving attention in a variety of flavors across enterprises and through service provider offerings.\u00a0 Most interesting proposition about VPNs: Are they a networking technology that's primarily about security, or primarily a new approach to provisioning applications?* Integrated security: This is not a new idea but then most trends are not limited to one-year life cycles.\u00a0 Integrated security, which takes a more systemic vs. niche approach to security management, is where the action will and should be in security.\u00a0While security investments have fallen behind mainstream management investments in 2003, integrated security, with a more systemic approach is, justifiably, red hot.* Mobility: Wireless, which unlike VoIP answers a core, actually visceral, end-user requirement, is still stumbling over technology issues (response, security) and choices of approach.\u00a0One of several areas to watch: The growth and creative extensions to Wi-Fi as a cornerstone design point.\u00a0\u00a0* On-demand\/Adaptive computing management: I believe that 2004 will be the year in which either the heightened focus on automation and business alignment from market leaders such as BMC, Computer Associates, HP, IBM\u00a0 (note alphabetical order) will get real legs, real credibility and meaning, or drift into the stratosphere to the tune of "Impossible Dream."\u00a0 I'm hoping for the former.\u00a0 In either case, automation and business alignment will survive as core requirements for future management evolution.* Configuration management: This retains a core position from last year, although it might be viewed as a sub-market.\u00a0 We're seeing accelerated signs of awakening mind share in the fourth quarter of 2003 and expect this to continue into next year. The question mark indicates the fact that "configuration" is still a market seeking clarity - what does it mean?\u00a0 Is it about change management, security and compliance, availability, performance, optimization or provisioning?\u00a0 Answer: All of the above.* Web services: This will be a lot more important to application developers than real businesses in 2004 - nothing new there.\u00a0 But all the buzz will result in some progress towards pragmatism and deployments.\u00a0What's missing that might get in the way?\u00a0The short answer is a lack of a real business vision of where IT needs to go.\u00a0 During the bubble (so recent, and yet so long ago) the vision was defined by a faith in technology as a "horse to ride," in that the Internet and Oz became synonymous.\u00a0 In this faith, IT becomes the conduit between the real business and the magical realm of "high technology."\u00a0 Take away that faith and one has to ask, what's IT about today besides being stressed?The answer so far, is still far from clear. From a technology perspective, our unique definition of "asset management" is as close as we've seen it get.\u00a0 But there are broader questions remaining that have to do with high technology itself: Will we push towards a true commoditization of service and process, or recognize that all high-tech is an enabler for human behavior, desire, dialog and performance and as such, resides as both a tool and an influence within a realm of infinite possibility.