TechRepublic: 10 tech trends to watch in 2011

What do IT shops really think about the cloud? Where will companies
invest this year? Which tech areas will become the next big vendor
battlegrounds? Technology evolves rapidly, and that evolution is
driven by the market, which means a new product or platform will be
successful only if the IT community fully recognizes and adopts it.
There is a lot of buzz right now over cloud services adoption,
platform vendor battles, and shifting technology investment
strategies, but, what happens in 2011 — and what doesn't — will be
determined by actual practices within the IT community.
In-the-trenches IT practitioners surveyed at Quest Software's The
Experts Conference 2010 have provided insights into technology trends
that appear likely to emerge this year. Here is a look at the top 10.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Cloud computing adoption will accelerate, but half of all companies
will avoid the cloud for at least five years
Adoption in cloud computing has lagged behind media predictions, but
growth in cloud deployments is likely to accelerate this year.
However, cloud computing is a major cultural switch for organizations
used to developing and supporting their own business applications. So
while there is genuine interest in the cloud, nearly 40 percent of
survey respondents said their organizations had no plans to use cloud
services. As a result, the adoption curve for cloud computing will not
follow the bell curve typical of most new technologies. After an
initial surge of adoption, growth will slow until cautious companies
see proof of success from early adopters. Once a critical mass of
users establishes success, competitive pressures will force the
remaining companies to adopt cloud services.

2: There's no go-to cloud platform provider, so the vendor wars will
heat up this year
While the big players are competing for market dominance, there is not
yet a clear leader. Just three percent of survey respondents selected
a primary cloud platform, with their selections evenly split between
Microsoft Azure Services Platform, Google App Engine, and Amazon Web
Services. This indicates that the competition for market dominance is
still wide open and likely will intensify. The stakes are high for the
company able to achieve platform supremacy, given the projected size
of the market as computing shifts to the cloud.

3: Organizations that adopt cloud computing will create new
organizational structures to support the initiatives
New administrative teams dedicated to supporting cloud services are
beginning to emerge within the organizational structures of companies
shifting to the cloud. Although only 9 percent of survey respondents
have established these teams, like the emergence of dedicated web
development teams during the dawn of the Internet era, it is an
indicator that leading-edge companies recognize that provisioning and
support of cloud services will be fundamentally different from current
application delivery models.

4: IT will adopt email cloud services first
Survey results showed people are most interested in email as a cloud
service. Approximately 50 percent of the companies using, currently
evaluating, or planning to deploy cloud services have or are
considering email. This high level of interest indicates that email as
a service is a culturally viable option for many companies. It also
shows they are not completely satisfied with their current email
system implementations, opening the door for a cloud-delivered
alternative. Right now, though, much of the interest is in the initial
stages; enterprises are waiting for email offerings to mature, which
means truly widespread adoption is still likely years away.

5: Cloud decisions made outside of IT will lead to less vendor
standardization and more "best-of-breed" purchases
Not all cloud service purchase decisions are made within IT. In fact,
IT is often not involved in, and may not even be aware of, every cloud
service used within their enterprises. The ease of use and scalability
of many cloud solutions enables business area managers to choose their
own platforms and applications rather than rely on centralized
decisions by IT.

6: Inadequate cloud service contingency plans will cause high-profile trouble
Even as 34 percent of survey respondents cite cost reduction as the
primary driver for considering cloud services, the newness of cloud
service delivery models, coupled with this strong focus on cost
reduction, means some IT organizations will underestimate the need for
proper contingency planning for service outages. Lack of a proper
contingency plan or too much reliance on cloud service providers for
adequate backup is likely to result in some high-profile
finger-pointing in the event of a significant outage.

7: Federation will become the standard for sharing identity information
Use of federation to share identity information across domains and
enable business users to access multiple systems and services has
grown steadily over the past several years and is likely to become a
standard part of IT delivery. Twenty-four percent of survey
respondents already deploy federation, and another 9 percent plan to
deploy it within the next 12 months. The use of federation will both
enable and be driven by increasing adoption of cloud services.

8: E-discovery, compliance, and security will drive increased Exchange
support spending
More than 40 percent of survey respondents reported their resource
requirements for e-discovery support and security increased over the
past year, perhaps due to increasing regulatory oversight, litigation
levels, or pressure to protect corporate information. Thirty-one
percent saw growth in resources needed for compliance reporting and
supporting audit requirements, and 70 percent were less than satisfied
with their e-mail compliance processes. These pressures are likely to
continue this year, with e-discovery, compliance, and security as the
primary drivers of increases in Exchange support spending.

9: The server virtualization market is saturated, but vendors will
battle for supremacy in the desktop and storage markets, which have
yet to reach maturity
Virtually everyone is using virtualization — 91 percent of survey
respondents already use virtualization in production, and most of the
rest are either evaluating or planning to deploy within the next 12
months. Server virtualization is either in use or under evaluation by
94 percent of responding organizations, and that market has reached
saturation. Desktop virtualization is currently used by 46 percent of
survey respondents and storage virtualization is used by just 24
percent, so there still is room for growth in adoption in those

10: Technology investment strategies will shift from cost-cutting
purchases to opportunity-based investments
While many companies and government organizations still tightly
control spending, responses on the TEC survey show promising signs of
economic improvement. Only 9 percent of responding companies continue
to cut back, while 54 percent are making investments, at least in
targeted areas. As the economy continues to improve and companies seek
to accelerate revenue growth, albeit slowly, there will be an
increasing shift from cost-cutting purchases to more opportunity-based
technology investments. This shift will help address not only a
backlog of deferred projects, but also fund greater evaluation and
faster adoption of potentially revolutionary areas within cloud
services and virtualization.

Gil Kirkpatrick is a 30-year veteran of the commercial software
business, having designed or developed dozens of successful commercial
software products. In his current role as a chief architect at Quest
Software, Gil consults on various security, identity, and marketing
project, and speaks at technology seminars and conferences around the
world. He has received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award
for his work in the technology community each year since 2005.