Technology that enables greater efficiency or streamlines business processes is set to be the biggest winner in the IT industry this year, according to analyst predictions.
The trend towards consolidating servers and other IT assets will continue, and the idea of harnessing spare computing resources will gain enterprise acceptance through on-demand, utility or grid computing, depending on which of the big vendors you listen to.
Server virtualisation products from companies such as Oracle, Hewlett Packard and IBM will be popular, driven by a continued need to keep costs down, while allowing chief information officers to exploit emerging technologies and stay ahead of the competition.
Clive Longbottom, services director at analyst Quocirca, suggested that grid computing will be the big winner of 2004 but added: "We will see enterprises invest money in grid, but through the use of professional services.
"HP, Oracle and IBM will make most headway with grid because they have professional services teams well placed alongside their products.
"2004 will still be a fairly flat year with lots of Windows 2003 going in, and 64-bit architecture penetration will grow steadily. But I don't see anything that will cause a major inflection point in the industry."
But Ovum analyst Charlie Davis pointed to Voice over Internet Protocol as a new technology to watch this year.
"As pure voice revenues decline, mobile and telco operators, content providers and, to some extent, software vendors, will have to move beyond voice into content and data," she said. "But we have to watch its regulation closely."
Whatever the disruptive technology of 2004, the aligning of IT with the business will continue to be a key focus.
Mark Raskino, business management group research director at Gartner, said: "The reality is that most enterprises' infrastructures are not written in service-orientated architectures.
"Customers cannot move as fast as technology. The IT industry is forever creating grand visions and the reality falls very short."
Raskino sees the development of business process skills as key to better aligning IT with business.
"Business processes are not all to do with technology, but will often involve cultural change that focuses on people. There will be growth in the business intelligence area in general as well," he said.
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