All indications are that IT spending growth will be below the rate of inflation in 2009, thus budgets will actually decrease in real terms.
If things get worse as many experts predict, it could get really ugly. Nevertheless, there are some technology areas that are close to a sure thing in 2009. Here is my non-exhaustive list:
Virtualization. This ship has sailed and is producing real benefits. The only thing holding up massive virtualization thus far is immature management and operations tools, which will also improve throughout the year. Look for users to buy bigger Intel servers in 2009 in order to improve virtualization consolidation ratios. There will be enthusiasm for desktop virtualization, though projects in this area may be delayed. This category is good news for Citrix, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and VMware.
Networking. There's no getting around the fact that users need more bandwidth in the network core. This benefits Cisco Systems, but in a tenuous economy, more customers will be open to working with competitors like Extreme, Force10, Foundry, Hewlett-Packard, and Juniper. Users also must make sure that Web-based applications meet service level requirements, so A10, Blue Coat, F5, and Riverbed should fare well.
Security. This is an area where I anticipate a lot of activity. First, large organizations have to get their arms around data privacy and security, including data discovery, classification, data loss prevention, enterprise rights management, and data encryption. Winners include Symantec, RSA, McAfee, and Seagate as well as smaller companies like PGP, PKWare, and Liquid Machines.
Second, security management will merge with log management. That works for ArcSight, RSA, LogLogic, and LogRhythm. Finally, threat management needs a refresh across e-mail and the Web. Good news for IronPort, Borderware, Proofpoint, and Barracuda. IBM, HP, and Symantec have a distinct advantage with large organizations as they can do everything from weaving security into business processes, to selling individual security products, to taking over the whole enchilada with oodles of managed services.
Storage. Capacity will grow but users want to rationalize purchases and do a better job of managing data. Yes, this benefits EMC with its new Maui initiative but also new-age storage players like Cleversafe, Compellent, Equallogic (Dell), LeftHand (HP), and 3Par. Oh and don't forget IBM. Its XIV acquisition may be a strong fit for next-generation storage needs.
Services. Users won't invest in big bang projects but they still need valuable skills--especially when they won't be allowed to hire new full-time employees. This bodes well for HP, IBM, and Unisys.