About this time last year, I took a look back at some of the macro trends that hit their stride during 2007. I thought it would be interesting to see which of those trends are still noteworthy, which new ones are on the radar, and generally how the landscape has changed.
Server virtualization remains perhaps the hottest trend in IT. It may no longer be pegging the hype meter quite as hard, but that's only because server virtualization has moved into the mainstream. It's ever more clearly one of those fundamental developments that touches and transforms all manner of associated technologies, products, and processes.
To be sure, lots of virtualization customers are still using it for relatively straightforward server consolidation, but more and more are also implementing high availability and other services on top of a virtualization foundation. One notable event during the year was the ouster of Diane Greene from VMware's helm, but so far, neither this nor Microsoft's increasingly aggressive virtualization efforts have had a substantial impact on VMware's position as market leader.
Alternative clients are ways of provisioning applications and delivering software services that differ from the loading up of an operating system and clients on a traditional PC. This includes accessing applications through a browser interface. It also includes a variety of technologies that, collectively, keep desktop applications and/or operating systems in the data center, and push them out to user devices--including, but not limited to, thin clients--in a managed way.
This trend continues to gather pace, albeit in a relatively measured way, with security and compliance often the primary driving force. Most major virtualization players have steadily broadened their portfolios to encompass both client-side and server-side virtualization, taking advantage of one with the other.
Power and cooling, or more broadly, "green," remains at the same relatively nascent level as last year, when I wrote that "power and cooling is increasingly something that IT staffs think about--even if, in most cases, they're not the absolute top-of-mind worry that is sometimes suggested."
Running out of power or space in a facility remains the primary reason that companies take substantive action on major clean-technology projects. Because power bills are usually in someone else's budget, even operational cost savings--never mind generalized environmental concern--don't have a big impact on decisions absent high-level corporate mandates or governmental regulation.
Intel's resurgence continued in 2008, as it ramped its 45-nanometer processors. For its part, Advanced Micro Devices did take steps to repair the damage caused by its delayed "Barcelona" processors. Its 45nm "Shanghai" processor shipped ahead of schedule, lending credence to company claims that its development and manufacturing processes were back on track.
On the financial front, AMD put its Asset Smart plan in motion--essentially spinning off its fabrication plants and people as The Foundry Company, and taking a major investment from Abu Dhabi-based organizations. However, Intel retains a much stronger financial position during an economic period that is likely to be extremely challenging for the semiconductor business.
Open source and open-source licenses certainly didn't go away in 2008. But I don't really view them as a trend at this point any more than programming languages or databases. They're just part of the software landscape--a way to develop and market software.
Open source has, in a sense, won, and one of the consequences is that the license wars are largely over because of an implicit consensus that open source has proven to be a good development model that doesn't need a lot of protection through legalisms.
In particular, very few people are showing much enthusiasm for the Affero GPL, a license whose intent is to extend the GPL's restrictions (enhancements have to be contributed back to the community) to software delivered in the form of a service. Yet that's how an increasing amount of software will be used.
And that's really the trend that emerged in force this year: "cloud computing," a term that I use to refer broadly to using software services or infrastructure over the network.
To be sure, there's more vendor hype (and consumer use in the guise of Web 2.0) than there is enterprise adoption. And I strongly suspect that will remain the case for quite some time. Part of the reason is that deployments will tend to happen with new applications rather than legacy ones.
However, more broadly, enterprises will want to understand and have the tools to manage attributes such as security, compliance, and portability (including the ability to run applications on-premises, off-premises, or a combination of the two).
Is cloud computing a legitimate trend? Yes. And it will be a long-term trend, so just count this as a start.