Five IT Focal Points for 2010

What should IT focus on this year? Some key issues from 2009 remain, but several new areas will need IT's attention.

by Brace Rennels

The top IT trends last year were all about consolidation and cost savings. Many involved server and storage consolidation, energy-efficient blade technology, virtualization, and cloud computing. Most of these trends will continue to be a focus of IT managers in 2010, especially those who were slow to adopt last year. However, there are a few new areas where IT managers will be concentrating their efforts moving into next year.

1. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing received a lot of buzz in 2009, but analysis showed the news was more about the hardware industry positioning itself as having a cloud computing/hosting solution than IT managers truly adopting the cloud. Next year will be different; IT managers will begin to see that cloud computing can provide a viable and cost-effective option as a disaster recovery data center and a more efficient backup and recovery solution. Creating a disaster recovery data center or paying for offsite data storage can be cost prohibitive for small to midsize businesses. Utilizing cloud computing as a platform/service can be as cheap as thirty to sixty cents per gigabyte for data storage, which can mean huge cost savings for companies that may be paying $3,000 to $6,000 per month for the same service.

Cloud computing will provide smaller companies the option to not host their own servers and larger companies to host less-critical or lower-tiered applications to further reduce their data center footprint. One of the reasons for the slow adoption of cloud computing is availability, meeting SLAs as well as security requirements. Companies such as Amazon spent much of 2009 improving their cloud solutions as did big names like Microsoft (with Azure), IBM (with Cloudburst), and EMC cloud computing (with partners Cisco and VMware).

2. Virtualization: Server and Storage Consolidation

Industries will continue to migrate to a virtual infrastructure whether it is the primary data center or (more important) disaster recovery or co-location facilities. Smaller, more-efficient data centers help reduce costs and improve performance and manageability better than their larger predecessors that contained roomfuls of computers. The release of Microsoft Hyper-V R2 this year became a viable alternative to the industry leader VMware and has been widely accepted by many. Now that the waters have been tested with virtualization, IT managers should plan to further virtualize their infrastructure to help reduce their server footprint as well as help improve their ability to manage a larger server infrastructure.

Adoption and use of iSCSI technology was an important trend in 2009. Moving into next year, IT managers should look to iSCSI storage devices to help adopt storage virtualization solutions. iSCSI storage cheaper than previous SAN or NAS devices, and it is more flexible and accessible via the Web and standard Ethernet ports. There are iSCSI software solutions that also help provide bootable images for provisioning, desktop integration, and/or disaster recovery solutions that are much faster than attempting to restore from tape. This will enable companies to implement a virtual desktop infrastructure that is more secure and helps IT managers better manage large desktop environment. It also makes it possible to cut the time needed to provision new applications.

3. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

IT managers kicked the tires on virtual desktop products such as VMware VDI, Xen Desktop, Xen Server and Double-Take Flex in 2009, and will budget for deployment of these technologies in 2010. Booting servers and workstations from disk will help IT managers deploy and manage workstation and server infrastructure more efficiently. With the recent release of Windows 7 and soon Office 2010, large call centers will be looking for a more efficient method of deploying and managing hundreds of desktops simultaneously.

These solutions are much better designed to utilize existing infrastructure -- unlike the first time network boot solutions were attempted back in the early 90s. The cost to deploying these solutions has also become competitive, making it more affordable to provision and centrally manage workstation and server images for businesses of any size.

4. Mobile Web Access and Management

The move to mobile computing is not going to change. As the millennial generation becomes a larger component in the industry, mobile options will be demanded. Some amazing statistics were released this year forecasting the number of mobile Web users by 2013. Juniper Research forecast that there will be approximately 1.7 billion mobile Web users by 2013, which will help drive the demand for mobile application for data center routine operations.

Data center managers should be looking for applications that will allow them to access the status and health of their IT infrastructure via mobile communication and perform minor maintenance like initiating a backup, recovery, or movement of a virtual machine. This technology may not be a primary focus for IT managers, but applications that provide this functionality will certainly be considered a bonus feature for data center management.

5. Server and Storage Migrations

Server migrations will also continue to be a big focus of IT managers in 2010. Many IT budgets were cut or frozen in 2009 and will likely remain flat for 2010. However, upgrades to existing hardware infrastructure as well as continued adoption of virtual machines to operate more efficiently will be at the top of the IT manager’s priority list.

Consolidating these servers to a virtual infrastructure will require a smooth process for migrating and recovering full server workloads while minimizing downtime. Migrating larger rack-mounted servers to faster, more efficient blade servers will allow the reduction of the data center footprint. Combing the migration process with blade servers and virtualization technology will minimize the space used for the previous servers and dramatically reduce power and cooling costs of operating those servers.

IT managers will remain concerned about how to protect consolidated servers from failure. With multiple virtual machines on a single physical host, providing disaster recovery and high availability to these virtual machines will be even more important because of the higher risk. This won’t be a deterrent to tackling the server and storage migrations, however, as the need to migrate to virtualization platforms and new hardware will cost justify itself based on efficiency alone.

Brace Rennels is a technical marketing manager at Double-Take Software. You can contact the author at

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