Now Playing in IT

Hyped-up technologies are all the rage for a while, then lose their buzz. That doesn't mean they're gone.

The theater marquee on our cover echoes what we think often happens in IT. Hyped-up technologies are all the rage for a while, then lose their buzz. That doesn't mean they're gone—the good ideas eventually quietly enter the marketplace and become reality for enterprise managers like you, who are now faced with implementing them. Wireless, e-procurement, server consolidation and innovative storage solutions, among others, are examples of emerging and evolving technologies.

With that in mind, we've pulled together six stories that illustrate how your peers are meeting the challenge of implementing "top trend" solutions in a real environment. Our intent is to show you how others have struggled—and succeeded.

So what's a top trend in IT? It all depends on your perspective.

At a DaimlerChrysler body panel manufacturing plant (page 34), it's using wireless technology to track assets—in this case, the location on the lot of 10-ton warehouse trucks (which tended to get misplaced, believe it or not). Managers say they've saved close to $400,000 already, and more rollouts are planned elsewhere.

For the U.S. Air Force (page 40), it's server consolidation. Pressured by Congress to build a more secure enterprise network, the Air Force is working to reduce the sheer number of its servers, and to manage them centrally. One big payoff with fewer servers: Freeing up hundreds of network administrators to return to their real jobs.

At The Weather Channel (page 36), a stream of constantly changing data calls for lots of storage capacity, of course, but it had to be easily and instantly accessible. The company provides real-time weather information to over 100 million users through cable TV, radio, Internet, cell phones and PDAs. The solution was replacing its fractured storage system with a SAN.

Automating high-volume b-to-b purchasing was the challenge at office-products business Corporate Express (page 38). The company debated buy versus build, then went with a blended solution that calls on content management and product information management products. The company now handles one-third of its office-product sales online—about $4 million a day—and hopes to push that to 80 percent.

The city of San Diego (page 42) looked at the trend toward outsourcing IT functions—and decided to take a different tack. Its Optimization Project works in a variety of ways to measure the way government works, then make it more efficient. Sometimes that means outsourcing, but it may also mean "insourcing." The city has saved $100 million to date and has been called the most efficiently run large city in California.

Finally, do you sometimes feel that network-management software contributes to software bloat rather than controlling it? Administrators at Central Maine Power (page 45) tried some top-of-the-line network and performance management tools and decided they were overkill, choosing instead an open-standards product that didn't take a consultant to install or run. They added a performance-monitoring tool to keep an eye on the servers. Bottom line: A four-time reduction in network management costs; for savings of over $100 million. Not bad for a software investment of just $30,000.

That's six tough problems—and six "top trend" solutions—that are resulting in bottom-line savings for the companies involved. Are you working on a project that you'd like to share with peers? Let me know at LBriggs@esj.com.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.