If IT offered gold medals for the year 2008, the winners would include business intelligence, Web 2.0 and cloud computing. Among the lower medal ranks would be software-as-a-service (SaaS), service-oriented architecture (SOA) and vendors who failed to keep up with the service pace. Perhaps the technology highs of this year were the Beijing Olympics and the US election of Barack Obama. The Games' impeccably orchestrated IT systems opened China to a new level of world respect, while the American Democratic party swept the Republicans from office, using the powerful tools of the world wide web.
All very impressive and momentous, but senior IT executives don't hesitate in naming the global financial crisis, the credit crunch, the year's 'monetary madness', as what will indelibly brand 2008 in history.
Information technology thought leaders across the Asia Pacific are unanimous in highlighting the global economic crash as what has dominated technology consciousness in the Year of the Rat.
Likely new regulatory environment
Kyung Yang, senior manager with Deloitte Consulting in Singapore, said the results of any new regulatory environment will impact how financial institutions are measured, tracked and regulated. "This will have direct impact on how IT must change and adapt to meet such regulatory requirements, such as monitoring, reporting, oversight, data retention, system controls, security and more," Yang said.
The major disappointment this year, according to John Roberts, research VP & distinguished analyst, Gartner, has been the failure of risk management algorithms and BI tools (and people) to prevent the financial crisis. He said that service-oriented architecture (SOA) had also failed to live up to expectations.
"This year saw the continued professionalisation of IT, one small part of which is ITIL 3, and IT budgets continued to grow, but only just," Roberts said. "The sourcing market continues to mature."
As to technology breakthroughs, Deloitte's Yang cites operating systems, such as eyeOS, Desktop Two (Java based) going onto the web, Google's Chrome with its Spartan interface, and Microsoft's plans for a web-based version of MS Office. He also believes 2008 will be remembered for the time that social networking became dominant.
Critical changes only
Jens Butler, Ovum's principal analyst for IT services, based in Sydney, said 2008 will definitely be remembered for the financial meltdown and 'the relatively minimal impact it had on IT', plus 'the growth of cloud computing; the desire to realise the potential benefits of another 'virtualisation' stage.
"Another surprise has been the desire, by enterprises, to proactively do something about green IT and sustainability, or maybe it's the fear of regulation," Butler said. As to the stand-out 'failures', he cites 'anything around convergence' plus Web-Enterprise 2.0 and its failure to really takeoff, until the US election.
Other red-letter issues for the past year, says Butler, have been consolidation-especially with reference to ERP, common systems and rationalisation-'realising the benefits of these, plus change management and the governance associated with it; the actual roll out of change programmes and ensuring their success, aligning them with corporate strategies'.
Data centre virtualisation
Jim Lenox, VMware's general manager Asia South, said his firm's major breakthrough in the last 12 months has been enhancing the automation and management of virtualised IT environments on the large data centre scale, which has made significant impact on cost savings for big organisations.
Lenox said VMware was already working with more than 100 partners worldwide on its vCloud programme. By VMware's definition, this will allow organisations to create an internal virtual cloud computing environment, based on a Virtual Data Centre Operating System (VDC-OS). This provides the ability to push or pull computing capacity, on demand, to or from a service provider's virtual data centre.
"For customers and users of IT, it is critical now to invest time to understand the technologies and the potential benefits that they will gain from embarking on cloud computing projects," he said.
Andrew Milroy, research director of the information and communications technology practice, Frost & Sullivan, Australia, pinpointed the acquisition of EDS by HP, as perhaps the biggest IT development for the year. Milroy said, "The resulting enterprise now surpasses IBM as the world's largest IT company and the second largest IT services organisation in the world."
Milroy said one of the under-performers was software-as-a-service (SaaS).
"SaaS did not take off as fast as expected," he said, "this can partly be explained by the business model which undermines the traditional software licensing model."
Ong Whee Teck, Accenture Partner, Technology Consulting said 2008 would be remembered as a time when SOA technologies reached maturity. "Previously, integration technologies were difficult to put together due to differing standards," Ong said. "In recent months, the technologies are now able to complement each other and are also easier to develop and maintain across vendors."
Accenture cited key 2008 issues as:
Challenges retaining skilled personnel due to IT budget cuts and a shortage of IT professionals. In the recent months, there was a sharp spike of IT skills flowing into Asia;
Industrywide cost-cutting measures which may not be strategic in nature and are focused only on the short term benefits, without solving the problem in the long run, and; consumer IT continuing to develop at a pace far greater than enterprise IT, increasing the gap of user expectations.
Slow on-demand delivery
Peter Chai, vice president and general manager, of network infrastructure products provider 3Com Asia Pacific, named managing network virtualisation, network services hardware/software and the slow delivery of on-demand multi-media services, as the top three IT issues for 2008. He said that across Asia in 2008 many companies wanted to take the next step of extending virtualised server and storage environments to the network, by virtualising switches as well.
From another vendor perspective, Gavin Selkirk, corporate SVP and GM, CA Asia Pacific and Japan, believes that the credit crunch means that corporate governance has suddenly 'loomed large on CEO and CIO radar screens'. "The world will encounter increased regulation, so transparency and efficiency will be key to effective decision-making," Selkirk said.
Efficiency and control
Selkirk said that, as economies weaken, organisations are focusing on efficiency and control. "Improving efficiency and control will also see companies lowering their IT costs in addition to improving data management. Agile firms have already started to cut costs by improving vendor management, data centre consolidation, standardising IT operations and rechanneling resources into strategic initiatives," he elaborated.
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