As the region faces some of the toughest economic conditions for the last 70 years, there's never been a better time to look at some of the technologies that have the potential to reduce overall IT spending for enterprises of all sizes.
SMBS EMBRACE CLOUD COMPUTING
Many cloud computing projects have been shelved by large enterprises due to the organisational changes required to make them work, the management of which often negates any savings made on infrastructure in the short term.
For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), however, the cloud remains attractive, as many have limited IT infrastructure in place and a more flexible workforce than their larger counterparts.
SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS)
Firms that need some new applications but don't want to spend precious budget on developing the software in-house, or buying packaged applications and then having to provide their own infrastructure for them to run on, will opt for remotely hosted and managed software. This reduces cost in terms of centralised control and simple management and deployment of applications, providing a consistently high experience of securely accessible applications and data from any location for end users.
'INSOURCING' LEVERAGING THE CLOUD
We believe that larger enterprises will generally resist rolling out cloud computing projects in 2009, although there is likely to be a move towards 'insourcing' of business-critical activities such as disaster recovery, which will leverage some of it capabilities.
Big in 2008, Green IT looks set to top the agenda for 2009. As fuel prices continue to fluctuate, finding ways to curb energy consumption will be key to controlling costs as the economy dips. Consolidating server space and simplifying operating environments through virtualisation are possible ways this could be achieved, but we may also see a move towards the consolidation of office locations and more remote working, making use of tools such as application delivery.
CENTRALISATION OF IT MANAGEMENT
Businesses will increasingly look for ways to centralise the management of their everyday IT in order to control costs, and optimisation tools will serve this need. A simple desktop deployment and management environment will be relied on to enable necessary upgrades to new systems such as Microsoft Vista and Windows 7, and to ensure that all security patches are kept updated without the associated back-end cost.
CENTRALISED DATA PROTECTION
The end of 2008 saw both increased regulation and threats to data privacy for business. High profile data loss scandals dominated the news and, as of October 2008, the police can demand encryption keys to make information available from any device under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. In this climate, it should be a priority for businesses to protect their intellectual property from the risk of loss by employees when travelling.
GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
IT as a support function will take priority as budgets shrink. Certain mandated areas such as security and regulatory compliance will need to be maintained to the same, if not higher, standards on a tighter budget, particularly for those enterprises operating in heavily regulated industries such as the financial sector.
'NICE TO HAVE' WILL HAVE TO WAIT
As core support functions top the IT department's agenda, so many fledgling projects that may be viewed as optional will be put on hold. This will mean that large, complex and expensive projects such as those around service oriented architecture (SOA), much vaunted at the start of 2008, are likely to be postponed due to the fact that the financial returns won't happen quickly enough. While there is some wisdom in this approach, those businesses that stop innovating altogether at the expense of the longer-term business strategy may suffer from a lack of growth and ultimately not survive.
'CONSUMERISATION OF IT' WILL SLOW DOWN
A big driver of IT innovation during 2008, a more austere era of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', may see the trend towards end-user determination slow. As consumers feel the effects of the credit crunch, the widespread adoption of new technology may begin to weaken their influence on how technology is developed. Coupled with the "'Nice to have' will have to wait" effect outlined above, 2009 will see IT departments making decisions based purely on what is cost effective for the business – not what is better for the end user. These two things are not always mutually exclusive, however, and projects fulfilling both requirements – such as the Bring your own Laptop initiative – may be revisited with greater enthusiasm by cash strapped IT departments.
- The author is the Middle East Regional Director for Citrix Systems