Some of Jacknis other application plans could be considered more cutting edge: He plans to roll out virtual-reality planning simulations using Second Life-like technology. Those simulations will enable stakeholders to see the consequence of planning decisions, not just read about them in a static document. "If we concentrate development in these areas," said Jacknis, "then we can see what will happen in other areas." Jacknis added that he has requested a 10 percent budget increase for 2008.Companies may be spending more on productivity-enhancing apps next year, but investment in infrastructure and the back-end processes that drive IT certainly wont stop. Data center reorganization and consolidation continue to be major projects for many companies, driving investments in virtualization, storage, blade servers and more effective management tools. "We are centralizing many of our infrastructure services [such as servers, network support and help desk] on the corporate level, rather than continuing to manage them ourselves," GE Real Estates Zupnick said. "This will provide economies of scale [internal efficiencies], freeing up funds for new initiatives." As part of that effort, GE Real Estate is deploying WAFS (wide-area file services) in 30 North American regional offices in place of traditional file and print servers, with "significant success," Zupnick said. GE also intends to expand the use of virtualization in 2008 as a part of its corporate centralization projects. Fuji Films Pelligrinoalso noted that a major focus next year will be consolidating data centers. During 2006 and 2007, Fuji Film rolled out most of its SAP implementation and put into place much of the necessary infrastructure for the platform. The company refreshed desktops, changed e-mail systems and put into place the SAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) modules. Going forward, Pelligrino said he expects to concentrate on data center consolidation as part of Fuji Films broader multiyear Vision 75 business strategy (named for Fujis 75th anniversary in 2007), with a changing focus on productivity creation. Pelligrino said his budget will remain about the same in 2008, but he also sees the consolidation project yielding a 10 percent to 30 percent savings on related costs. As such, heavy investment is expected in any sort of hardware consolidation technology, including blade servers and virtualization, as well as in storage, Pelligrino said. At the same time, Fuji Film will continue to merge onto SAP and increasingly explore SharePoint. Much of that technology will increasingly need to use less power. Westchester, for example, is becoming a "green county." The county established its own Global Warming Task Force, which means CIO Jacknis is starting to look at deploying equipment that uses less electricity and has lower heat dissipation than conventional gear. The push will extend to the desktop as well, Jacknis said. Back-end investment will also be needed to address regulatory requirements. While the Sarbanes-Oxley Act may have required financial institutions to keep track of past correspondence, changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are requiring all organizations to have e-discovery programs in place. Westchester, for example, is putting into play a process to capture all voice mails, e-mails and correspondence, according to Jacknis. Focus on Software Given IT departments drive for productivity enhancements and better ability to address customer requirements, its understandable that software is expected to undergo the greatest change in investment. Perhaps whats less clear is where the breakaway successes will come from. According to the IT executives interviewed for this article, one thing is clear: Neither VOIP (voice over IP) nor unified communications is expected to provide that value edge. While all are deploying VOIP, theyre doing so gradually, as PBXes reach their end of life or as new installations are rolled out. It may be tempting to point to Web 2.0 technologies as the next wave of productivity-generating applications, but the technology is still maturing. Most executives contacted for this story said they are piloting or deploying some form of Web 2.0 technology, including wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and tagging systems, or virtual collaboration systems. But they said it is too soon to tell what impact the technology will have. A safer answer may be the "verticalization" of broad-based applications: the process of applying industry knowledge to mined data, allowing companies to gain deeper insight into their businesses. "Google can pool together enormous amounts of data, but we dont really know what information can come out of it yet," said Pelligrino. "I think theres some opportunity to take some of that vertical knowledge and apply it to a broader information base to extract meaning and insight relevant to our requirements." Dave Greenfield is a 20-year networking veteran and the principal of Strategic Technology Analytics. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
Wheres the Infrastructure?