Glum? Here Are a Few IT Bright Spots

Chen: Here are some technologies IT managers at the Gartner ITXPO 2003 in San Diego last week told me they're hoping to take advantage of.

With the war on Iraq and the sluggish economy keeping IT budgets low, and SARS potentially hampering production of hardware in Asia, it may seem as if theres little to be excited about in IT these days. And it seems as if the bad news just keeps on coming —concerns with privacy, students being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for downloading music. Not to mention the ongoing parade of worms and other viruses.

Im happy to report, however, that there are some things that have IT managers excited these days. Here are some technologies IT managers at the Gartner ITXPO 2003 in San Diego last week told me theyre hoping to take advantage of.

-- Keeping up-to-date is even more important these days. A number of IT managers at the conference commented on the convenience of being able to check e-mail from wireless hotspot at Starbucks and using WLANs at their hotels. Flying out of San Francisco International Airport, I decided to take advantage of the T-Mobile hotspot in front of the airlines Red Carpet Lounge, rather than using my calling card to dial into our corporate network. Gartner predicts that by 2007, more than 31 million people will frequently use these hotspots for connectivity. Analysts at the conference also predicted that, in the same year, nearly 120,000 WLAN hotspot gateways will exist worldwide. Leverage these hotspots to defray your networking costs and give road warriors faster connectivity.

-- During the last three months, my colleague Henry Baltazar and I have journeyed to IBMs famed Almaden Research Center in Silicon Valley, where IBM fellows have drilled the idea of utility computing into our heads. Big Blue isnt the only vendor pushing this concept, though, which Gartner says will emerge as a cost-effective alternative to conventional system ownership amongst 30 percent of enterprises by 2006. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun are all gunning to be big players in this field. Hey, even Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessens on it. Although many IT managers still have to be sold on the idea for their enterprises, its a concept theyre looking into.

-- Instant messaging continues to gain traction as an increasing number of vendors release enterprise editions of their IM platforms. From letters weve received, open source products such as Jabber and Gadu Gadu are also being championed within organizations. E-mail may give you immediate notice when you receive a new message, but one of the key benefits of IM is the ability for presence-based communication, which tells you when a person youre trying to contact is actually available and is willing to engage in conversation.

The future will bring presence awareness features —meaning you can switch devices and have the system reconnect you to and redirect messages. IMs low overhead and its ability to communicate on the fly are reasons many IT managers attended sessions on the technology at the Gartner conference.

-- Weve been talking about Web services so much over the last year that youd think the hype cycle would have ended by now. Nope. Web services was a heavy topic at the Gartner ITXPO 2003 conference, and will continue to be over the next few years. Along with instant messaging, Gartner analysts said Web services is growing so rapidly in adoption and is so likely to be broadly valuable that they recommended every enterprise begin to experiment with protocols such as SOAP and XML now.

Enterprises that want to invest in the future, said Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer, should go with Web services. With an increasing number of Web services integration projects popping up, IT managers seem to agree.

What bright spots are you looking into this year? Let me know at