What Will Top the IT Agenda in 2010?

IT professionals look ahead five years to predict the skills, technologies and challenges that will shape their future roles.

eWEEK Labs recently sat down with members of the eWEEK Corporate Partner Advisory Board to get their take on what the job of an IT professional will be like five years from now.

Despite their roles as early adopters of IT innovations, the Corporate Partners are guarded in their attempts to foresee the world of 2010. Developments such as utility computing, broader access and higher throughput in mobile network connections, as well as continuing expansion of corporate governance mandates are high on their lists of whats most likely to come. At the same time, though, their roundtable session last month, moderated by Technology Editor Peter Coffee, revealed a healthy regard for the worlds proven ability to throw them unexpected demands—and divert resources that will continue to be scarce.

Participating in the roundtable were Kevin Baradet, chief technology officer at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y.; Tom Miller, director of IT at FoxHollow Technologies Inc., in Redwood City, Calif.; Fran Rabuck, president of Rabuck Associates, in Philadelphia; Nelson Ramos, CIO/enterprise IT strategist at Sutter Health, in Mather, Calif.; Robert Rosen, CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, in Bethesda, Md.; and Kevin Wilson, product line manager of desktop hardware at Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C.

Tom, I know that youve tended to be involved in areas that are really computationally intensive and that youre probably pretty aggressive as a researcher and buyer of data analysis tools and also, for that matter, computing cycles. Whats changed in the pretty dynamic area that youve been in—bioinformatics—during the last few years, and do you have a vision of what you or your organization will be doing in 2010?

Miller: Looking out five years in the future—which is always difficult from an IT perspective because youre really looking at the present and just beyond the horizon—its really in the areas of computing as a service. So I can adjust with the business as the business adjusts. If were in hypergrowth mode, I can adjust the computing infrastructure to adhere to that growth. Then, as we scale back, Im not left with a computing infrastructure thats just depreciating over time.

Are any of the stabs that are being taken at that model, by IBM or Sun Microsystems Inc. or others, laying down a path that you can imagine traveling in the next five years? Or are they all still way off from what you need?

Miller: I think were still early in the development, and its really hard to determine at this point whether its going to be a model that were going to look at. Then there are still questions about the management of that environment. And, from a financial standpoint, I still need to see the bottom line and work with our finance organization to determine whether that model will meet the needs of a midsize business.

Some of the other areas that were looking at, and that Ive had conversations with our management team about, are eliminating some of the limitations around mobile computing. We all look at use of things like [PalmOne Inc.s] Treos or [Microsoft Corp.s] Pocket PCs or notebook computers, but I think weve barely touched where mobile computing can go. I expect by 2010 that Ill have a framework where mobile will start becoming more of a commodity item, and its going to be easier to manage. It will reduce some of the limitations that people have being away from the corporate office.

What is it about mobile now thats making it not as good a model as it ought to be?

Miller: Some of the limitations around bandwidth, limitations around availability, limitations of the devices—we all want to go toward convergence with these devices, but there are limitations with screen real estate and presentation of information.

That last item really goes into another area that were looking out a couple of years at: How do we handle personalized information management? Really aligning with the information life cycle and delivering both qualitative and relevant information.

Next page: "A spider web of virtual networks."