Showdowns to Watch in 08

Opinion: Matchups include big box vs. the hive, power costs vs. server room.

There are lots of predictable matchups for 2008: Republicans versus Democrats, Linux versus Windows and every NFL team versus the New England Patriots. Some less visible, but equally interesting, matchups are also brewing for the new year. Here are five of my favorites.

The big box versus the hive. I was reminded of this matchup following a meeting with Steven Sams, IBM's vice president of site and facilities services. IBM can present a compelling argument for replacing all those underused, overheated servers with a couple of mainframes. In one internal example, IBM went from using 3,900 standard servers to 33 mainframes. On the other side of the equation are companies such as Google, and other big "computing cloud" providers building out hives of thousands upon thousands of low-cost servers. Com­panies looking to replace aging data centers are looking at a clear choice in the hive versus the big box.

Power costs versus the server room. While this might seem like a variation of the big box versus the hive, grappling with the costs of powering and cooling your server room structure will become a key financial decision in 2008. Power costs will continue to increase, and the environmental movement is demanding that companies become more accountable for their energy usage.

Care and feeding of the company database versus plugging into the database cloud. A corporate database needs a lot of hand-holding, administration and investment dollars. However, the entrance of companies such as into the hosted database market suggests a new possibility for small and midsize businesses. What if you could concentrate on ensuring that the apps running on your database are up-to-date and meet your company's strategic business objectives instead of keeping the old database cranking along?

Cool apps versus real apps. The consumer success of Facebook, Digg and other social applications has company strategists trying to figure out how such applications can be ported over to the business world. Meanwhile, applications that could provide immediate business value, such as supply chain management, RFID inventory management and GPS-based location applications, languish because—while valuable—they lack the cool factor. I think the real apps will eventually win this matchup.

Windows versus Windows—or, I should say—XP versus Vista. The Windows XP platform is remarkably stable, moderately secure and certainly able to host all the browser-based applications any business might desire. But Microsoft wants to move the business world to Vista in a big way in 2008. With all the other IT issues already crowding the 2008 business agenda, Microsoft has a long way to go to persuade corporate customers to put a Vista migration atop that agenda.