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INFOTECH:  Gazing Into the Crystal Ball - Predictions for 2011


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With 2011 here, we're once again faced with that same new-year question: what major technology changes and/or developments can we expect? And whilst it is hard to offer a fool-proof answer, there are undoubtedly some trends that have already started to pave the way for imminent developments in the new year.

Some areas where further growth is anticipated are Cloud Computing, Green IT and effective Data Centre Management.

Cloud Computing is becoming established in many international markets, however, locally we have not necessarily been able to experience the impact in a big way. Fortunately, the wait is over as major players have started to mobilise their efforts locally and, in 2011, companies and individual users will be able to embrace 'the cloud' and enjoy the benefits that come with a manageable, cost-effective and on-demand resource.

An IDC forecast predicts that worldwide investment in cloud-based services will increase from US$ 17.4 billion in 2009 to US$ 44.2 billion in 2013, and South Africa falls under this umbrella. This corresponds to an average annual growth of 26 percent. Significantly, the forecast predicts that cloud services will achieve a growth rate six times higher than traditional IT offerings.

By definition cloud computing represents the utilisation of infrastructure, software and bandwidth under defined service conditions. These components can be adapted dynamically to the customer's needs, and can be provided with the highest availability and security. The user companies receive end-to-end Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and are billed according to service consumption. In this way trading peaks (for example experienced at year end by retailers, or month ends by many businesses) can be accommodated without having to carry this additional capacity for the non-peak periods. From a financial perspective the significant point is that organisations can reduce CapEx, and convert this to OpEx with a service provider bearing this burden and making additional capacity available.

This increasing focus on the cloud will however also come with some challenges; one being security. Performance is another issue, and global providers such as T-Systems are deploying local replicas of cloud engines to ensure that this mode of operation can be deployed locally for SAP and other solutions by large local corporates.

A second important technology development in 2011 will be continued realisation of green IT, with an emphasis on realising the vision of initiatives such as the DataCenter 2020 industry initiative in Munich, Germany.

Since last year various industry players, led by Intel and T-Systems, have been experimenting with scenarios to reduce the PUE (power usage effectiveness) value in data centres. For example, the companies found the point which creates a perfect balance between cooling energy and processor performance.

The results in a concept test data centre also showed that data centre cooling did not need to be as high as was often assumed. The experts also improved the data centre infrastructure by closing open gaps between servers, and optimising airflow in server rooms.

This points to the fact that the energy consumption of data centres can potentially be greatly improved. Overall the findings of the concept data centre showed that data centre PUE could be reduced as low as 1.4, when compared to the industry power usage average of around 1.9, and this is just the beginning. The DataCentre 2020 initiative is also experimenting with the use of gas as a (natural) power resource and assessing what impact alternative energy sources have on systems under management.

To conclude on a more gadget-centric topic, the launch of the iPad Tablet, and subsequent competitor offerings, will undoubtedly continue to make some exciting waves in the coming year. It will be interesting to see what these companies offer with regards to usability and productivity, particularly to the workplace. Offerings from vendors like R.I.M will ensure that this becomes a fiercely contested environment on 2011.

Overall, 2011 promises to be an exciting year for both companies and individual users as the cloud impacts both and greener IT is for the good for all and the planet as a whole.

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