CIO

Blog: Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009: Hype Overload

Enough, already, with technology predictions for 2009. I mean, right now, what do these really have to do with your business or your industry?

Fact is, most research advice is heavily influenced by vendors. For researchers like Gartner (and I'm not picking on them; they all do business the same way), this is sort of a high-tech Ponzi scheme. The researchers get paid by the technology suppliers for doing research on their products or their customers and they get paid by the consumers who purchase the research. And then the researchers use this revenue to market themselves to attract more of each. Okay, it's not a true Ponzi scheme, but you get the point. As long as the researchers benefit financially (and directly) from the vendors, can you really trust what they're telling you?

So here are Gartner's top 10 strategic technologies for 2009, defined as having the "potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years":

1. Virtualization

2. Cloud computing

3. Servers (beyond blades)

4. Web oriented architectures

5. Enterprise mashups

6. Specialized systems

7. Social software / networking

8. Unified communications

9. Business intelligence

10. Green IT.

What's changed in the Gartner predictions from a year ago? Not much. Gartner removed "computing fabric" and added "cloud computing." (I'd guess that those who bought into Grid computing the last couple of years are now approaching the cloud hype with some trepidation.) I found it odd that Green IT moved from the top spot to the bottom. There were a few other minor changes.

So I wondered … what changed in the Gartner predictions from 2007 to 2008? Almost everything. The web 2.0 focus was still there, as was social networking, but the previous focus on user interfaces . . . gone. The focus on mobile and location-aware computing . . . gone.

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So what does hype have to do with this? You see, most of the "strategic technologies for 2008" are also coincidentally at the top of the Gartner hype cycle (a model introduced by Gartner Group in 1995). The hype cycle says that interest in a new technology enters a phase of "excited speculation about all the benefits new technology will offer" which eventually reaches a peak of "inflated expectations." This is followed by a cold, hard "trough of disillusionment." Eventually some practical business applications emerge – but which business applications, leveraging what technology, is hard to say.

Placing technology bets early in the hype cycle is a risky proposition. Doing so as we face an economic crisis of epic proportions is even riskier. Before you follow the hype, consider how your priorities have changed, how your staffing levels have changed, how your risk tolerance has changed, how your budgets have changed. If your business is like most others, just about everything has changed . . . except Gartner's advice.

Here are my hype-free top 5 predictions for IT in 2009:

1. Companies will implement cost cutting measures in 2009 that will provide fast payback and that are transparent to IT operations – with significant gains coming from facilities optimization.

2. Open source enterprise software will continue to displace expensive royalty-based and seat license-based services.

3. There will be a well publicized cloud computing disaster in 2009 – probably linked to security, reliability or service restoration delays.

4. Facing slumping sales, many technology suppliers will try to increase revenue by raising their service fees and trying to force their clients to upgrade to new hardware and software.

5. Companies that have been investing heavily in Gartner "Top 10" recommendations will put many of those projects on hold in the face of budget cuts and business pressure for a faster ROI accomplished with fewer resources.

My advice is to ignore the hype. Beware of false prophets. And be wise with your budget in 2009.

Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services, a consulting firm that provides data center design, construction and relocation services for large scale, ultra-high density data centers. Prior to starting TDS, Bullock held executive leadership positions at Student Advantage, CMGI and Renaissance Worldwide.