As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, it's always a good thing to take a moment and reflect on the positive things that have come our way in the last year. Like most things, technologies can be both a blessing and a curse. But what follows is a list of 10 technologies that have done a lot more good than harm in the last year.
Server Virtualization: Things would be 10 times more painful in the land of IT right now if it wasn't for the fact that virtualization allowed IT organizations to dramatically cut back on server spending. Most of those savings went toward protecting the company's bottom line in a recession, but a fair amount of it was also repurposed into new application areas, such as business intelligence.
Smartphones: Although the number of choices is spiraling out of control, the fact that end users can now rely more on these devices for accessing enterprise applications has significantly reduced the amount of pressure on the help desk, while simultaneously leading to the development of a whole new class of applications that have enhanced employee productivity.
Cloud Computing: While it's true that cloud computing could threaten a lot jobs in the data center, the arrival of dynamic compute cycles that can be invoked on demand has taken a whole lot of pressure off by helping make the IT department a lot more agile in terms of meeting the needs of the business.
Multicore Processors: While we have yet to fully exploit the parallel processing capabilities of these processors, the advent of quad-core processors in particular is changing the fundamental economics of server systems, especially when you start to couple these new server processors with virtual machine software.
Business Intelligence Applications: There are a lot of business intelligence applications, but predictive analytics and enterprise performance management applications have been one of the few bright spots during the economic downturn, mostly because they allow IT organizations to quickly add value to years of investments in ERP applications that have increasingly left the business feeling skeptical about IT investments.
Application Acceleration Appliances: Nobody has a lot of money to spare when it comes to expensive network upgrades, so the fact these appliances are available gives IT organizations a comparatively inexpensive option that helps keeps up the illusion that everything is just fine concerning application performance.
10GB Ethernet: Although most organizations have yet to deploy 10GB Ethernet, just knowing that this is an option provides a lot of comfort to those who are watching the amount of data that needs to be managed explode while the latency sensitivity of the applications they need to deploy increases.
802.11n Wireless Networks: Prior to the arrival of 802.11n wireless networking devices, managing a wireless network was painful given all the complaints from end users about the performance of access points.
Virtual Switches - It may be awhile before the value of virtual switches becomes fully apparent. But as we enter a new era of virtualization where application workloads dynamically move across the enterprise, virtual switch technology will not only be seen as an invaluable enabling technology, but also the technology that allowed IT organizations to truly lower the cost of enterprise computing via data center convergence.
Desktop Virtualization: Although much of the focus today is on Windows 7, as the quality of the user experience surrounding desktop virtualization continues to improve we'll see a lot more deployment of any one of a half dozen approaches to desktop virtualization.
In terms of economics, the last year has not been the greatest for IT or any other corporate sector. But when we think back over the last year, it was a pretty good year for enterprise IT. There may not have been one technology standout per se, but collectively there were enough advances across the board to set the stage of a next era of enterprise IT that many in hindsight will say really got started in 2009.