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Gartner’s top-10 strategic technologies for 2012

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Gartner, Inc. recently highlighted the top-10 technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2012. Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment or the risk of being late to adopt.

A strategic technology may be an existing technology that has matured and/or become suitable for a wider range of uses. It may also be an emerging technology that offers an opportunity for strategic business advantage for early adopters or with potential for significant market disruption in the next five years. These technologies impact the organization’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives.

The top-10 strategic technologies for 2012 include:

1. Media tablets and beyond. Users can choose between various form factors when it comes to mobile computing. No single platform, form factor or technology will dominate and companies should expect to manage a diverse environment with two to four intelligent clients through 2015. IT leaders need a managed diversity program to address multiple form factors, as well as employees bringing their own smartphones and tablet devices into the workplace.

2. Mobile-centric applications and interfaces. The user interface (IU) paradigm in place for more than 20 years is changing. UIs with windows, icons, menus and pointers will be replaced by mobile-centric interfaces emphasizing touch, gesture, search, voice and video. Applications themselves are likely to shift to more focused and simple apps that can be assembled into more complex solutions. These changes will drive the need for new user interface design skills.

3. Contextual and social user experience. Context-aware computing uses information about an end-user or objects environment, activities, connections and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end-user or object. A contextually aware system anticipates the user’s needs and proactively serves up the most appropriate and customized content, product or service. Context can be used to link mobile, social, location, payment and commerce. It can help build skills in augmented reality, model-driven security and ensemble applications. Through 2013, context aware applications will appear in targeted areas such as location-based services, augmented reality on mobile devices, and mobile commerce. On the social front, the interfaces for applications are taking on the characteristics of social networks. Social information is also becoming a key source of contextual information to enhance delivery of search results or the operation of applications.

4. Internet of things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that describes how the Internet will expand as sensors and intelligence are added to physical items such as consumer devices or physical assets and these objects are connected to the Internet. The vision and concept have existed for years, however, there has been an acceleration in the number and types of things that are being connected and in the technologies for identifying, sensing and communicating. These technologies are reaching critical mass and an economic tipping point over the next few years.

5. App stores and marketplaces. Application stores by Apple and Android provide marketplaces where hundreds of thousands of applications are available to mobile users. Gartner forecasts that by 2014, there will be more than 70 billion mobile application downloads from app stores every year. This will grow from a consumer-only phenomena to an enterprise focus. With enterprise app stores, the role of IT shifts from that of a centralized planner to a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to users and potentially an ecosystem to support entrepreneurs. Enterprises should use a managed diversity approach to focus on app store efforts and segment apps by risk and value.

6. Next-generation analytics. Analytics is growing along three key dimensions: 1. From traditional offline analytics to in-line embedded analytics; 2. From analyzing historical data to explain what happened to analyzing historical and real-time data from multiple systems to simulate and predict the future; 3. Over the next three years, analytics will mature along a third dimension, from structured and simple data analyzed by individuals to analysis of complex information of many types (text, video, etc…) from many systems supporting a collaborative decision process that brings multiple people together to analyze, brainstorm and make decisions.

7. Big data. The size, complexity of formats and speed of delivery exceeds the capabilities of traditional data management technologies; it requires the use of new or exotic technologies simply to manage the volume alone. Many new technologies are emerging, with the potential to be disruptive (e.g., in-memory DBMS). Analytics has become a major driving application for data warehousing and the use of self-service data marts. One major implication of big data is that in the future users will not be able to put all useful information into a single data warehouse. Logical data warehouses bringing together information from multiple sources as needed will replace the single data warehouse model.

8. In-memory computing. Gartner sees huge use of flash memory in consumer devices, entertainment equipment and other embedded IT systems. In addition, it offers a new layer of the memory hierarchy in servers that has key advantages – space, heat, performance and ruggedness among them. Besides delivering a new storage tier, the availability of large amounts of memory is driving new application models. In-memory applications platforms include in-memory analytics, event processing platforms, in-memory application servers, in-memory data management and in-memory messaging.

9. Extreme low-energy servers. The adoption of low-energy servers – the radical new systems being proposed, announced and marketed by mostly new entrants to the server business –will take the buyer on a trip backward in time. These systems are built on low-power processors typically used in mobile devices. The potential advantage is delivering 30 times or more processors in a particular server unit with lower power consumption vs. current server approaches. The new approach is well-suited for certain non-compute intensive tasks such as map/reduce workloads or delivery of static objects to a website. However, most applications will require more processing power, and the low-energy server model potentially increases management costs, undercutting broader use of the approach.

10. Cloud computing. Cloud is a disruptive force and has the potential for broad long-term impact in most industries. While the market remains in its early stages in 2011 and 2012, it will see the full range of large enterprise providers fully engaged in delivering a range of offerings to build cloud environments and deliver cloud services. Oracle, IBM and SAP all have major initiatives to deliver a broader range of cloud services over the next two years. As Microsoft continues to expand its cloud offering, and these traditional enterprise players expand offerings, users will see competition heat up and enterprise-level cloud services increase.

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