Gartner's Top 10 IT challenges include exiting baby boomers, Big Data

Virtualization tops the list of IT infrastructure and operations trends because of continuing data center expansion

ORLANDO -- In Gartner's list of the top 10 trends in IT infrastructure and operations are multiple threats and opportunities for data center operations.

Among the threats is the exodus of baby boomers and the emergence of a younger generation that's been less loyal to corporate employers and are more likely to move to another job.

Designing a job structure that ensures IT skills and corporate knowledge can survive the workforce transition is but one important challenge for companies, according to David Cappuccio, a Gartner analyst.

Gartner's Top 10 list of IT infrastructure and operations trends, presented today at the research firm's annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here, follows:

One: Virtualization continues to expand in the enterprise from servers to desktops. "You do not do desktop virtualization to save money, because you're not going to," Cappuccio said. "You are going to spend more money on your infrastructure," in the form of larger servers, VM licenses, while also continuing to pay for desktop licenses. "But what you gain is total control of the environment."

Two: Big data, patterns and analytics. Data will grow by 800% in five years, with 80% of it unstructured. Part of that is the trend called "the collective," which includes data from groups and communities and social networks outside the business. "Mining the collective has become a very common thing to do, and it's a great way to understand what your marketplace looks like," said Cappuccio.

Three: Energy efficiency and monitoring. There's an emerging market of tools for energy monitoring and efficiency, with more than 25 vendors in this market. These tools monitor consumption at the device level or application level. A savings of just a few percent can make a difference. Gartner estimates that a 25,000 square-foot data center consumes about $4.1 million in energy each year.

Four: Context awareness, which involves, in part, integrating corporate data into social media streams. Put simply, if you're a retailer and a potential customer is using a smartphone, how do you make a connection? "What if I can design an app that is context and content and location aware?" said Cappuccio.

Five: Creating an IT staff structure that can deal with a wave of retirements. Starting this year, an average of 10,000 baby boomers will be eligible to retire every day for the next 19 years in North America, "and a lot of them are IT people," said Cappuccio, people who are taking corporate knowledge with them.

Meanwhile, the new people coming into the workforce "do not have loyalty to the company" and are "loyal to themselves, to what they know, to their peers in many cases, but not the company."

To deal with retirements and the possibility that younger hires won't stay too long, Cappuccio recommends giving IT workers projects outside of their comfort zone, opportunities to learn something new and to become less vertically focused.

Six: Social networking and IT. "Ignoring social networks is not an option," said Cappuccio. "If I'm looking at a unified communications department, a unified network, all these things need to be tied in as well," he said. "You know that the competition is doing it."

Seven: Consumerization and the tablet. "These things are taking off like rockets," said Cappuccio of the tablet, which has clearly emerged as a useful business tool. "Look at integrating these into your environment."

Eight: Compute and data center density. Users are trying to increase density in their data centers to avoid the cost of expansion or building a new one. IT managers are, in some cases, upgrading hardware faster to the next server generation, which includes more servers in a single rack, to take advantage of the increase performance at less power while increasing data center density.

Nine: Cloud computing. Through the creation of private clouds and by brokering cloud services, cloud computing is turning IT into a service delivery role.

Ten: Fabric computing or infrastructure convergence involves the integration of server, storage, network systems and other components to create resource pools, but it's five years or so down the road, said Cappuccio.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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