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Gartner's top 10 strategic technologies for 2008

Whether you incorporate these technologies or not, they're not going away, the research firm says

October 9, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - ORLANDO -- Gartner Inc. has put "Green IT" at the top of its list of 10 strategic technologies for next year, and the research firm says that if businesses don't improve data center energy efficiency, the government may force them to do so.

But social networking technologies are also on the list, along with some further-off technological developments, such as server designs that use a resource-sharing approach called a computing fabric.

A strategic technology is something that may have an impact on a business. And impact could mean driving an investment or posing a threat, said David Cearley, a Gartner analyst. If your competitors adopt one of these technologies "does that put you at a competitive disadvantage?" he said at the Stamford, Conn.-based firm's ITexpo here.

Here's a look at Gartner's list:

1. Green IT. This is a path that more and more companies are taking as a socially responsible strategy. A green approach is multifaceted and can affect data center operations in a number of ways, such as moving workloads based on energy efficiency and using the most power-inefficient servers only at times of peak usage, said Carl Claunch, an analyst.

But data centers also face the threat of regulatory action to curb power usage. The problem, said Claunch, is you can't predict what may trigger regulation or when mandates will arrive.

"Some event somewhere, a popular movie, some shift in election politics, and suddenly you are forced to change dramatically and it comes with little warning," he said. "You need to be thinking what to do."

2. Unified communications. The move to unified communications systems is happening as the world shifts from analog to digital over IP networks. But it's not just the obvious things that will converge, such as telephony and messaging. Companies may make security videos part of this convergence, which may give businesses, for instance, new ways to analyze a retail outlet's traffic patterns. This video data would require a lot of storage, so using it in this way could prompt IT managers to introduce the security team to the networking group.

3. Business process management. This is not a technology, its a way of using technologies to enable companies to simulate, model and design the processes that run their businesses. A key trend is the evolution of the business process management suite, Cearley said. This may include, model-driven development, content and document management, collaboration capabilities, system connectivity, business intelligence activity monitoring and management, rules and systems management.

4. Metadata management. This is becoming important as companies integrate data -- for instance, customer and product data and warehouse data.

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