8 Blazing Hot Technologies for '08

Master these and move ahead in the new year.

To keep ahead of the eight ball in '08, you'll need business knowledge, a keen awareness of hot technologies and new approaches, and a clear-eyed understanding of what is possible. Here are eight hot technologies that experts say should be top of mind during the upcoming year:

1. Virtualization

IT departments have been playing with virtualization as a way to increase hardware utilization and flexibility and help rein in costs, but that game is just heating up, says Pamela Taylor, a solutions architect at a subsidiary for a Fortune 50 company and vice president of Share, an IBM user group. "Virtualization is only going to continue to expand," she says. There are plenty of opportunities to get on board this trend. "The training for server and storage virtualization is well under way and ongoing," Taylor says.

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If you want to further capitalize on the technology, look at expanding virtualization beyond servers and storage. "It's a concrete way to rein in infrastructure costs like electricity and cooling costs, to rein in spending on new servers and to start to do something that really speaks to the concern about the carbon footprint," Taylor says.

2. Automation

As you implement virtualization, you can also start capitalizing on automation. In IT, that means using policy engines that decide when to do various tasks within the infrastructure. Automation can reduce human errors, cut costs, increase availability and add flexibility, says Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., a Nashua, N.H.-based IT consultancy. Consider, for example, automation platforms designed to reduce your off-hours power drain by moving high demand applications onto a couple of servers and shutting down the rest at night, Eunice says. "Automation gives you a more flexible environment that's not in firefighting mode all the time," he adds, noting IT departments that use automation spend less time on IT grunt work and are therefore able to focus more attention on strategic operations.

And though today's automation tends to involve the server, storage and network aspects of the data center, it will spread to middleware and application infrastructures as virtualization expands into those areas, Eunice says. Get started with automation in one area to understand how it works and the rewards it can deliver, he says.

3. Integration

IT departments have been building islands of applications and data for years, and despite repeated attempts to integrate them, many of those islands persist. But business demands for increased efficiencies despite exponential increases in the quantity of data, along with the development of new integration tools, put this on the front burner for '08, Eunice says. It's time to get serious and build bridges, so users can get all the information they need in one place at one time. "Whether it's in manufacturing or health care or any industry, if you can connect the dots, you can be much more efficient," Eunice says.

If you're a database administrator, an applications author or a business analyst, you're on the hot seat here, since you'll need to understand which disparate sets of data need to be integrated, he says, adding, "It will be a hot topic for the next 10 years."

IT shops have a choice of technology to do the job, but the most important decision is to get started, he says.

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