Budget tips for the new year

IT budgets aren't budging, so IT execs will squeeze value from projects that deliver quick ROI and long-term savings

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In 2010 and for the foreseeable future, getting things done faster, better and cheaper will involve more and more consumerlike technologies, including cloud-based IT infrastructure capabilities, SaaS applications, netbooks and iPhones, CIOs say. The reasons are simple: They work, they're less of a support hassle, and yes, they're cheaper. In fact, more than half the respondents to Computerworld's survey said they're likely to look to cheaper technologies and homegrown applications to save money this year.

"We now consciously consider [application service providers] or other cloud solutions as valid competitors to hosting our own solutions when we need an application, because of the reduced cost," says Eric Cowperthwaite, chief information security officer at Providence Health & Services, a system of hospitals and clinics based in Seattle. Cowperthwaite predicts that 2010 will bring "a significant rethinking of Providence's end-user desktop environment. IT will be looking to answer questions such as, 'So we really need $700 or $800 worth of software on every computer?' " he says.

Greenaway says he will be integrating several consumer devices into Bargreen Ellingson's IT infrastructure.

"Commoditization is driving better technology into smaller, cheaper devices. I see a real [support] benefit in that," he says. "For years, IT has been conditioned to accept a high level of fixing things as a requirement -- more so than any consumer would tolerate. Now, when folks come in and want to connect their iPhones into the corporate infrastructure, I'm much more likely to do it because I'm not going to have the same level of Tier 1 help desk support issues with it."

Pressure on the Big Guys

Mike Twohig, CIO at Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. in Norwell, Mass., has deployed some cloud applications and open-source software as a means of keeping a lid on costs in his nearly 100% homegrown IT environment. He also consciously seeks out up-and-coming vendors to supply his enterprise with hardware and software. The strategy pays off in two ways: He saves money because the lesser-known vendors' products are less expensive, and that makes the big guys, such as Microsoft and Oracle, far more responsive about renegotiating licensing contracts.

For example, Clean Harbors has deployed server virtualization software from Addison, Texas-based 2X Software LLC that Twohig says costs "15 cents on the dollar [compared] to Citrix and has all of the same functionality."

He has also deployed an inventory application from a less well-known vendor. "The reality is that for the investment in time and dollars, I became a bigger fish in the pond to the [smaller] vendor. I use that to drive down costs," he says.

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