Tire-Kicking Tech: Top Five Technologies Being Tested This Year

Our survey identified the top technologies queued up for testing this year. Here’s how five companies are already reaping the benefits.

The technologies being assessed now at companies both large and small could well turn out to be the ones to watch in 2007, with early adopters hard at work blazing the trail for others to follow. According to Computerworld's Vital Signs survey of 252 IT executives, server virtualization topped the list of technologies being tested, followed by document management, content security, asset management and business process management. Here's a look inside five companies that have taken these technologies for a test-drive — and are getting early payback.

1. Server Virtualization

Capital One Financial Corp. is midway through a three-year project to transition from 18 operating systems to five strategic platforms. Server virtualization is a central part of that strategy and will enable the company to drop from 1,600 servers to 1,100.

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"Our initial testing shows we are able to move from 30% CPU utilization to 85% utilization with virtualization technology," says Lee Congdon, Capital One's managing vice president for corporate technology. "In addition to lowering costs, we also found that as we consolidate on a [smaller] number of larger, more capable servers, we get better response times on an individual application, even though it is operating with other applications."

Virtualization and standardization have also reduced the time needed to provision a server from six to eight weeks down to two weeks. This has particularly helped with the implementation of agile software development, since the developers aren't delayed by not having a server available when they need it, says Congdon.

The company is using different types of virtualization depending on the platform. It uses VMware for Windows and Linux on Intel servers. Its AIX and HP-UX Unix servers and IBM zSeries mainframes all use proprietary vendor software for creating logical partitions. Congdon says VMware has worked well so far, but Capital One might consider software from other vendors in the future.

The virtualization project is scheduled for completion by 2008. In the meantime, he says, the IT department will move toward offering differentiated service levels to different business applications. Since virtualization makes it easy to shift resources, capacity will be reassigned to address peaks in demand, taking resources away from lower-priority services when they're needed by higher-priority ones.

Words of Wisdom: When virtualizing a data center, Congdon says, it's essential to have a transparent and agreed-upon chargeback model so no department feels it's paying for the services provided to another. He also advises piloting it in several areas before launching a full-blown transition.

"That way, you get some learning upfront before you commit to that project plan," he says. "You need to understand how it is going to apply in your own environment, since each organization is different."

TOP TESTERS

The top five technologies being tested this year:

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 Server virtualization - 42%
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 Documentation management - 35%
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Content security/control - 33%
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 Asset management - 27%
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Business process management - 24%

Source: Computerworld's quarterly Vital Signs survey, 252 respondents; multiple responses allowed

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