Three of the top IT trends -- virtualization, cloud computing, and green IT -- will also have a major impact on how, where, and why customers print.
That's the word from Peter Grant, managing vice president of Gartner, who on Monday addressed an audience of IT vendors and customer executives at the annual Print & Imaging Summit, held this week in Los Angeles.
Grant said that CIOs are struggling to grow their customer base, change their organizations, and innovate, but their hands are tied by rising costs, falling cash flows, and lower availability of capital than in the past.
Because of this, Grant said, customers will need to depend on a number of new technologies to cut the cost of printing and imaging.
In particular, Grant highlighted three trends that will have especially important impacts on controlling printing and imaging costs: virtualization, cloud computing, and green IT.
"Why only three?" Grant said. "I originally wanted to talk about 25, but they didn't give me a three-hour time slot."
The first key technology trend is virtualization of server, client, storage, and application resources.
Server virtualization, which underpins many of the other types of virtualization technologies, is growing fast. Gartner estimates that about 12 percent of servers were virtualized in 2008, a figure that will grow to about 52 percent by 2012, Grant said.
As virtualization continues to increase in importance to an organization, its impact on the printing and imaging business will continue to grow, Grant said.
Virtualization will lead to a consolidation of print servers while making it easier to add and manage new print servers. And, he said, basing disaster recovery on virtual environments will make it easier to bring back print queues in case of a disaster.
Grant also said his team discussed including servers as a part of the virtualization trend, since sharing printers among multiple users can be considered virtualization. "But printers are unique," he said. "If they are virtualized, you still need to pick up the output."
The second key technology trend is cloud computing, which Gartner describes as massively scaled IT capabilities that are provided as a service using Internet technologies to server multiple external customers.
For printing, cloud computing offers new ways for organizations to conduct business. For instance, a company might use a cloud computing provider to do more printing offsite, cutting down warehouse and shipping charges for printed materials, he said.
Cloud computing will also lead to new services offerings, such as ways for companies to look at the cost of printing before deciding where to do the job, he said.
The third technology trend is the move to adopt "green," or environmentally-friendly, technology as part of printing.
This is being driven by customers looking at ways to decrease their electricity consumption, carbon footprint, and use of paper, Grant said.
"(Organizations are) jumping on the bandwagon," he said. "They love it. But is it because they love trees? They use it to cut costs."
As customers print less, they can better manage what they print, which also makes it easier to increase the security of their printed documents. Fewer documents printed mean less chance of documents leaking to unauthorized sources and better auditing of paper flow, Grant said.