Midsize Enterprise Summit: What's On Your Top 10 Strategic Technology List?

David Cearly, vice president and Fellow, and Carl Claunch, vice president and Distinguished Analyst, also gave a brief glimpse at how the list of strategic technologies has evolved in the last year . The list of strategic technologies for 2010 consists of:

1. Virtualization

2. Cloud computing

3. Business intelligence and advanced analytics

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4. Client computing

5. Social computing

6. Mobile applications

7. Security and user activity monitoring

8. Reshaping the data center

9. IT for green business

10. Storage class memory

Cearly and Claunch looked at specific opportunities and challenges presented by most of the individual technologies, with special attention paid to some of the technology areas they see as key.

Lists are ubiquitous in the IT industry, and the speakers spent time talking about why this list was worthy of executives' consideration. They pointed to rapid shifts in the technology landscape, comparing their list this year to a similar list produced in 2009 and noting that technologies like Web-oriented architectures, enterprise mash-ups and specialized servers had disappeared from the list, replaced or subsumed by other categories.

Green IT, or rather, IT for green business, is one of the technology areas evolving rapidly, according to Cearly and Claunch. The difference between the two terms, Cearly said, is that the design of infrastructures and data centers is shifting from a focus on how IT can reduce its impact on the environment to a focus on how IT can help the entire organization reduce its environmental impact.

They pointed out that IT for green business goes far beyond the traditional emphasis on power unit efficiencies (PUEs) to a broader impact on functions like long-distance telepresence and communications, optimal transportation of goods, and tracking the carbon emissions related to the company's overall operations.

Cearly noted, "There is significant uncertainty in many of these areas because of questions about how the legislative process is going to affect business laws, rules and regulations."

While the focus has shifted to IT's impact on a greener organization, there are still significant opportunities for IT departments to improve the operational efficiencies of their data centers. Claunch talked about three areas in which IT departments can improve the efficiencies of their operations. The first is the plan by which servers and infrastructure pieces are grouped in the data center.

"We now know that it's better and more efficient to group hot servers together and cold servers together, to keep them separate and control the environment around each," Claunch said. This can be done as data centers are built out according to Claunch's next point, building data centers in slices.

The traditional way of building data centers was to create the entire space with full environmental controls, then fill the space as needed. Claunch pointed out that it is now seen as far more efficient to build out the overall space in slices or blocks, leaving areas unfinished until the space is needed for new infrastructure pieces. Finally, when additional space is required, Cearly and Claunch suggested that CIOs consider bringing in shipping container building blocks that can be tethered and hosted next to the existing data center rather than immediately leaping to develop new buildings or move the entire data center.

Wrapping up the top 10, Cearly and Claunch reiterated that the priorities and technologies IT must work with will continue to shift and evolve, but that the focus on efficiency, whether of financial resources or environmental impact, will continue to be part of the IT world for a long time to come.

Curtis Franklin is a freelance journalist based in Gainesville, Fla.