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Gartner: IM hot, grid computing getting warmer

James M. Connolly, Executive Editor

SAN DIEGO -- What's hot? An IT manager might want to take a hard look at enterprise-wide use of instant messaging, radio-frequency identification tags, a unified network security platform, location-based services and Web services. What's on the warm side? Try grid computing, speech recognition technology, the real-time enterprise concept, IP telephony and tablet PCs.

All of those are in the top 10 of strategic technologies, as outlined Tuesday by Gartner Inc. vice president Carl Claunch at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. These technologies "are potentially strategic and valuable to many enterprises," according to Claunch, who noted that they typically are immature, but that they're expected to mature in some way during the next 18 to 36 months.

Claunch expects IT managers to take advantage of the proliferation of instant messaging by integrating it with corporate applications. He said that instant messaging by itself can greatly reduce e-mail and phone usage. However, when rolled out at the enterprise level, it can offer more advantages, such as showing a user which managers may be available during off-hours for an urgent decision. He noted that instant messaging has drawbacks that managers must accept, such as lack of an audit trail, but that there is already progress under way in other areas, such as security.

The year 2003 will mark a sharp increase in use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, Claunch said. These tags can be embedded in products to help

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with applications, including inventory, distribution and security uses. The tags carry the same type of information as bar codes and more, and they're ready for a breakthrough, with the price dropping below 5 cents per device.

Next year, security product suppliers will begin to integrate various security tools, including firewalls, intrusion detection, vulnerability assessment and gateway antivirus software, into combined network security platforms, according to Claunch. "It will be an evolution in 2004 and, by 2006, 60% of protection will be done by a single platform, rather than the current mixture of individual products," he said.

Several technologies will combine to enable the corporate implementation of location-based services. Technologies such as RFID, global positioning systems (GPS) and Bluetooth wireless networks will extend to the corporate world services that have their roots in enhanced 911 emergency services. Such corporate services would allow companies to deliver information such as marketing promotions based on where a customer or mobile device is located.

Grid computing, the strategy through which multiple organizations share computing resources to solve complex problems in parallel, is the subject of industry hype at the moment, according to Claunch. He expects grid computing to move from the academic and government research sectors and into corporate environments. However, he predicted that most commercial implementations between now and 2006 will focus on engineering and scientific applications. Managers should consider the use of grid computing for highly technical problems that can be broken up for parallel processing and which are worth a significant amount of systems integration work.

One sector that still needs to grow in terms of maturity, particularly in terms of standards, is Web services. However, Claunch encouraged IT managers to stick with Web services efforts, noting that a key breakthrough will be the continued use of the technology by developers and independent software vendors between now and 2006. By that time, he said, ISVs will be changing the way software is built, he said.

Speech recognition technology is likely to see limited growth during the next few years, according to Gartner research. Speech recognition has proved successful in applications that involve limited options in terms of the words used, such as call centers, but continues to be unsuitable for most general text entry. Where Gartner does see some opportunity for speech recognition is in using voice, rather than the keyboard and mouse, for "command and control" -- the way a user navigates through an application.

Claunch cited similarly limited use in the short term for IP telephony -- saying it is best suited for small organizations and could be useful in medium-sized companies -- and for tablet PCs, which have grown more capable in selected data entry-oriented applications. The real-time enterprise, which is largely a business strategy in which organizations use emerging technologies to bring data into applications almost immediately, promises to speed decision making and improve the quality of information. However, Claunch says that system architectures won't be ready to support the dynamic linking and software services needed to implement the real-time enterprise until 2007.

Claunch will be a keynote presenter at TechTarget's Data Center Futures conference, which runs from June 4-6 in Chicago. Click here for more information.


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