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28 Dec 2009, 11:59PM PT

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A Look Back At 2009 For IT


Closed: 28 Dec 2009, 11:59PM PT

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We're continuing our series of cases here to develop interesting, engaging and useful discussions for our new sub-site, IT Innovations. We're looking for insights that might help IT managers stay informed and keep their operations competitive.  

As the end of the year approaches, we're looking for your views regarding significant trends or events that happened in 2009 that will affect (or have already affected) data centers or IT management.  If you have a list of the "top 10" IT milestones for 2009, that would be great.  But if you only think there was *one* major event, and you'd like to delve into that topic -- we're open to that discussion, too.

If you're really ambitious, an overview of the past decade could be interesting as well.  Looking back at the past can help everyone plan for the future, so recent lessons from the past year (or even the last few years) could be enlightening.  How has the financial crisis affected the IT landscape?  How does the current environment compare to the dot-com bust?  What were the most game-changing products/services/concepts that were introduced in the recent past?  These are just a few of the topics we'd love to hear your opinions on....

4 Insights


The most visible feature of this year was the iPhone breakthrough. Changing the mobile industry for good. But the most interesting feature of the iPhone is what it does not do, and how apps actually work.

The really important thing about mobile apps is that they push the hard work into the backend. Sure, you will find a lot of people who talked about the "cloud" this year, and this year also was the breakthrough year for "clouds" from Google and Amazon. But so far, these are not connected to the iPhone at all. Google is quietly trying to do so with Android, so when Android phones launch for real, the applications will change forever.

It already happened in the PC world, with widgets. But there, the pace of change is slower,  and a lot of legacy still remains - Microsoft, for one. They struggle to change their way of working, but itis hardly likely that they will remain the company they once were and succeed. They are trying to turn themselves into a clone of what Google is trying to become, after all. But Microsoft and "do no evil" does somehow not work together.

Virtualization and multi-core processors, combined with cheaper memory (both as hard disks and DRAM) make this possible. Blade computers are really not very different from PC:s, just without casing and on a bus. There is clearly potential for something which leverages the still stiff competition in processor development.

From piracy to privacy, 2009 has been an eventful year, but the word of the year is Cloud.  Pirate Bay founders found guilty and the ship has been sold, and Facebook steps afoul of privacy advocates, however, the story of 2009 has been about the emergence of cloud computing.  The power of computing is moving from devices to the web.  Mobile devices are driving this charge, from smart phones to net books, browser enabled devices allow users to access power tools with low power devices.

The term “cloud computing” has been around since the 90’s when NetCentric attempted to trademark the term (1,2), and was later appropriated by both Dell (2) and  Eric Schmidt of Google (2).  In current usage it refers to the web in general, but more so to the provision of tools and services via the web or storage on the web.

Since Hotmail and AOL, the web has provided useful services, but 2009 saw cloud computing move to another level with a view to the future of the web.   More services than ever are offering a variety of free and cost tools which use the power of the web rather than the power of the device itself.  Though many products like Photoshop Express, Google Docs and other web based services have been around well before this year, it was the increase in mobile devices which have really enabled the surge in web based services, and point to the solidifying of their place in our web lives.

Netbooks and smart phones exponential growth and reliance on the cloud for the bulk of their power and functionality signal that cloud services are the future of computing.  From software as service to free and low cost photo editing and storage, and web based collaborative spaces and  back up services, the cloud is meeting user’s needs.

Heading into 2010, the issue for IT professionals will be how to make the best use of cloud services while balancing security and control of your business’ data and information.  IT’s role will shift further from supporting the infrastructure to evaluating the variety of choices and ensuring the safety of your company’s information and supporting its users as the cloud continues to grow.

   1. “Who Coined the Phrase Cloud Computing?”  By John Willis http://www.johnmwillis.com/cloud-computing/who-coined-the-phrase-cloud-computing /
   2. “Dell’s Cloud Computing Trademark Application Criticized” By Wolfgang Gruener http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Dell-cloud-computing,6049.html

Joshua Howe is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) specializing in accessibility and technology for individuals with disabilities.

It’s that time again, when everyone who thinks they’re a pundit (that would be everyone with a blog or Twitter account) has to make predictions for the coming year. But predictions are perilous: Get it right and you look like a mere trend-watcher; get it wrong and you look like a fool. It’s such a hassle! So I’m doing something different this year: I’m going to make predictions for 2009 now that it’s over, and reflect on just how smart I am (not) to have made them.

What I Would Have Gotten Right

I definitely could have predicted a lot of what happened in 2009. I mean, these were slam dunks!

  1. Twitter rocks the world – I wasn’t early to Twitter, but I spent the early part of 2009 evangelizing its benefits to companies and co-workers alike. Considering how common Twitter is today, it’s hard to believe how roundly criticized and misunderstood it was this time last year. Yet here we are, on the verge of 2010, and Twitter has seeped onto our business cards, presentation templates, and web sites. I might not have predicted how stable (!) Twitter got by the end of the year, though.
  2. Apple’s Macs and iPhones rule – I switched to the iPhone and the Mac in 2007 and 2008, respectively, but it looks like I wasn’t much of an iconoclast after all: By November, half of the Tech Field Daydelegates were using MacBooks, and the Windows and Blackberry holdouts have started vocally defending their operating system choice. Pretty much like Mac folks used to do way back in 2008.
  3. The recession is a serious pain – Companies put the brakes on spending and hiring, many even shifting both into reverse in 2009. This came as no surprise to humans capable of thought. The impact on enterprise IT companies was similarly predictable: Although most were able to survive, the impact of 2009 will continue to be felt for years. I might have predicted it would be worse, though I’m glad to say I would have been wrong.
  4. EMC, NetApp, HDS, HP, and IBM continue to quibble – Surprise: Big company bloggers spend way too much time criticizing the products and actions of each other and way to little time talking about the true value of their own products.

What I Probably Could Have Predicted

Although some details would likely have been missed, I think I would have seen these coming.

  1. Cloud compute and storage hits the enterprise – I was a believer in the cloud this time last year, and I bet my future on it by taking a position at enterprise cloud storage provider, Nirvanix, in March. I would have predicted that enterprise buyers would be putting serious thought to buying cloud products, but the scope has surprised me. We’re talking enough petabytes that the non-cloud players felt compelled to strike back with the private cloud pitch. Awesome!
  2. Sun and Data Domain were acquired – My money would have been on Dell, IBM, or HP as buyers for this pair, but EMC wouldn’t have been outside my guesses. Still, Oracle buying Sun and vocally committing to keep it going, SPARC and all, would never have come to mind. But I wouldn’t have guessed against it either, so I’ll give myself a point here!
  3. Cisco and EMC buddy up – I’ve long thought an outright merger of these two was in the cards, but even the recession couldn’t make the financials work. A partnership would have been on the list, andAcadia came as no surprise to anyone.
  4. Cloud outages and data loss – I definitely could have predicted that high-profile cloud services would fall over throughout the year, and that some would lose data. Not all are enterprise-grade, after all. But the outages at Google, Rackspace, and Amazon, and Microsoft’s Danger data loss, surprised me. Don’t those guys have their acts together?
  5. IT conferences falter – I spoke at Interop in 2009, but it lacked the 20,000-strong crowd it once had. Storage Decisions and Storage Networking World managed to fill their halls, but the old-school IT conference has lost its luster. Although VMworld remains strong, attendance was definitely off.
  6. FCoE and SSD are still starting – I’ve been lukewarm on Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Solid State Drives, but I’m a bit surprised that storage vendors didn’t push them harder in 2009. I might have guessed there would have been more customer uptake to match the buzz.
  7. SMB storage is hot – There’s a hole in the storage market between $1,000 and $20,000, and companies like Drobo and Iomega are rushing in to fill it. Now that ESX has solid iSCSI support, I expect a world of innovation here. (Oops, that sounds kind of like a 2010 prediction!)

What I Never Would Have Guessed

I’m not perfect, even in retrospect. Some of the Tech news from 2009 was justcompletely off the wall.

  1. Microsoft Bing: This time for sure! – Seriously, Microsoft should stick to in-house thinking instead of trying to copy its rivals. Yet somehow, miraculously, Bing appeared and did not suck. In fact, I’m hearing regular (non-techie) folks around town talking about using the search engine. I’ve even used it! Could they actually have a winner?
  2. Windows 7 rocks – Really? Seriously? Could Microsoft have come up with a solid replacement for Windows XP?
  3. Ship it! – It’s not even 2010, and enterprise storage buyers can go out and purchase NetApp’s OnTap 8EMC’s FASTEMC Atmos Compute, and unicorn tears. Well, maybe not unicorn tears.
  4. Still no GDrive – Seemingly every company has a cloud storage platform, from Amazon to Rackspace, Nirvanix to EMC, so why not Google? Could GDrive join Duke Nukem Forever as the most famous vaporware of the decade?
  5. The executive shuffle – Dave Donatelli was supposed to lead EMC, not HP. Alan Atkinson was supposed to launch another startup, not take over Xiotech. At least NetApp was gentle.
  6. Mac OS X (still) lacks iSCSI and ZFS – Come on, Cupertino, what’s wrong with you guys? I’ve been hyping ZFS for years, and iSCSI is commonplace. Yet Snow Leopard is stingy with both. Makes me want to hiss like one of those blue folks in Avatar.
  7. Gestalt IT is a success – On a personal note, Gestalt IT didn’t even exist this time last year, and now we have a successful IT infrastructure blog and social media event. Amazing!



James Stevens
Tue Apr 6 2:19pm
I think one addition to this that still flies under the radar is Google Voice. It's the 2009 tech game changer that is quietly creeping into the market. I don't think people realize the huge implications of this free service, yet.

Going into a new year, it's easy to forget to look back. But IT managers have faced biggers challenges over the last 10 years. Let's lift a glass of champagne, and remember the highlights of the last 10 years.

* We survived Y2K. In the end, it was a big bust

* USB drives. Mainly because the invention of the USB port meant dozens of users who could potentially transport viruses from their home computers without even realizing it.

* iPhones, iPods, and other mobile devices. That's been a defining trend for the last 10 years, but IT managers have finally begun to adapt.

* The rise of Network Access Control was an important milestone of the last ten years -- mainly because it addressed those clueless users above.

* Windows Server 2008. Love it or hate it -- at least it included Network Access Control.

* The Trusted Computing Group has been controversial because some argue it locks down hardware from the users themselves -- but it's going to be a big factor in the security of devices to come.