Data center dilemmas
In the data center, the challenge for users who championed virtualization and green computing in 2007 is delivering the benefits they promised -- something industry watchers say will be no small feat.
As projects move beyond the planning phase in 2008 into broader deployment, data centers managers will need to evaluate how they're going to manage and support the new technologies without overhauling their entire infrastructure.
"Virtualization and green computing will flip-flop for a while, because they represent challenges beyond what they are said to do," says Robert Whiteley, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "We will see a bit of a virtualization hangover at first because while a lot of people have embraced the technology and seen some success on x86 servers, virtualization forces IT to look differently at managing an environment. And the greening of IT, that is going to be a challenge because a lot of companies don't have a full grasp on what it is yet."
For starters, virtual server management technology will become more critical as data center managers for the first time "face islands of hypervisors within their IT shops," which will have to be managed as a cohesive whole to truly cash in on the benefits of the technology, says James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"The market is going to see the need for a heterogeneous virtualization management platform that we haven't seen up until this point," Staten says.
On the green front, industry watchers say that working toward a more efficient computing environment isn't going to be easy for most data center managers due to technical, political and other reasons outside the control of IT.
"IT needs to start understanding more about data center facilities and find ways to design data centers to eat up less power," says Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of global enterprise research at the Yankee Group.
Forrester's Staten says in 2008 data center managers will be tasked with "energy auditing," which involves understanding the entire power path from the utility to the CPU. While vendors will paint such efforts as green computing, companies are more interested in cutting costs.
"Being green is not the main driver for trying to conserve power. It's a cost-driven measure for IT," Staten says.
Open source acceptance
Another cost-driven trend is open source adoption. Many believe users' uncertainty about open source will shrink so much that their questions around it will evaporate in 2008.
"For me, the big story of open source in the enterprise is that it's becoming a non-story," says Barry Crist, the CEO of Centeris, which makes software to integrate user authentication services between Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac. "There was so much hand wringing, but what I am seeing at the corporate level is this has become uninteresting to them. They are comfortable with the mix between commercial and open source."
Meanwhile, developments with power management, virtualization, mobile devices and data centers will drive open source and Linux in 2008.
The Linux kernel is getting updates to address the power management issue, for example, including the Tickless Kernel Project, which gives the operating system the ability to go to sleep for several hundreds of milliseconds and wake up only when there is something it needs to do. Those sorts of features likely will open 2008 opportunities for Linux and open source within mobile and embedded devices, where power management is a requirement.
In addition, the Linux Standard Base, a certification program that ensures applications can be written once and run on many Linux distributions, is undergoing updates at the Linux Foundation.
"These trends are going to create more applications for Linux and start to create a fly-wheel effect where lots of applications beget more users which beget more applications," says Jim Zemlin, CEO of the Linux Foundation.