In October, Gartner published its list -- or rather a list -- of top ten strategic technologies. At the Gartner conference that is just finishing in Australia today, Michele Caminos of Gartner outlined 10 top trends and how they will affect infrastructure and operations.

It’s almost needless to say, but worth noting anyway, that there is some crossover here, but the technologies that are being developed at the moment are the very ones that will be setting IT trends in the near future.

Not all of these trends are directly related to IT, but the ones that are not will have considerable impact on IT so they have been included in the list.

Why is this important? Gartner, in is research, points out that:

  • In the past month alone, 30 billion pieces of content were added to Facebook
  • IP traffic will quadruple by 2015
  • 107 trillion emails were sent this year (89% of which was spam) equating to 17, 000 emails for every person on the planet, or 51,000 for every Internet user

That’s a lot of content, and a lot of infrastructure to manage it, which is where Caminos is coming from with this presentation.

And the top infrastructure trends that will be behind all this are as follows:

  1. Evolution of virtualization
  2. Patterns and analytics
  3. Energy efficiency and monitoring
  4. Context-aware applications
  5. Staff retention and retraining
  6. Social networks
  7. Consumerization and tablets
  8. Compute per square foot
  9. Cloud computing
  10. Infrastructure

1. Virtualization

Virtualization, as this point in time is a by-word in data centers, but it is coming to desktops, which is the trend that Gartner says we need to watch for. It is also common to talk about breaking systems down in to smaller chunks, but this trend will also see disparate systems being unified into one massive unit.

Ultimately, it means the decoupling of software and hardware. The danger here is that one vendor’s vision will dominate. However, Caminos says that to realize the full advantages of this, enterprises need to clarify and stick to their own virtualization strategies.

2. Patterns and analytics

Caminos has put a rough figure on the growth of unstructured data over the next five years. The amount of overall data is will grow by 800%, and 80% of that is going to be unstructured. The result will see many companies investing in Big Data analytics as companies attempt to make sense of the content they have.

The most important technologies will be deduplication technologies, automated tiering of data and flash or solid-state drives for high-end performance.

Storage should get cheaper as NAND pricing will continue to drop from US$ 7,870 per gigabyte in 1997 down to 25 cents per gigabyte today -- and this trend will continue.

3. Energy and efficiency

Caminos points out that data centers use 100 times more energy that the offices they support, and the cost of running a 25,000 sq. ft. data center is now US$ 4.1 million annually.

Previously, because the cost of running facilities was buried in budgets, companies didn’t pay attention. Now, with increasingly tight regulation from the EPA, companies are factoring that into the cost of computing.

Companies are now looking for data center efficiency, particularly in light of the fact that a typical x86 server will consume between 60% and 70% of its total power load when running at low utilization levels. The result: Companies are looking for better use of existing computing  resources.

4. Context-aware applications

With the development and increased use of mobile devices, there is an expectation now that systems will be able to tell users where and what data is available, and what device it is located on.

Mobility and Unified Communications (UC) have thrown this problem into relief with most enterprises believing that they are good to have, but not being able to justify them form a cost level.

However, when UC and Mobility are combined, it is possible to incorporate all devices into the enterprise and the business case is easier to make.

Basic UC services such as unified messaging and single numbers are hard to quantify and lower on the scale. Adding capabilities such as presence extends value, while extending desktop phone capability to mobile increases that value.

5. Staff and knowledge retention

With many of the baby boomers who drove the evolution of the IT industry until now are leaving the workforce, there is an emerging problem of knowledge loss. Caminos says that the employees that are entering the workforce now are more mobile, change jobs more often and  are less concerned about the company they work for than before.

Companies are attempting to retain staff and the knowledge that lies with the workers. This knowledge is not just in-depth knowledge of one area, but wider knowledge and how all the parts of IT are linked.

Companies that succeed will be companies that provide learning environments that motivate staff to stay. This will result in staff with wide breadth of knowledge, and wider view of the enterprise.

6. Social networks

Caminos points to the thorny issue of blocking access to social networks such as Facebook as not just one that will make enterprises less attractive, but also one that will separate enterprises form their customers.

A growing number of customers expect social media tools to be a point of contact between them and the company they are doing business with. The result will be a increasing tendency toward growing social networking tools that operate outside as well as inside the company.

For companies to succeed into the future, long-term strategies must take these into account.

7. Tablets

Not only did iPod and iPad2 become an overnight consumer sensation, they also precipitated a change in mentalities in the enterprise toward tablets. It was only with their release, Caminos says, that enterprises really started taking note.

Not only were employees playing with them at home, but they also found that they could run some of their work functions on them.

The result is that IT has been forced to develop use polices for employees that cover issues such as security and access. Employees are not going to stop using them, so more IT departments are going to be forced to develop policies for their use, with only a minimal view of the long-term consequences.

8. Computer and data center density

System density issues are not going away and with the number of processor cores available they will be growing. Many companies no longer have the budget to actually build data centers, so IT departments are going to have to scale vertically through density rather than building new ones.

The result is that there will be increased focus on getting more out of servers so that quad-, eight- and sixteen-core processors are either already being used, or are in the planning stage. Parallel coding techniques need to be addressed soon, and starting the training process early is a wise move, Caminos says.

9. Cloud computing

With some IT functions becoming less customized (email, for example), there will be a move by larger organizations to cloud computing as the benefits become increasingly clear.

Private cloud developments are now outpacing activities in public cloud deployments and the IT departments are focused on turning IT departments into a provider of services, rather than a provider of servers and related technologies.

Although cost is a potential benefit for small companies, the biggest benefits of cloud computing are built-in elasticity and scalability, which reduce barriers and enable these firms to grow quickly.

10. Infrastructures

Caminos says Gartner defines infrastructure convergence as the vertical integration of server, storage, and network systems and components with element-level management software

This, she says, is what will build the foundation that will enable enterprises to optimize and share data center resources efficiently and dynamically.

The result is that we are moving to plug-and-play data centers where everything can be turned on and turned off at will, including storage, memory and processing, all of which will become a node of the network.

More trends emerging in December.