Eight hot technologies most likely to burn a hole in your pocket in the next year By Christopher Lindquist
As one year ends, a new one begins. And by the time you’ve finished singing “Auld Lang Syne,” another dozen vendors will be lined up at your door, looking to lure your company onto the next technology wave. But budgets for new tools will be tighter than ever, so it will only pay to play with winners.
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of technologies we think have a shot at making it big in 2002. The current economic climate makes the crystal ball even cloudier than normal, of course, but these apps seem headed for the big time sooner rather than later.
It’s an axiom of IT: Network and system security are never going to get less important. But increasingly frequent attacks by hackers, viruses and Trojans, combined with the world’s sharpened interest in safety and security, will make 2002 a banner year for security providers of all types. Sept. 11 gave companies an excuse to start talking more earnestly about security, says Chris Byrnes, vice president of security programs for Meta Group, an analyst company in Stamford, Conn. In some cases, he says, members of the board of directors are walking up to CIOs and asking for details of their security and recovery plans.
Fortunately for those CIOs, they’ll have plenty of options, including new intrusion detection and network scanning tools, security services, functional (if not yet manageable) biometric tools and more.
By the time you read this, hopefully the airline business will have picked up significantly since the Sept. 11 hijackings. But even the optimists aren’t predicting a return to the good old days of air travel. A shrinking economy coupled with decreased convenience and new trepidation will continue to hamper business travel for some time. As a result, videoconferencing and online collaboration are in line for serious boosts.
A study on Sept. 19 by the National Business Travel Association showed that 88 percent of companies planned to increase use of videoconferencing. Web collaboration services such as WebEx were already seeing their usage grow as the economy sank, and there’s no sign that trend will change anytime soon. Videoconferencing options that provide decent quality at low cost are expanding (see “Don’t Hang Up,” Oct. 1, 2001). People still need to meet. But the handshake isn’t going to be as critical anymore.
This may be the biggest long shot on our list. Peer-to-peer tools (which directly connect client systems instead of relying on servers) were possibly the most overplayed new technology of the past couple years, with proponents claiming it would reshape not only computing but society (for example, that hue and cry of “information wants to be free” and “I don’t want to pay $15.95 for a CD anymore”). Now Napster has been whipped into submission by the courts, and several other consumer-oriented peer services have hit hard times. But the business side of the market may be just getting under way as IT managers find niches for tools that keep employees connected to each other no matter where they are.
Beverly, Mass.-based Groove Networks’ collaboration products have been called “firmly grounded in reality” by Gartner. Competitors have added business process (Consilient) and document management (NextPage) features to the free-flowing collaborative peer-to-peer mix. Heck, how many people do you know who use a basic instant messaging tool for business as well as personal purposes? That said, the ROI will tell the tale with these products. The technology is new enough that some IT departments will be wary. But they’ll come around?eventually.
Storage may well be the most important yawner in the IT world. Everybody always needs more of it, and they’d all just as soon stop thinking about it. But they shouldn’t, because technologies introduced in 2001 will start to make an impact in 2002. IP storage products will let companies combine disparate storage centers across their existing IP networks. Infiniband will provide high-speed, simplified connections to storage devices. Storage virtualization software, which combines far-flung storage resources into “virtual pools” of storage, will get more sophisticated. And, as always, disks will continue to get smaller, faster and more dense with every passing month.
Voice Over IP
After some false starts in the consumer market and a slower than expected corporate adoption rate, the technology to send voice over the Internet seems poised to make some moves in 2002. There are a number of reasons, starting with Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, which added support for improved voice handling and should alleviate some of the quality concerns that had handcuffed previous attempts to turn PCs into “unified messaging devices.” Also, the big telecom providers are starting to figure out how to sell IP services without cannibalizing their existing accounts. (Late last year, for instance, Qwest became the first big player to announce that it would sell VoIP services.) And the results of our own Quick Poll in June (www.cio.com/poll/061901.html) showed that IT execs were starting to think positively of voice over IP.
Things won’t be completely rosy, of course. Norm Bogen, director for WAN infrastructure and services at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based research company Cahner’s Instat, says that with too many overcapitalized players in too small a field, the IP hardware market is ripe for a significant consolidation. Companies buying IP phone systems will continue to face proprietary setups that require a single-vendor commitment. But even those hurdles aren’t likely to keep voice over IP hobbled for much longer.
By 2003, nearly one-third of call center phone lines will take advantage of speech recognition, says Gartner. Big vendors such as Nortel are producing the gear. Big buyers such as American Airlines, Charles Schwab and UPS are installing it. It may even be built in to your mobile phone. Yes, we’re still at least a few years away from chatting with our computers ˆ la 2001: A Space Odyssey, but speech recognition is real. And as the technology continues to enter the corporate sphere, IT departments are going to be called on increasingly to integrate voice response systems with company data.
Nationwide high-speed wireless networks may not come to fruition in 2002 (see “Lukewarm at Best,” Page 118), but wireless 802.11b LANs will be another story. Jack Gold, vice president for mobile and pervasive computing at Meta, says that despite well-publicized security concerns, the sector continues to grow rapidly.
It’s all a matter of what you’re trying to do?companies shouldn’t use the tool for sending critical, proprietary data around, but, Gold says, “for wireless e-mail, what’s the risk?” Gold also notes that products based on the even faster 802.11a standard will arrive sooner than some expect, thanks to competitively priced chipsets. It all points to a more locally wireless world in 2002.
XML will continue to be a hot story, though it is unlikely to hit the front pages as much as it has in the past. In some ways, that may be a good thing, as XML makes the transition from topic for debate to forgone conclusion. Nearly every piece of enterprise software released in 2002 will make claims of XML compatibility. Groups will continue to hammer out industrywide standards that will actually go into use. And while Web services may still be in the launch stages next year, big pieces of the services puzzle are built on XML. All this action means that we’ll see more and more real products doing real things with XML. In the October 2001 XML.com article “XML You Can Touch,” Edd Dumbill stated: “The thrill, as they say, is gone, and waiting for the next spec to drop out of the machine has definitely lost its appeal. An exciting use of XML for me now isn’t just a spec, it’s a use of XML that will actually result in something, well, useful.” And it’s quite likely that 2002 may well be the first full year of useful XML. n