Reading IT's Tea Leaves for 2009
There's no shortage of forecasts for the coming year. We've compiled a slew of predictions -- including the idea that some unemployed IT pros may soon turn to life of crime. That particular nugget comes from security vendor Finjan. While it's no stretch to say that cybercrime will rise in 2009, Finjan put a spin on its cybercrime prediction, saying the growth will occur "with an increasing number of unemployed IT professionals joining in."
Meanwhile, an increase in unemployed IT pros seems inevitable, according to the latest poll by CDW. Among 1,059 IT decision-makers polled between Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, 11% said they expect staffing decreases in the next six months, compared with the 5% who reported the same expectation in October.
IT budget cuts, too, are in store, according to several sources. Perhaps the most dire spending prediction so far is that of Citi Investment Research, which is forecasting that U.S. corporate IT spending will plummet 10% to 20% in 2009.
"At the risk of offending Web 2.0 enthusiasts, most firms, especially those hardest hit in this recession, consider social networking speculative and in some cases frivolous. To engage in speculation and innovation requires some staff time and some extra cash," Kellen says. "My guess is that many of these projects have been put on hold and related staff have been reassigned or let go. Only the few strong ROI social networking and Web 2.0 projects will continue."
Another casualty of the poor economy will be capital spending among service providers, which may decrease by more than 10% next year, potentially crimping the sales of major IT equipment vendors, according to investment firm UBS.
Still, software spending will grow by 6.6% in 2009 to $244.3 billion, Gartner predicts, revising downward its previous forecast of 9.5% growth. Companies will delay or even cancel SOA projects, but software aimed at optimizing how organizations are run, such as business process management and master data management will fare better, Gartner says.
Scores of pundits also are predicting growth in cloud computing. IDC goes so far as to say Google will acquire Salesforce.com or another software-as-a-service applications ecosystem -- and that Cisco will be thinking about doing the same.
On the equipment side, wired switch port sales will decline for the first time in history, predicts Yankee Group. The research firm links the decline not to the economy, however, but to the popularity of wireless networks: "The acceleration of wireless LAN deployments will cause a slowdown, and ultimately a decline, in wired network switch port sales by the end of 2009," Yankee Group suggests.
Also set to decline for the first time since 2001 is the mobile phone market, which ABI Research estimates will shrink between 3% and 5%. "Replacement rates will be squeezed, and new subscriber adoption in emerging markets will slow perceptibly, resulting in a tough year for mass market handset vendors," the firm projects.
Meanwhile, after years of being regarded as the "ugly stepchild" of unified communications (UC), video is poised to take off in 2009, says Yankee Group, which predicts that video-enabled business processes will be born in 2009.
"Videoconferencing has grown steadily as a replacement for travel due to green benefits and lowered travel costs, and this year will see the full emergence of this trend," Yankee Group reports. "In fact, video will actually vault to the forefront as the lead for UC in many deployments."
Other technologies on the upswing include thin client technologies and tiny notebook computers.
"Thin-client deployments on the back of desktop virtualization will gain traction in 2009, and further accelerate into 2010, as PC replacement cycles peak across the region," IDC predicts. The research firm expects thin-client shipments will grow 12% to 15% over 2008 levels, to about 765,000 units in 2009.
DisplaySearch is predicting a surge in demand for mini-note PCs, which it describes as "low-priced, thin and very light (less than 3 pounds) products that provide at least a modicum of typical office software functionality and also enable greater mobility."
Demand for mini-note PCs will be driven by a variety of sources, "including early adopters, consumer and enterprise PC customers seeking a smaller or secondary notebook PC, as well as new PC customers in emerging markets," says John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch.
New Blood Needed at Old Stalwarts
On the personnel front, Sun will find a new CEO to replace Jonathan Schwartz, predicts the IDG News Service (a Network World affiliate). "We're torn between the view that he'll be ousted and the view that he'll decide it's just time to go, but either way we don't believe he'll be Sun's CEO at the end of 2009, if he even makes it past the first quarter or so," the news agency posits. "And Sun will cease to exist in its current incarnation, perhaps being part of a blockbuster acquisition, perhaps going private."
The IDG News Service also predicts that Time Warner will unload America Online, "either by spinning it off as a separate company, selling it, or using it as the basis of a joint venture formed with another company."
Other acquisition targets could include management vendors BMC Software and CA, which are becoming increasingly attractive to software vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP that need to fill out their respective management and automation offerings.
"Neither [BMC nor CA] wants to be acquired, but they continue to become more attractive morsels to the likes of Microsoft, which has no choice with its virtualization push to take on a bigger management role," says Glenn O'Donnell, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.
Through all the vendor shuffling and market machinations, one thing will remain constant in 2009: the continued assault from all kinds of malware and cybercrime activity.
VeriSign says critical infrastructure that's operated by Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems -- such as electrical power transmission facilities and gas pipelines -- will see increased attacks in 2009.
Sophos warns that a sharp increase in SQL injection attacks on Web sites and an increase in scareware products are on tap, while MessageLabs predicts that phishing attacks against users of social networking sites will become more sophisticated.
For its part, Cisco expects that in 2009, social engineering techniques will increase in number, vectors and sophistication. Insider threats will grow, as will security risks related to mobility, the vendor predicts.
Within the enterprise, Network World columnist Andreas Antonopoulos predicts that host-based security will become the focus for 2009. "The imminent release of Windows 7 and the continued interest in Mac OS and Linux as alternative desktops are once again focusing attention on operating-system and endpoint security," he says.
While security projects will struggle for funding in 2009, the pressure for businesses to stay compliant with a raft of new regulatory requirements could provide the funding excuse enterprises IT pros need. "Use compliance to push through budget requests on everything," Antonopoulos suggests. "It's 2007 all over again!"