The No. 1 entry on Gartner Inc.'s annual list of the top 10 strategic technologies was cloud computing, but the one that may have been of the most interest to Bill Piatt, CIO at International Finance Corp., was the one that occupied last place on the list: mobile applications.
About 60% of that staff at IFC, which is part of the World Bank, is based overseas, mostly in emerging markets, and “the only thing that works reliably in emerging markets is cell phones,” Piatt said.
Piatt's IT staff has been working to bring Washington-based IFC's core business applications either to cell phones, “so that our workforce can be productive wherever they are on the planet.”
Piatt was at Gartner's user conference, Symposium/ITxpo, to find out where mobile technology was heading. And he may have learned that he has a lot to look forward to, because, according to Gartner analyst Carl Claunch, mobile devices now have enough processing power and storage capacity for software vendors “to make some reasonably meaty applications for them.”
One thing that's helping mobile applications is the fact that chip makers are developing processors that look like the PC processors “of just a few years back,” Claunch said. There is increasing potential to create an environment on smartphones that would support an enormous pool of PC applications, he said.
In the No. 2 spot on Gartner's list was advanced analytics, another technology that's being helped along by increases in processing power. It involves giving businesses the ability to model every single action and create models. In security, for example, that could mean looking at patterns and detecting fraud as it happens.
Here's a look at the other technologies on the list:
-Client computing, which is being reshaped by virtualization, cloud technologies and new approaches to corporate IT in which companies provide employees with stipends to purchase their own systems and then give them the ability to access business applications through a virtualized environment.
-Green IT, which includes anything that reduces energy consumption and a company's carbon footprint.
-Reshaping the data center. This encompasses new approaches to data center operations, including a new way of designing them that involves building out facilities incrementally using pods and adding power, chillers and generators only as needed.
-Social computing, such as the activity taking place Facebook and other networking venues.
-Monitoring user activity for security purposes. This is getting harder with increasingly targeted attacks and complications posed by cloud computing.
-Flash memory, which is fast and rugged and uses less energy than rotating disks. It costs more than a disk drive, but the price gap is narrowing.
-Virtualization for availability. VMware calls its entry in this arena VMotion; Microsoft calls its offering Live Migration.
The technologies that made the list for the first time were mobile applications, flash memory, user activity monitoring, reshaping the data center and client computing.