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Glancing Backward, Peering Ahead

By any measure, 2008 was a memorable year. Continuing global meltdowns, both ecological and economic, are likely to qualify 2008 as an annus horribilis of particular note. It seems somehow appropriate then that the incoming U.S. president ran on a platform based on hope and change, two of the most metaphorically loaded words in the English language. We can only wish him and his administration well.

Hope and change were certainly on the minds and in the solution sets of virtually every enterprise IT vendor. From the January 1st starting gun, it seemed that vendors were preparing for near-tectonic technological and behavioral shifts, from supporting dramatic data center consolidation efforts and enabling new classes of information management to promoting emerging computing infrastructures and proselytizing technology solutions in every shade of green.

We expect vendors to continue pressing forward with many of these efforts in the coming year but must also offer a simple caveat: Enterprise IT purchasing decisions will be deeply affected, or entirely driven, by the performance of the larger economy. While the current situation is certainly reminiscent of previous downturns, the likes of its depth and breadth have not been seen for a generation or more.

When confronted with the murky unknown, most folks step back and wait for the fog to clear a bit before moving carefully forward. In such circumstances, familiar performance trumps uncertain benefits, a point vendors would do well to remember. Overall, we believe the following issues will be a few that come to the fore during 2009:

"Business value" is the new innovation. The IT industry loves buzzwords, and 2008 had more than its fair share. But the second half of the year saw many vendors subtly (and some not so subtly) repositioning their messaging to emphasize "business value." What exactly is technology business value? Try the ways in which IT products and solutions tangibly contribute to an organization's fundamental health and longevity, not just its technological capabilities or economic success. There are many good reasons for the move to business value, and we expect them to resonate throughout 2009.

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