Trends With Staying Power
Virtualization, green solutions and IP video rise above the fads
When it comes to IT trends, readers are wise to question the substantive nature of the information they’re digesting. Trends aren’t famous for their shelf life and investing heavily in a fleeting fad isn’t a savvy business move.
With that in mind, IBM Systems Magazine went in search of trends with staying power in the managed service provider market. Subject-matter experts at Mainline Information Systems, a leading solutions provider known for delivering a variety of hardware, software and services solutions since 1989, identified three needs that rose above the rest: virtualization, green technology solutions and IP video.
Virtualization: A tangible trend
According to Donn Bullock, program director, Mainline Information Systems, sales of virtualization-related technology and services at his company are increasing dramatically. Customers are interested in the value and flexibility virtualization brings to both servers and desktops.
“Virtualization technology, from a server perspective, has a great deal of upside for customers,” Bullock says. “It allows systems administrators the ability to consolidate multiple servers and the applications on those servers to a single system and then manage those applications from a single console.”
In a virtualized server environment, organizations also find they don’t need as many personnel managing their servers and applications, which frees their technical team to handle other tasks, increasing overall productivity.
Bullock says in addition to virtualized servers, this also applies to the other trend Mainline customers are quickly adopting—virtualized desktops. In a virtualized desktop environment, end users access their OS and work applications from a centralized server running VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). But for the end user, the experience is no different from a traditional PC, except that the virtualized desktop units (often called thin clients) contain no user data and no DVD drive.
“Sales of virtualized desktops are up 400 percent over last year,” Bullock says. “Security is a significant issue for many companies and limiting the ability for users to download sensitive data to a DVD or USB flash drive is attractive to many of our customers because it decreases the potential of becoming an article in the Wall Street Journal. Plus, in this type of environment, software upgrades and rollouts (which now happen on the centralized server) are deployed more easily and with less potential for error.”
Green is Served
Virtualization dovetails nicely with green computing. You’ve likely read numerous articles predicting that, in the not-so-distant future, the cost of energy will be the largest line item in a company’s IT budget. To combat rising energy costs, organizations are consolidating servers, since even idle servers consume significant amounts of electricity.
One IT area that doesn’t receive a lot of green PR is virtualized desktops. According to Bullock, organizations that move from a traditional PC-based environment to a virtualized desktop environment save significant revenue, enough to pay for the technological transition away from PCs in as little as three years.
“We always recommend Wyse thin clients, which consume as few as six watts of electricity per hour. A traditional PC consumes around 160 watts per hour. Regardless of your electricity rates, your cost savings will be significant over time,” Bullock says. “Deploying virtual desktops allows you to potentially decrease your power costs by 90 percent. If you could cut costs by 90 percent in any other area of your business, without experiencing negative effects, you’d do it tomorrow.”
Lights, Camera, Action
Voice over IP (VoIP) technology has steadily gained steam over the past few years, as consumers and companies alike discovered they had a reliable and economically favorable option when it came to telecommunications carriers. One of the next Internet-based technologies ready to jump from early adopter to early majority stage is video-based IP.
“Ever since Sept. 11th, we’ve seen an increasing interest in IP video, particularly in the security market,” says Dennis Gulkis, director of digital imaging and surveillance, Mainline Information Systems. “Companies are discovering that the image quality of IP video far surpasses traditional analog cameras, which generally deliver grainy and blurry images. With a digital video camera, sometimes you can’t tell if you were looking at a human or sasquatch.”
Video quality is the initial driver for companies adopting IP video cameras, but the second benefit, the ability to network those cameras with company-based servers, is helping to seal the deal. Video stored on these servers can be analyzed with sophisticated software that can not only notify the operator of movement, but is capable of differentiating between objects, such as a cat squeezing through a construction-site fence or a burglar cutting through the same chain link.
Catching crooks is only one application companies are using with IP video. “With IP video, a warehouse manager can view real-time video footage from his laptop. At 11 p.m. at night, while he’s sitting on his sofa watching Sports Center, he can log on and check on how well the night shift is producing,” Gulkis says. “If he catches Joe Smith taking a nap on his forklift, he can notify the night manager and alert her of the situation. We know of companies that have implemented cameras for just this purpose and since doing so they have seen a discernible increase in productivity.”
Benefits of deploying a networked and omnipresent eye in the sky are also being realized by marketers. With IP video cameras strategically positioned in retail stores, marketers can glean valuable information from customers’ behavior.
“Retailers are able to analyze IP video to discover not only customer shopping patterns, but it allows them to scrutinize what types of product placement or advertising is most alluring,” says Ted Hayduk, senior architect, Mainline Information Systems. “Retailers can take that data and position the products and advertising in their stores to deliver the greatest return on investment. With benefits like these, it’s no wonder we’re convinced IP video will really take off in the next few years.”