Business IT Trends for 2011

IT 2011: 3D-Displays, Cloud, Augmented Reality, Smart Grids, Social Media (Grafik: fotolia)
Tablet PCs, cloud computing, augmented reality, SaaS, and 3D displays (graphic: fotolia)

Who would have thought it? Along with the Volkswagen Beetle and the Sony PlayStation, the Apple iPad is now one of the most successful product launches in economic history. In Germany, almost 500,000 iPads have already been sold, while an estimated 10 million tablet PCs flew off the shelves last year in the United States. Around one million tablet PCs are predicted to be sold in Germany in 2011, and the iPad is destined to remain the measure of all things, despite new competing products such as the Samsung GALAXY Tab and the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook – see also the article Top 10 Business Apps for the iPad.

Trend 1: Smartphones and tablets will oust PCs

And that’s not the end of the story. More than a third of the conventional PC market is set to be taken over by tablet devices, making every third new PC a tablet computer. At least, that is what analysts Goldman Sachs are predicting. If we believe the mobile advertising company Smaato, by 2013, there will be more smartphones with access to the Internet than there will be conventional PCs.

Of the mobile devices sold in 2011, 85% will have an Internet browser. In the coming year, there are slated to be 82 million mobile Internet users throughout Europe. The market share of mobile operating systems will remain constant, with 37% Symbian (Nokia), 25% Android, 17% iOS (Apple), 15% RIM (BlackBerry), and 6% other providers.

Dearth of Intel and Microsoft

What is conspicuous about the new tablet market is the almost complete lack of the two heavyweights Intel and Microsoft, which have been selling their processors and operating systems in the traditional PC segment (netbooks, notebooks, desktop PCs) successfully for nearly 20 years now. The information technology research and advisory company Gartner assumes that smartphones like the iPhone and tablet PCs like the iPad will be a match for PCs with virtual desktops – see the article Virtual Desktops Through Citrix Receiver 1.1.

Mobile Internet: location-based services

In retrospect, it took the mobile Internet almost 12 years to get through to the masses. The BlackBerry was the first e-mail machine for those on the move, and to this day, surfing with it is not as easy and enjoyable as with the iPhone. Apple has spawned entire ecosystems, including apps and functions.

The mobile Internet is becoming increasingly important, the more so as location-based services (LBS) are experiencing great popularity. The technologies required, such as GSM/EDGE/HSPA/HSPA+, are being continuously extended and exist in the form of the mobile technology standard LTE in Sweden, Norway, and parts of Germany and Austria.

Tablet-PCs und Smartphones verdrängen Desktops und Notebooks (Foto: Frank Völkel)
Tablet PCs and smartphones are set to oust desktops and notebooks (photo: Frank Völkel)
Beispielhaft: 3D-Bilder mit räumlichen Tiefeneindruck (Foto: Frank Völkel)
An example of a 3D image with the impression of depth (photo: Frank Völkel)

Trend 2: 3D images and 3D videos

The market for three dimensional images has yet to be decided. It started with the successful movie Avatar, which was filmed digitally in stereoscopic 3D. Stereoscopy – often also known as 3D imaging – involves creating the illusion of depth using various techniques.

In the mobile sector, the focus is currently on smartphones that create a three dimensional image using the touchscreen and that are slated to hit the shops in 2012 at the latest. Market research company In-Stat predicts that around 60 million devices with a 3D display will be sold throughout the world in 2014.

The three dimensional perception of electronic images requires two images from slightly different angles, which imitate how people’s eyes work in a natural environment. The gfu (a Frankfurt, Germany-based society for consumer electronics) is expecting a wide range of 3D-enabled products. For example, 2010 saw the appearance of cameras such as the Fuji FinePix REAL 3D W3, which take pictures and record videos in real 3D – and also display them. In the consumer area, the game console Nintendo 3DS, which displays a stereo image without the need for special glasses, is slated to appear in 2011.

Such developments are also to be expected with full HD displays with a diagonal measurement of 22 inches, because the possibilities for 3D images and 3D videos are almost endless. For example, they are used in medical technology, architecture, mechanical engineering, and vehicle construction – to name just a few areas.

Read on: Social media goes mobile


Trend 3: Social media goes mobile

Just a short while ago, Facebook and co. were seen as mere distractions for teenagers – but now everyone’s doing it. And even large companies have discovered social media as a public relations and marketing instrument. Some 75% of all companies listed on the DAX index of the Frankfurt stock exchange use Twitter as a channel to inform customers, and smaller companies are following suit. In total, there are 500 million Facebook users worldwide.

The term social media covers a range of social networks and communication services that are used as platforms for exchanging views, impressions, and experiences. These include Facebook, Twitter, TouTube, Myspace, LinkedIn, and XING. The main aims are to confirm contacts (LinkedIn), have as many followers as possible (Twitter), or be liked (Facebook).

If a company wants to continue to be successful in the future, it must use the Internet to actively engage with its customers. Facebook and Twitter, for example, offer a communication platform to involve consumers in the process of developing and designing new products.

Companies that are open to social media will notice that communities tend to develop a life of their own. Unlike customer and employee magazines, which only have a one-way communication channel, interested readers or employees can post their own comments about articles – which may be positive or negative from the company’s perspective. Organizations must be particularly careful when dealing with internal matters about products and strategies, which must not be permitted to go beyond company boundaries via social media under any circumstances.

However, a central topic for many decision makers at companies is: How can the increased attention gained through social media be translated into new orders and – ultimately – a tangible increase in sales? So far, no one has been able to prove whether Facebook and Twitter activities have led to customer sales.

Market researchers assume that social media will focus more on mobile devices in the next five years. These include smartphones with their various operating systems and also tablet PCs.

Read on: Apps replace software

Trend 4: Apps will replace bulky software packages


Smartphones led the way, and now it’s the turn of tablet PCs: While bulky software packages that take up several gigabytes of memory are still installed on conventional PCs and notebooks, most apps take up just a few megabytes. And a huge range of apps is now available.

Apps can be downloaded free of charge or purchased, and can be used in office scenarios, to increase productivity, as tools for virtual desktops, as voice-over-IP applications, as location-based services, or to access complex ERP software at major companies, to name just a few examples.

In the near future, tablet PCs and smartphones will be compatible with the latest Web technologies, such as HTML5, CSS3, and mobile AJAX, enabling all content to be displayed optimally on all devices. This raises the question of the extent to which apps can be developed, when they must constantly be adapted to changing conditions like resolution and operating system support.

Read on: Virtualization and Cloud Computing


Trend 5: Virtualization and Cloud Computing

According to market research company Gartner, total revenues generated from software as a service (SaaS) amounted to U.S.$ 9.2 billion in 2010, which is 15.7% more than in 2009 (U.S.$ 7.9 billion). And SaaS is playing an increasingly important role in the area of enterprise software. In the near future, many organizations will, for example, dispense with their own infrastructures for e-mail, backup, and security – and save costs by renting instead.

Today, Gartner says, it is already common for applications for communication, collaboration, and content management (CMS) to be rented. And there’s a close connection between SaaS and cloud services, which amount to some 75% of sales. Gartner assumes that this will rise to over 90% in 2014, because SaaS is continuously developing and increasingly overlapping with cloud service models.

Furthermore, Gartner predicts that the size of SaaS implementations will increase within organizations. Ten thousand employees could be supplied with rental software at one go, instead of just several hundred, as is currently the case. In addition, companies will start to invest in SaaS without involving their internal IT department in every decision-making process.

And finally, Gartner observed that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly included in SaaS.

Read on: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality auf dem iPhone mit acrossair-Browser (Foto: Apple)
Augmented reality on the iPhone with an acrossair browser (photo: Apple)

Trend 6: Augmented Reality

In 2010, applications for augmented reality (AR) became established on the market. Most of these applications are offered as apps for smartphones and tablet PCs. With the help of AR, additional information can be displayed at certain locations by the camera of the smartphone generating an image. Places such as bars, restaurants, banks, and shops are shown in the immediate vicinity.

Augmented reality can be adapted to the individual smartphone user, to the time of day, and to the place, enabling quite different “additional information” to be made available. As well as information about the places (location-based services, LBS), virtual objects such as business cards and advertising banners can be displayed.

In the not-too-distant future, there will be enhancements to operating system interfaces in which program windows and icons are shown as virtual devices in real space and are operated using glances or finger pointing. For smartphones such as the iPhone, AR browsers are available from Layar and acrossair, for example.

Read on: Real-time analysis of data

SAP HANA: Datenauswertung in Echtzeit
SAP High-Performance Analytic Appliance (SAP HANA): real-time data evaluation

Trend 7: Real-time analysis of data

Almost all companies – regardless of the industry in which they operate – are today fighting against an ever-rising tide of data: The volume of data they have to manage is on the increase, both for transactional and analytical applications. What’s more, creating reports from ERP and CRM data is becoming increasingly time-consuming. And the data is at least two hours old, so no one can really talk about “real time” in such cases. At the end of the day, the various interfaces and software applications result in high total cost of ownership (TCO).

By accessing the data in the working memory directly (in-memory computing), it’s possible to combine historical key figures and trend indicators with current data sources, to create a forward-looking analysis. In the results, you can immediate see sudden changes that would have remained hidden had the old technology been used. With business intelligence applications, OLAP (online analytical processing) cubes are deployed, which enable a multidimensional view of existing datasets.

Basically, it’s all about shifting the functions of relational databases and OLAP cubes straight into the working memory of a server. As a result, sales staff can, for example, use their smartphones to access the data record and select criteria such as product, sales revenue, and so on, as well as alter the queries.

Read on: Smart grids and electric cars

Die Elektroauto-Zukunft erfordert intelligente Stromnetze (Foto: Frank Völkel)
The electric car needs a smart grid (photo: Frank Völkel)

Trend 8: Smart grids for e-mobility

The smart grid is an area of research that requires a powerful IT infrastructure, including software and applications. Integrating information technology into systems for creating, distributing, and consuming electricity promises to make energy use highly efficient. Information technology is decisive for electric mobility and vehicle telematics, because it enables electric cars to be recharged over a wide area, traffic to be better coordinated, and high levels of safety to be achieved.

Electric cars are the cars of the future, and, in the medium term, they will gradually replace conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. But it’s crucial to hook electric cars up with the energy infrastructure (that is, grid and recharging technology) – because, in the smart grid, electric cars can be used as huge energy storage systems and new remuneration models can be adopted to provide power.

This means that electric mobility depends to a great extent on the results of research conducted into rechargeable batteries about energy density and storage capacity. The success of electric mobility will also be impacted by whether we succeed in integrating renewable energy – such as solar and wind power – and high-performance energy storage systems into the smart grid on time.

Read on: Servers and energy efficiency

Fujitsu PRIMERGY BX900 server (photo: Fujitsu)
Fujitsu PRIMERGY BX900 server (photo: Fujitsu)

Trend 9: Servers and energy efficiency

In the hardware sector, the spotlight is moving to the microserver segment, where greater integration of the processors improves the performance per watt. Load management has also been optimized for modern multicore processors, which now consume practically no electricity if the load is zero. According to Gartner, Unix servers are still on the decline, while providers of x86-based systems recorded growth in the third quarter of 2010. The global server market generated sales of at least U.S.$ 12.3 billion in Q3/2010, Gartner estimates. This represents 15.3% more than in the previous year. Of all the manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard generated the most revenue with servers in Q3/2010, registering sales of U.S.$ 3.94 billion. The company has a market share of 32.1%, while the market’s number two is IBM with U.S.$ 3.71 billion and 30.2%, and third place goes to Dell with U.S.$ 1.79 billion and 14.6% of the market.

The times when data centers were still planned with huge amounts of space and a time horizon of up to 15 years were over when energy prices began to rise and the economic crisis hit. Now, the focus is mainly on energy-efficient data centers that offer as high performance as possible in as little space as possible. As far as energy is concerned, only about half of it is consumed by the servers themselves. The rest is used for air conditioning, uninterruptible power supply, and infrastructure – see also our article 1 Watt Performance, 0.3 Watt Cooling.

That’s why it’s useful to record and visualize the temperature distribution. This enables thermal hotspots to be identified and removed using special measures. The temperature distribution in the data center can, for example, be optimized by regulating the air volume flow. Unnecessarily low temperatures and dangerously high temperatures can be avoided, resulting in cost savings, less downtime, and improved availability.

It is therefore no surprise that there was a move toward rack-optimized systems in the third quarter, compared with the first half of 2010. Sales rose by 23.7% in terms of items sold, with revenues increasing by 31.2%. Also popular at the moment are blade servers: During the same period, items sold rose by seven percent and revenues increased by 26%.