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As 2008 rapidly approaches, solution providers are starting to think about what opportunities the New Year will bring. Pair that with the month of December and we have arrived in prediction season. Like many VARs, I am not big on guessing about the future. I prefer cold hard facts before speculating about what technologies will fuel the channel for 2008. So, after hours of research, conversations with many and doing a lot of homework, I have compiled Channel Insider’s Top 5 technology picks for 2008.
Let’s take a look at what I came up with and what I think will drive the opportunities behind the technology for the channel.

Unified Communications:

With the growth of communications technologies and the blurring of the line between personal and business use, many professionals are finding themselves overwhelmed with the bits and pieces that make up today’s electronic communications. After all, most professionals rely on a combination of voicemail, PBXs, e-mail, calendaring, IM, conferencing and collaboration to accomplish their day-to-day jobs. Add to that social and business networking tools, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and you have an audience that wastes a significant amount of time just trying to organize their basic communications. The ability to tie all of that communication into a unified messaging system will become increasingly important as the year progresses. What makes unified communications solutions attractive is that the foundations are in place, thanks to the wholesale migration of communications from analog to IP-based and digital solutions. That combined with the increased integration of voice, video, networking and storage technologies helps to make IP become the platform that allows communications to be tied in a neat, easily accessible package.

Green IT:

While many would like to think that Green IT solutions will be driven by increased business awareness of the environment, the truth is that most businesses will go “green” because of the cost savings involved. Green technology solutions will help businesses to reduce the operating costs of data centers (electric and cooling charges), reduce the costs of desktop PCs (electricity) and reduce the size of their technology footprint (density). The greening of technology will start in the data center, as companies upgrade or relocate their datacenters, more economical choices that offer lower operating costs will become the theme. Big opportunities for the channel here will come from the government sector, which will be legislated to “go green” and the enterprise sector, which will be driven by increased operating cost driven by fuel surcharges and other fossil fuel uncertainties.

Virtualization:

The virtualization of servers and data centers is already big business, but as companies realize the additional benefits that virtualization offers, the trend to virtualize will only grow. Virtualization can be used to not only consolidate technology, but also can be used to build disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. Add to that, the potential that virtualization offers to reduce the physical count of servers and PCs and you have a technology that compliments the “greening” of IT.
Virtualization will be further driven by increased vendor competition, improved products and more vendors entering the field, which will create more choices for customers and more opportunities for solution providers.

Web Orientated Architecture (WOA):

Delivering applications to the desktop is becoming more of a Web technology and less of a traditional client/server technology. With the advent of Web 2.0 solutions, AJAX development tools and SAAS (Software as a Service), more and more businesses will look to leverage the browser as a way to bring commonality to applications and reduce the administrative overhead associated with desktop applications. What’s more, a growing MSP market and the increased outsourcing of services will force enterprise IT departments to look at applications as services and deploy those applications using SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). Opportunities for the channel range from selling managed services to redeveloping applications using Web 2.0 technologies.

Desktop and Server OS:
With the release of Service Pack 1 for Vista and the forthcoming release of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft will be creating a lot of opportunity for the channel. If done correctly, Vista SP1 should stem the XP downgrade tide and prevent Linux and Apple from getting more of a foothold in the enterprise. Enterprises will become more open to upgrading to Vista and replacing desktop PCs to take advantage of multi-core processors, enhanced desktop security and improved GUIs. If successful, the delivery of Windows Server 2008 will bring several much-needed enhancements to Microsoft’s aging Windows Server operating systems and should fuel the ability to implement and adopt new technologies. If Microsoft makes a misstep on either, 2008 will become the year for alternative operating systems, both on the server and the desktop side.