Archive for January, 2013

IT investments will increase in 2013 thanks to software and device spending

Gartner expects worldwide IT spending to total $3.7 trillion

Enterprises buying new mobile devices and investing in security and storage management will give IT spending a boost in 2013.

Worldwide IT spending is projected to total US$3.7 trillion in 2013, a 4.2 percent increase from 2012 spending of $3.6 trillion, according to research firm Gartner, which is becoming a bit more optimistic about the global economy.

The company divides IT spending into five segments: devices, data center systems, enterprise software, IT services and telecom services.

All five segments will grow in 2013, but devices and enterprise software are the two segments that will see the biggest increases in spending during the next twelve months, according to Gartner.

Worldwide device spending, which includes PCs, tablets, mobile phones and printers, is expected to reach $666 billion in 2013, up 6.3 percent from last year. That compares to 2.9 percent growth in 2012, according to Gartner’s data.

However, the current estimate for this year’s growth is lower than Gartner had previously forecast.

“The main reason [for the lowered growth estimate] is that the shift away from the traditional PC form factors, the desktop and the laptop, toward new form factors, most notably the tablet, is happening a lot faster than we thought,” said Richard Gordon, managing vice president at Gartner.

For example, there is a growing trend in emerging markets where users are getting a tablet as their first device, and not bothering with getting a PC, according to Gordon.

Last year also saw the ascent of cheaper tablets such as the Android-based Nexus 7 from Asus and Google. That was and continues to be good news for consumers and enterprises, but also puts pressure on overall spending.

Worldwide enterprise software spending is expected to end up at $296 billion in 2013, a 6.4 percent increase from 2012. This growth will primarily be driven by security, storage management and customer relationship management, according to Gartner.

Enterprises are trying to get more value out of their IT spending with investments in supply chain and customer relationships, while at the same time trying to handle an exponential growth in the amount of data coming in, Gordon said.

Telecom services, on the other hand, will see just a 2.4 percent increase in 2013, which may not measure up to the other segments but is still better than the 0.1 percent drop it recorded last year.

Growth will be flat over the next several years as revenue from mobile data services struggles to make up for the declines in spending on fixed and mobile voice, according to Gartner.

Telecom services are by far the biggest segment of total IT spending at $1.7 trillion this year.

In 2014 spending growth will slow down somewhat with overall spending increasing by 3.8 percent.

Growth will once again be powered by investments in software, as enterprises spend more on big data and other information management initiatives, Gartner said.

 


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10 hot IT skills for 2013

Want to snag a pay premium? Check out the IT skills that will be in high demand in 2013.

The number of companies planning to hire tech professionals continues to grow, with 33% of the 334 IT executives who responded to Computerworld’s 2013 Forecast survey saying they plan to increase head count in the next 12 months.

This is the third year in a row that the percentage of respondents with hiring plans has risen — up from 29% last year, 23% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.

“When you look at just about any research or market trend, IT is one of the top two or three always mentioned as a bright spot in the job market, and it’s pretty simple why,” says John Reed, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “When you look at technology, it drives so much of what business does, from productivity to communication to improving speed to making better business decisions. So companies are investing in that, and you have to have the people experienced in doing that.”

Of course, IT leaders aren’t hiring technologists indiscriminately. They’re seeking specific skills to deliver what the business needs to compete today. Here’s a look at the top 10 skills for 2013.

1. Programming and Application Development

• 60% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Companies put off projects during the recession, but now they’re playing catch-up and looking for staff to keep up, according to Reed.

“Technology and software are great ways for companies to improve productivity, lower costs and create better Web presence,” he says, adding that companies will need staffers to create new and better technology to do those things.

That’s the case at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, says Jason Griffin, vice president and technology talent acquisition manager. “Our top needs are in programming and application development,” he says. “We’re just looking for more to meet the business need. The business [units] are investing in new products, they’re looking for ways to provide products and services to meet customer needs.”

Griffin, like others, says he’s specifically looking for people with experience in Java, J2EE and .Net.

2. Project Management

• 40% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

The ongoing need for project management skills tracks with the continuing need for programmers: Both are responses to the demand for new applications that businesses need to compete.

“More projects mean more project managers,” Reed says, noting that companies want experience as well as credentials, such as the Project Management Professional designation.

Jamie Hamilton, vice president of software engineering at Detroit-based Quicken Loans, says project manager jobs will be among the 100 new positions his company plans to add to its 800-strong IT team.

Hamilton says demand for project managers is strong in part because projects are growing more complex as the connectivity between applications increases.

Successful candidates need to have proven track records. “Three things are key for us, and they’re more around behavior: Are you a leader, and do you operate as a leader? Do you have a history of executing? What’s your behavior around detail?” Hamilton says.

3. Help Desk/Technical Support

• 35% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Jack Wolf, vice president and CIO at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, says he has a list of initiatives to pursue, including deployments of new radiology systems and electronic health record applications. To ensure success, he’s looking not only for people to build and implement the systems, but also for tech support workers to help employees use them.

“New systems mean you need more help desk people to handle the increase in calls we expect,” Wolf says.

He’s far from the only one searching for such skills. Tech staffing firm Modis reports that help desk technician is the job title that companies most often seek help filling.

4. Security

• 27% plan hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Security has long been a concern of IT leaders, and demand for specialized security professionals is growing as the task of safeguarding systems and data becomes increasingly complex.

Consider the case of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics, which has U.S. headquarters in Andover, Mass.

Cynthia Burkhardt, vice president of talent acquisition, says the company is building its IT security department internationally. It hired a chief information security officer, who is based in the Netherlands, and it’s adding four more IT security executives — two of whom will be based in the U.S. She says the company expects to continue building its IT security team from the top down.

Burkhardt says Royal Philips wants experienced IT security professionals who have business acumen in addition to expertise in deploying firewalls, threat detection tools, encryption technology and other security systems.

5. Business Intelligence/Analytics

• 26% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Big data is one of the top priorities for many companies, but getting the right people to analyze all that information is challenging, says Jerry Luftman, managing director at the Global Institute for IT Management and a leader in the Society for Information Management.

The best candidates have technical know-how, business knowledge and strong statistical and mathematical backgrounds — an uncommon mix of skills, Luftman says. In fact, some companies are hiring statisticians and teaching them about technology and business.

Joe Fuller, CIO at Dominion Enterprises, a marketing services company in Norfolk, Va., says he anticipates hiring data scientists or data analysts in the future but acknowledges that it will be a challenge.

“We’re missing that person who thinks outside the box, who understands the link between this behavior now and this behavior later,” Fuller says. “I don’t know who to look for there, so I think it’s [going to be] a team. I can’t imagine finding that in one person.”

6. Cloud/SaaS

• 25% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Fuller’s staffing plan at Dominion Enterprises is also a case study for skill No. 6, which didn’t even crack the top 10 in the 2011 survey: He says the company will need cloud computing experts as it moves beyond its two existing data centers.

“We’re going to need a cloud architect who knows how to leverage and how to architect without breaking the bank,” he says. “We’re going to need to know where we should host it, how to configure it, how to negotiate the [service-level agreements], and to make sure we’re backed up properly.”

7. Virtualization

• 24% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Jon A. Biskner, assistant vice president of IT at Nicolet National Bank in Green Bay, Wis., says he wants to create a virtualization administrator position.

“It’s hard to find someone who is fully skilled in virtualization,” Biskner says. “They have to understand the storage and clusters behind the virtual server because before the connection was more physical; now it’s more logical.” IT professionals talk about virtualization, he adds, but often they don’t have a breadth of experience with it.

8. Networking
• 19% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Networking expertise remains a perennial top 10 most-wanted skill, although demand has dropped from 38% in the 2010 survey to 19% in the 2013 survey. Despite the decline, however, IT leaders say they still need networking professionals who have solid experience.

In Robert Half Technology’s third-quarter IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, network administration was the No. 2 most sought-after skill set, cited by 48% of the 1,400 CIOs surveyed. It was second only to data/database management, which was cited by 55% of the respondents.

9. Mobile Applications and Device Management


• 19% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

As consumer and business use of smartphones and tablets expands, employers are looking for workers who can handle the demands related to the proliferation of such devices, says Motti Fine, managing director of TreeTop Technologies, an IT staffing and consulting firm. Case in point: Kathy Junod, senior director of IT at Auxilium Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, Pa., plans to create a new job with the title mobile manager to add to her existing staff of 22. She says she needs an experienced manager to oversee building the niche mobile apps the business needs.

10. Data Center

• 16% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Core technical skills remain in high demand, so it’s not surprising that data center skills still make the top 10. In fact, CompTIA reported in its February State of the IT Skills Gap study that server/data center management and storage and data backup remain high on the list of IT skills that employers are seeking. Some 61% of the IT and business executives surveyed by CompTIA rated server/data center management as a very important skill, while 57% rated storage/data backup as such.

However, Robert Half Technology’s third-quarter IT Hiring Index and Skills Report found that CIOs listed data/database management as No. 2 among the “functional areas” in which it’s most challenging to hire IT professionals.


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Microsoft: What it did right and wrong in 2012

Windows 8: It is the best of Microsoft; it is the worst of Microsoft

At this writing Windows 8 could be the biggest thing Microsoft has done wrong — ever. But it could also wind up being one of the best things it has ever done.

By CEO Steve Ballmer’s own description it is the one of the top three major events in the company’s history, grouped with IBM PCs adopting MS-DOS and the advent of Windows 95.

By that measure, if it’s a flop it’s huge.

IN PICTURES: Top network and IT industry stories of 2012

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Windows 8 drives users crazy. It’s a two-headed operating system that supports the traditional Windows keyboard-and-mouse interface as well as a touch-centric UI that many say is baffling, at least initially.

Then toss in a separate version of Windows 8 called Windows RT. It’s a hardware/software bundle based on ARM processors that doesn’t support traditional Windows x86 apps — only so-called Windows Store applications that rely mainly on touch. Confusion reigns.

A version of the traditional desktop remains in Windows 8, but it’s different enough to be uncomfortable. Users want an OS that builds on the past, not one that reinvents itself entirely. They lament the loss of the Start button and Start Menu upon which they relied.

When learning the Windows 8 touch interface they find it difficult to find and remember, say, how to turn the machine on and off, close applications, remove applications, switch among four or five apps running at the same time, find Charms, figure out what Charms are, etc., etc. It’s a near-perfect storm of consternation and frustration.

Meanwhile the company’s traditional PC market is being threatened by devices running Linux, Android and OS X even as sales growth of traditional PCs gets slower and slower, apparently headed for decline. That’s Microsoft’s bread and butter.

Compounding the problem, tablets and smartphones are gaining popularity as personal and business productivity platforms and arguably represent the main force undercutting traditional PCs. Microsoft comes in a distant third in both areas.

Windows 8 is supposed to help Microsoft make gains in these areas. But given its slow start so far and comparing it to the wild success of every version of iPad that ever launched, then Windows 8 is lining up to be a disaster.

So what was Microsoft thinking?

Windows 8 is designed to tap into the shift in demand away from traditional desktops and laptops and toward phones and tablets.

Core to this strategy is making a shift to mobility and creating an application environment transferrable from device to device. The advantage: Massive blocks of code from an application written for Windows 8 can be readily repurposed for apps written or Windows Phone 8 — making it feasible for these apps to be available on any Windows device.

Because Windows Store apps are written primarily for touch, their navigation is similar from tablet to notebook to phone. Applications are available for phones, tablets and laptops, and if you master them on one category of device, you’ve mastered them for all.

These applications, called Windows Store apps, represent a new category optimized for touch and for running on lower powered mobile machines based on ARM processors to promote longer battery life.

In addition, Windows 8 heavily promotes use of cloud services. It comes with cloud-based music free and integrates SkyDrive, Microsoft’s 5-year-old cloud storage service that enables sharing data among devices and syncing them with each other. It comes with 7GB of free storage.

The bottom line is customers can access the latest versions of their data and all their stored files from whichever device they happen to have with them so long as they have Internet access.

The problem is that this elegant scheme is lost on customers, analysts and reviewers who don’t buy into this view. With education, customers could be won over, but not in the short-term, and particularly with RT. Business customers will have to adopt Windows Store apps or virtualize, and that takes time.

“It will take 10 or more years before most organizations completely transition to WinRT technology, which, if successful, will represent the next 20 to 30 years of Windows,” says Gartner in its report “Windows 8 Changes Windows as We Know It.”

Beyond Windows 8, Microsoft has scored some hits and some misses this year with new products acquisitions. Here are four of each.

RIGHT
Windows Server 2012

Microsoft’s latest version of Windows Server is to be applauded for how it simplifies many areas of virtualization, which leads Network World reviewer Tom Henderson to write, “What the Windows 2012 Server editions provide is a compelling reason to stick with Windows infrastructure, as many of the advances represent integration of management components that have no competitive parallels.”

The software streamlines live migration of virtual machines for reasons of preventing performance of one instance degrading because it is overwhelmed by demand. Windows Server 2012 removes the need for designating failover clustering ahead of time and a separate SAN to share storage among instances that were required in Windows Server 2008.

Windows Server 2012 also offers replication of virtual machines asynchronously. Called Hyper-V Replica, the feature is ideal for replicating VMs from site to site over limited WAN links.

A new feature called Storage Spaces treats hundreds of disks as a single logical storage reservoir and ensures resiliency by backing up data on at least two physical disks. The feature sets aside a designated storage area — called a space — for a defined category of data within the entire available disk capacity — called a pool.

Storage Spaces can allocate a space that is larger than the actual available physical capacity of the pool that the space is carved out of via thin provisioning. This keeps data from overflowing the space by freeing up capacity whenever files are deleted or an application decides that such capacity is no longer needed.

Windows Server 2012 also enables managing servers in groups and includes an automated tool to periodically check for proper server configuration.

System Center 2012
This management suite offers new tools to better handle closely related cloud environments and virtual data centers, and has expanded the products it can manage to include some of the virtual environments of rivals Citrix and VMware.

The platform includes broad support for managing smartphones based on Microsoft’s phone OS, but also those from Apple and from a range of vendors that base their phones on Android.

The Virtual Machine Manager, Orchestration Manager and Operations Manager can combine to make management of virtual environments simpler. For instance, the management suite streamlines configuring virtual machines to pick up the function of others when they go down so help desk workers can perform the task without escalating.

In a practical sense, System Center can give developers the capability to create and tear down virtual machines for their test environments within parameters set by network executives.

One downside is that upgrading to System Center 2012 requires a lot of network prep as well as education to learn what other Microsoft products are required in order for the various modules to work.

Buying Yammer
Microsoft spent $1.2 billion this year to buy Yammer as a way to beef up social networking and collaboration in its SharePoint, Office, Dynamics CRM, Lync and Skype platforms.

When its integration is completed over the next few years Yammer will add tracking of conversation threads and enterprise search to these applications, aggregate news feeds, manage documents and unify user identities.

Yammer is already available with Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud offering and will gradually permeate the company’s other collaboration and productivity platforms, the company says.

With the purchase Microsoft has bought the tools it needs to set itself up well in support of new ways corporations do business using tools that end users have become familiar with via their use of consumer social networks.

Targeting botnets
Microsoft did itself proud this year disrupting the Nitol botnet with a combination of technical and legal innovation, as well as seizing servers belonging to the worst instances of the Zeus botnet.

These efforts represent the fourth and fifth times Microsoft has intervened to shut down or a least temporarily cripple criminal malware enterprises.

The company’s Digital Crimes Unit started its aggressive action in 2010 and continued steadily since then. While its work won’t halt online abuses, its proven commitment to causing periodic significant damage to them does make criminal activity more difficult, and that steady opposition helps raise the bar for criminals hoping to enter the game.

The effort sends a message to other criminals that Microsoft might strike them at any time, says Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel for the DCU.

WRONG
Euro browser flap

Microsoft failed to live up to an agreement that it would display a Windows screen giving users the option to pick Internet Explorer or some other browsers.

While Microsoft says the problem was caused by a technical glitch and has worked to correct it, it’s still facing down a possible $7 billion fine from European Union regulators. While Microsoft would likely survive the hefty penalty, it’s really a case of the company shooting itself in the foot. It is also damaging its reputation in not only Europe where customers were directly affected, but worldwide where end users heard about the case and adjusted their opinion of the company accordingly.

Windows Phone
The launch of Windows Phone 8 this fall revealed an operating system that met with generally good reviews and a phone — Nokia’s Lumia 920 — that shows it off to good advantage.

The problem here is that it comes so late after the iPhone and Android phones have dominated the market. The company must now dedicate itself to a long-term effort to scratch its way up from 2.6% of the market, according to IDC estimates, to something more significant.

IDC thinks Microsoft will succeed in that goal by claiming 11.4% of the market in 2016 — a terrific boost. But the company leaves a lot of smartphone money on the table by coming out so late with a compelling product.

Windows Phone 8 itself may pan out to be a winner, but the overall handling of Windows Phone to date racks up as a loss. And with Microsoft’s desire to link all its mobile platforms, a slow start for Windows phone hobbles that larger effort.

Licensing hikes
Microsoft boosted by 15% the fees it charges for licenses that allow users to access servers, squeezing more money out of customers while still giving them a better deal than the alternative.

This is likely good for Microsoft because it means more revenues, but it’s just another reason for business customers to carp about being gouged for software.

Corporate employees are moving toward use of multiple devices in the workplace, making licenses based on numbers of users attractive rather than licenses based on individual devices. Even with the price hike, many customers will wind up paying less for user client access licenses (CAL) than for device CALs. But that won’t eradicate the bad taste from their mouths.

Fanned Flame
The complex Flame espionage malware that infected Iranian government computers earlier this year was in part enabled by a Microsoft security snafu.

A key element of Flame called for exploiting weaknesses of the MD5 hashing algorithm. Microsoft had urged in 2008 that network administrators and certificate authorities stop using the hash because researchers had discovered how to exploit it.

Microsoft officially disallowed its use in 2009 but failed to weed it out of its own products, particularly Terminal Server Licensing Service. Researchers figured out how to compromise MD5 using what they call collision attacks to obtain fraudulent certificates that are accepted as real. This allowed attackers to send malware that victim machines accepted as authenticated Microsoft updates.


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