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Budgets, big data and staffing among top CIO concerns

There’s good news for CIOs who need to find a way to do more with less: most IT budgets will stay flat or even increase by as much as 10% in 2011, according to a live survey of more than 2,000 attendees at Gartner Inc.’s 29th annual Data Center Conference in Las Vegas this week. A third of respondents (33%) said they expect their budgets to stay even, while nearly a quarter (24%) anticipate an increase of at least 6%, and half of those are looking at a 10% rise.

The extra funds will come in handy for tackling such CIO concerns as technology stacks and a proliferation of data — as well as the resulting storage. Then there’s the question of how to retain a new generation of IT staffers whom the U.S. Department of Labor expects to hold 10 to 14 jobs by the time they are 38 years old. All the while, CIOs are attempting to wrest back centralized control of IT resources and mobile devices, for security’s sake.

“We’ve been trying to control users for what, 30 years?” said David Cappuccio, chief of research at Gartner’s infrastructure group in Stamford, Conn. “All of a sudden, virtual desktops give us a way to do that.” In his keynote address, Cappuccio noted a “huge move to put virtual desktops in to get platforms away from end users.”

Virtual clients would enable IT to “split up a notebook” — two thirds for corporate use, one third for personal, he suggested. Citrix Systems Inc. already has a hypervisor for smartphones, and VMware Inc. is going to do the same thing, Capuccio said. Suddenly, such CIO concerns as embracing tablets and multidevices are much easier to address: “You develop software and push it out to those devices. It’s the same functionality in a much more controlled environment,” he said, adding, “Virtualization is just beginning. It’s going to take over everything.”

Top CIO concerns for the coming year

Virtualization is just one of the issues on CIOs’ plates, according to Gartner analysts. As Wiki Leaks shines a light on securing employee and company data (see next week for the CIO take), IT is fraught with changes–in the industry, in technology, and in human resources. We’ll be exploring all these topics in coming weeks, but to whet your appetite:

Stack wars: Major vendors are in more of an acquisition mode than they have been for some time. The result is a trend to convergence and consolidation in the portfolio, according to Joe Baylock, a Gartner group vice president. Oracle Corp. buys Sun Microsystems, EMC Corp. partners with VMware and alliances abound. “The knitting together [of technology stacks] is a trend that we see over the next five years that cannot be ignored,” he said.

The key issue is whether the stack wars will help or inhibit innovation. Baylock’s advice: “Avoid inadvertently backing into any vendor’s integrated stack. On the cusp between 2010 and 2011, there are too many unknowns. … It may not serve you well in the long run.”

Big data: Data is off the charts — Gartner analysts project an 800% increase during the next five years. Eighty percent of that data is unstructured — and untouched after 90 days, Ray Paquet, managing vice president at Gartner Research, told me. Nevertheless, it needs to be stored. Storage is the elephant in the room, especially because users expect access anytime from anywhere.

Where is all the new data coming from? From analytics, yes, but the culprit is content, as Cappuccio revealed in his enlightening keynote. To wit: The amount of video uploaded to YouTube in the last two months was more than would have been produced if ABC, CBS and NBC had been on the air nonstop since 1946, he said. Wikipedia, launched in 2001, is posting 4,300 new articles every day. Fifty percent of U.S. 21-year-olds have created content on the Web.

“It’s all about collaboration and content,” Cappuccio said. “Content is coming from everywhere.”

Keeping new workers content: It’s expensive to replace people, so how do companies keep them? Employers should create a “T-shaped” staff, where a deep skill in one technology is balanced with a breadth of knowledge that links to the business, Cappuccio advised. Companies should enable and reward learning; cross-pollinate skills; and, as in the data center, break down silos.

Also, when they think about unified communications, corporations need to understand that on average, American teenagers send 2,500 to 5,000 text messages a month and their lifeblood is their social networks. “You hire somebody today and say, ‘You can’t go on Twitter or Facebook’ — good luck!” Cappuccio said. They’re going to do it anyway, in a shadow process. Instead, employers should embrace open source collaboration on Plaxo, Orkut and Yammer, as well as on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; develop a code of conduct; and set guidelines.

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