Virtualisation, cloud computing and unified comms are thetechnologies most in demand but resellers should not look to the public sectorto be at the head of the queue to buy them.
According to the latest Pearlfinders Index, which monitors trends and opinionsin the IT world, in the fourth quarter virtualisation remained the most populararea for investment, and more customers were looking to move to the cloud
But in terms of buyers of IT support the industry/manufacturing sector wasfollowed by retail and financial services with public sector lagging wellbehind.
The public sector started last year in third place in the buying stakes butslipped after March and has been in a steady decline since September ending2010 in a fairly weak position compared to other areas of the economy.
To meet the customer requirement the skills that users are looking for in theirchannel partners include an in-depth knowledge of software, hardware but alsomanaged services and outsourcing capabilities.
When quizzed about what they hope IT to deliver the users had some specificaims with supporting growth and improving efficiency at the top of the wish lis
Drilling down into the main three areas there are differentapproaches and varying customers that need to be taken and targeted byresellers.
The attitude towards virtualisation has changed with it nolonger being seen as just a route to saving money but more as an option tointroduce greater flexibility.
In just the last few months of last year the reasons fordeploying virtualisation changed with cost cutting dropping down the list ofpriorities.
"We saw a massive change in the drivers behindvirtualisation work. Cost cutting dropped to be the fifth most popular reason.IT managers were more interested in looking at virtualisation as a way toimprove the flexibility of their operations, enhance storage/DR infrastructure,s part of a previously planned hardware refresh and for reasons ofsustainability," the IT index stated.
The other main development is that for the first time thedata back from Pearlfinders showed a stronger demand for desktop rather thanserver virtualisation.
One of the benefits of the technology no longer being seenas the new kid on the block is that smaller firms are more willing to embrace atried and tested produc
When it comes to the second area of growth, unifedcommunications, the Index threw up some surprising findings with the publicsector remaining a strong buyer for the time being.
With a lot of UC contracts currently being worked onpre-dating the election the NHS and local government continues to be a buyer ofthe technology. That should of course change but some of the slack will bepicked up by the private sector and SMEs.
"The growing penetration of hosted or cloud-based VoIPand UC platforms is driving uptake among SMEs. Resellers are starting to winthe battle when it comes to convincing IT managers at smaller firms that ahosted UC solution can be both cost-effective and high quality," statedthe Index.
One of the technological developments that should startcoming through is the extension of video conferencing and messagingopportunities to tablets with the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and now Dell Streak allbeing more widely adopted by business users.
The final area of high interest in the current market willcome as little surprise as cloud is still being hyped by numerous vendors. Thetechnology is certainly being used and deployed more widely but a debate aboutthe preference for private rather than public clouds exists.
Some users are perhaps a bit cynical about the cloud viewingit as another name for a virtualised data centre but overall the trend towardssome sort of hosted solution seems to be gathering pace.
The sector which seems to have embraced the cloud withparticular gusto is the financial services sector when some large banks madethe move to the hosted environment in the last quarter of 2010.
But for the rest of the user base there are still concernsthat resellers out on the doorstep selling will have to overcome.
"Within enterprise organisations, concerns over thesecurity and uptime of public cloud-based solutions remain, as does nervousnessover running mission-critical applications in these environments," statedthe Index.
As well as fears over security and performance another issueis the ongoing confusion around the word 'cloud'. It has too many definitionsand Pearlfinders found that some users are reacting negatively to the word whenit's used in a sales pitch.
This echoes comments made by the likes of Computacenter,which has stated in the past that it avoids using the word because of theconfusion issue.
Where cloud does seem to be making in-roads is in the SMEsector, but there is a warning that the market is fairly fickle at the momentand resellers have to move quickly to take advantage of a vertical or sectorthat is buying the technology.
"The window of opportunity for selling to a particularsector can open and shut very quickly so it is crucial you target yourprospects accordingly," Pearlfinders warns.
Overall the end of the year seems to have been a positiveone but as long as the public sector remains a major customer of technologythere are always worries that as the cuts start to bite so will the fortune ofthe IT sector.
However, if there is one silver lining it appears to be therise of the SME sector as a buyer of virtualisation, cloud and UC.
This was first published in February 2011