Pick up a newspaper and you can't avoid reading that we are in the midst
of an economic recovery. Though the numbers are apparently hinting at
this, I haven't seen much evidence of this -- yet.
In talking to integrators and solution providers, there are no stories
about the opening of any IT spending floodgates. If there is a recovery
in progress, the increases in spending are likely to be gradual, small
enough in the beginning that we may not even know it has begun.
So where will IT spend its dollars? I've asked a dozen people for
answers, and, you guessed it, have gotten a dozen different answers.
Desktops. Servers. Security. Support. Development. And on and on. Your
mileage may vary.
The challenge of dealing with a prolonged period of no spending is that
IT departments have to make do with what they have, squeezing extra
months -- or sometimes years -- out of equipment deployed long ago and
past its depreciable life. But the stuff works. And it continues to
work. Equipment that might have been on an automatic three-year
replacement cycle is, all of a sudden, on a three-and-a-half year or
The IT department has been tripped up by "good enoughness," wherein
hardware can wait just a little longer for replacement because, well,
it's good enough. In more slang terms, it ain't broke, so they ain't
But hard drives will fail and support costs will inevitably rise,
pushing back against good enoughness. Servers running Windows 2000 will
want their operating systems upgraded to Windows Server 2003 or even
Linux. "That," as the embattled Martha would say, "is a good thing."
Though I don't have much hand-on experience with Linux, I have seen a
dramatic rise in serious interest, long past the mere curiosity stage.
And Microsoft is offering a slew of collaborative Web services that are
powerful, but require, not surprisingly, Windows Server 2003 and its
ancillary products such as Team services.
The wonderful thing about upgrading a server's operating system is that
it's usually a whole lot simpler to buy and install a new server than it
is to take an existing server offline and spend hours or days doing an
upgrade. It's often less expensive to bring in a new piece of iron with
a much faster processor and faster-bigger-cheaper hard drives.
One area where spending is likely to open up is security. IT directors
live with the daily fear that their networks are going to be broken
into, either from the outside or, worse, from someone on the inside.
Even during these past years of little spending, I've seen lots of
firewall upgrades, spam control, virus control, and other system-health
I recently had a lengthy discussion with a project manager in a
multinational enterprise corporation that has deployed third-party
disk-defragmentation software to thousands of desktops and laptops. Over
three or more years of daily use, practically none of these systems has
ever been defragged.
Configured to run automatically, this off-the-shelf utility software has
been something of a miracle worker. Complaints about horribly slow
systems have diminished drastically. The burden on the tech support
group (usually where the first job cuts are made) has lightened. And for
the IT department, it turns out to be a way to keep users happy with
their aging systems for just a little bit longer.
As spending increases, we'll keep an eye on the trends and report what
we see in the trenches. Slow and steady is the way to go.