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SaaS, Green Tech in Top 2009 IT Growth Areas

As corporations brace for a year of living dangerously thanks to the present recession, they will need to leverage technology wisely in order to survive.

That's the lesson that Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) Business unit is urging U.S. enterprises to follow. In particular, the telecom carrier identified several trends it sees with the potential to help enterprises survive in 2009 by doing more with less.

"These challenging times present IT leaders with an opportunity to make technology work harder and smarter to get the job done," Nancy Gofus, Verizon's senior vice president of global business products, said in a statement.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is one of the technologies the company picked. Many businesses are turning to the category of product to cut costs, avoid the expenses of installing and maintaining on-site software -- a point made often by Marc Benioff, the feisty chairman and CEO of SaaS vendor Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM).

Anther technology trend that will help cut costs is the greening of IT. Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important to how companies are viewed by employees, customers and investors, and going green early will help businesses get a leg up on their competition, Verizon said.

"Savvy companies today are embracing the green initiative to get ahead of government and business mandates that will eventually force the issue," Verizon said.

Research firm IDC has also identified green IT as one of the major trends for next year. That emphasis will be strengthened by President-elect Obama's appointment of Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu, a strong supporter of sustainable energy, to the post of Energy Secretary.

Verizon's take on the coming year's IT focuses comes as enterprises are wrangling not only with slashed IT budgets but growing requirements in security, compliance mobility and other areas.

As they seek to cut costs, more companies will leverage Internet Protocol technologies. According to Verizon, this will be based around IPv6 , the latest version of the technology, which will help drive the adoption of unified communications and high-definition video. IPv6 will also further enable mobility and scalability in the enterprise, the company said.

Promises of IPv6

Naturally, as a major telecommunications player, Verizon has a vested interest in talking up IP-based communications. But its guidance dovetails with trends already afoot in the IT marketplace.

[cob:In_Focus]One specific area on which Verizon sees companies focusing during 2009 is unified communications (UC), which may help businesses improve collaboration better as they keep tightening their belts. UC integrates various communications technologies -- typically, advanced telephony, instant messaging or e-mail, document sharing and video -- and increasingly supports a growing array of media, devices and applications.

The technology's supporters -- which includes some of the heavyweight vendors in software and networking, like Microsoft, Cisco, IBM Lotus and Avaya -- say transitioning PBX systems and other communications channels to an IP-based system gives workers more control over workflow and time management and expedites communications.

According to Verizon, the pace of UC development and adoption will continue, with the technology becoming integrated into automated business processes.

High-definition video, which also uses IP networks, is another sector that Verizon sees enlarging its presence in the enterprise. The technology will become more affordable and interoperable, the company said, which makes it more viable for use in extended enterprise communications between employees, customers, suppliers and partners, as well as for training and on-demand content distribution.

That's a trend supported by a slew of recent announcements by vendors around providing more advanced video technology -- enabling companies to video-enable corporate IP network endpoints, for instance.

Verizon also sees related interest in teleworking continue to grow, leveraging high-definition virtual meeting technology along with managed mobility offerings to track, monitor, secure and manage the increasing number of mobile devices accessing corporate networks.

However, businesses should not rush into upgrading to IPv6 to help support these advancements, Verizon said. They should first document their assets and link IP-addressable elements to business needs, so they can prioritize the data and applications that will need IPv6 capabilities, the company said.

Another technology trend that Verizon sees becoming stronger is the penetration of social networking into the enterprise -- a trend that's seeing new business-oriented social network players emerging, as well as concerns that social networks lack a real business value.

There's also the persistent complaint that social networks could represent a security threat to the enterprise -- a worry likely to be heightened by recent virus activity. Given the spread of social networking malware like Koobface and a myriad other threats now facing the enterprise -- like an anticipated proliferation of cybercriminals in these tough economic times -- it's not surprising that Verizon also sees security consciousness becoming another key thrust of businesses in 2009.

Smart technologies that help track, monitor and enable controls for compliance will also be critical, Verizon said, warning that there will be increased compliance and regulatory oversight in 2009. Businesses should use Web-based dashboards to help track, monitor and enable controls for compliance and review whether their partners, customers and suppliers are complying with the standards and regulations governing their industry.

"Businesses that leverage technology to power their objectives will weather the storm and become even stronger in the long run," Gofus said.