Chief information officers should not worry about bringing Internet Protocol Version 6, third generation or 64-bit computing to the desktop until as late as 2007 or 2008, Gartner analysts have advised. On the other hand, IP virtual private networks, Wi-Fi and replacement desktop machines should all be the subject of careful reflection today.
Assigning technologies to three categories, "Act now", "Next year", and "Not yet", analysts at Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo conference in Cannes gave their views of how CIOs should prioritise new technology introduction to the enterprise.
IPv6 is strictly of interest to network operators: It is not the time for enterprises to worry about this new technology, they said, although they should act now to replace Frame Relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode and leased line connections with IP VPN links.
Gartner analysts said 3G mobile communications networks will not be business-ready before 2007 - but smart phones and ad-hoc Wi-Fi wireless Lans (Wlans) could be in users' hands today, regardless of the CIO's readiness.
Lost or stolen smart phones containing or allowing access to important business data represent a security risk which should be anticipated and managed, said one analyst.
"IT probably doesn't want them, but users are going to get them anyway. People forget that there's a lot of sensitive corporate data walking around on these devices," said Gartner analyst Delia MacMillan.
"802.11 Wlans are being deployed by stealth. You may have a policy against them, but you might have them already, whether you know it or not," she said, adding that the sure way to avoid stealth deployments is to deploy them yourself.
Gartner analyst Brian Gammage dismissed the additional power of 64-bit computing as irrelevant on the desktop because no office productivity software can take advantage of it.
On the other hand, MacMillan said, favourable exchange rates and fierce vendor competition mean 32-bit desktop PCs are available at bargain prices in Europe. "It's an excellent time to refresh the desktop," she added.
Virtualisation is much talked about in the server market, where the technique allows several applications or even operating systems to coexist in different memory partitions on a single physical server.
However, virtualisation also holds desktop uses and should be viewed in that context over the next year, Gammage said.
"Even if a new PC is free, you still have to pay for the migration" of old desktop applications to a more modern operating system (OS), he added.
However, by using software from companies such as VMWare, enterprises can continue to run old software on old operating systems, virtually hosted on a more modern system.
While this can cut migration costs, "the big question is if you virtualise, you have a host OS and a guest OS: how many licences is that?" he asked.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service