Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Finally! Things Are Looking Up for IT Spending, Survey Finds.

I’ve become a little tired of writing stories about gloom and doom and ongoing difficulty in the world of IT spending. Spring is here and I’m ready for a little optimism. Thank goodness, I’ve found it.

It comes in the form of a survey of 100 CIOs by the investment bank J.P. Morgan. The firm finds that, on average, CIOs say they’re going to boost their IT spending by 2.7 percent this year, up from 2.4 percent in 2011. That may not seem like a big change, but here’s why its important: It’s the first time in a few years that the same survey has detected a directional change in sentiment. CIOs are at long last saying they intend to boost their spending on IT, rather than trimming it back and back and back as they have for the last several years. “In our prior CIO survey in September 2011, the directional movement indicated a reduction in planned spending growth, as at that time CIOs were starting to pare back on spending during more uncertain macroeconomic conditions,” the firm says in its report, which was shared exclusively with AllThingsD.

The optimism is a bit more pronounced when you see it expressed in the graphic below, which I grabbed from raw survey results. More than two-thirds of the CIOs surveyed said they planned to boost their overall IT spend this year, most of them by a modest 1-5 percent, but some by more than 10 percent. Last year, the figure was 58 percent, but it usually swings up by only 3 or 4 percentage points, analyst Mark Moskowitz told me.

“The overall tone we got in our conversations with these CIOs was more optimistic than it has been in a while,” Moskowitz said. “They have the green light to start projects that are going to take several quarters to get done. Most aren’t willing to do that when they’re worried their overall business is going to roll over.” A lot of that has to do with more confidence in the overall macroeconomic environment.

And where will that growth be? And, perhaps more importantly, where won’t it be? Software, storage and security are looking like big spending priorities among the CIOs surveyed. Business intelligence tools and getting mobile devices integrated are also high on the list — there’s that ongoing trend toward “bring your own device” (BYOD), rearing its persistent head once again.

Employee-purchased iPhones, iPads and Android devices are supplanting company-assigned BlackBerrys. “BYOD is real,” Moskowitz says. “And you have to assume that Apple is going to be the one that benefits the most from it.”

Other winners include EMC and NetApp, as they play strongly in networked storage. Server virtualization — making one physical server act like dozens of servers, using software to subdivide its resources — also has a lot of room to grow, the survey finds. That’s good news for VMware.

Losers? There are few. Intel’s new Romley chip isn’t going to be as big a deal in spurring spending on new servers: In fact,91 percent of CIOs surveyed said they don’t expect Intel’s new chip to drive new spending in the data center. Intel’s last big upgrade, Nehalem, did change the game, Moskowitz says. The trouble is, most of the companies using Nehalem-generation chips in their servers are happy with them, and are unlikely to bother with the expense of an upgrade, for now.

Nor is Windows 8 going to cause a new round of PC buying, as both Hewlett-Packard and Dell are hoping. “A new version of Windows hasn’t caused a PC upgrade cycle since 1995,” Moskowitz told me. Asked directly if Windows 8 was expected to drive a major PC upgrade cycle, 78 percent of the CIOs in the survey said no. In fact, at least 30 of the CIOs in the survey said they were still working on deploying Windows 7. Ouch. Perhaps it’s too much to ask for things to be looking up for everyone all at once.

(Image is a movie poster for the 1935 British film starring Cicely Courtneidge, but the title song in this case is, well, awful. What I really wanted was an image of Fred Astaire dancing with Joan Fontaine to the underappreciated George and Ira Gershwin tune of the same name, from the 1937 film “A Damsel in Distress,” but I could find nothing suitable. So — loving Gershwin tunes as I do — just for fun, I’ve embedded both Astaire and Billie Holiday singing the tune, below, courtesy of Grooveshark. Yes, I’ll admit, sometimes I have a little too much fun in this job.)

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald