Why does every year produce a bounty of terms that mean nothing but manage to pervade high tech?
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Marketing teams were in fine form in 2007 with plenty of overused words and phrases that managers in Windows shops had to decipher.
Let's start with "The Cloud."
These apps are used to create, share, send or store documents in huge server farms by companies like Google. But clouds are nebulous, and the term keeps getting more, well, cloudy. "(The) cloud is next year's 'grid' computing," said Jonathan Eunice, a technology advisor at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., referring to its designation in prior years as grid computing before the "cloud" was rediscovered.
How about ITIL? This term stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, which is a set of best practices for managing different aspects of IT developed 20 years ago in the U.K. The U.S. IT industry has gained interest in it over the last five years. The first version had over 30 volumes, and ITIL is now on version three. Suddenly ITIL is on everyone's lips.
"ITIL -- yes it has gone 3.0," said Eunice, using a joking reference to another overused usage -- the dreaded 2.0 and 3.0 designations. But ITIL is still about selling certificates and training." An entire industry has grown up around ITIL, with certificates for IT managers who master these best practices, and the training to become certified. And many IT administrators seem unsure about where or how to start adopting all the procedures.
Clustering is another good one. The meaning of this word has become clear as mud. Generally, the term means connecting several computers together to act as one for additional computing power. But today we have high availability fail-over clusters, cluster file systems, high performance computer clusters and load balance clusters.
"These are all very different, but I've found most people think of them as the same thing due to that common word, cluster," said Richard Jones, an analyst at the Burton Group, the Midvale, Utah consultancy.
Everyone is familiar with intrusion prevention -- the security technology. But now we have extrusion prevention. Data leak prevention or outbound content filtering would better describe it.
No buzzword list of 2007 would be complete without the terms virtualization, application virtualization or even desktop virtualization. Virtualization seems to mean everything now, observed Natalie Lambert, an analyst at Forrester Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.
And Network Access Control, which refers to technology that lets only authorized users on fully patched and virus-free computers get on a network, was first associated with proprietary technology made by Cisco Systems Inc. There are other, similar technologies today, including Microsoft's Network Access Protection, or NAP, that it has built into Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.
So, what does NAC mean today? Does the A stand for admission or access? Where does it go? Is it inline or out of band? Is it in the switch or on an agent? Is it to control guest access or malware? All good questions asked by Eric Maiwald, another Burton analyst.
Now back to the 2.0 or 3.0 designations. Think -- Web 2.0 and Office 2.0 -- when an entire range of technology, or a platform, is taken to a Web-ified level. It's everywhere, like kudzu.
Sometimes a good word takes on too much extra baggage. Governance is one. For many, it's the new "compliance." Today we have GRC (governance, risk and compliance) vendors that seem to sell any and all products as "GRC," from policy creation tools to customized project management software.
The terms that confuse us today -- let's hope their lives are fleeting as they stretch to mean too many things or not much at all. One thing is certain, next year we will see a new bumper crop of buzzwords.