12 gifts for IT departments this holiday season

Remember, an IT strategy is for the whole year, not just for Christmas. These 12 presents will keep on giving.

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1. Devops and Visual Studio Team Services 

Gartner’s prediction that 25 percent of Global 2000 organizations will be using devops as a mainstream practice looks conservative when you consider the number of companies promising that their products will meld your developers and operations department into an efficient, agile system. 

The reality is that a service like Visual Studio Team Services (as Visual Studio Online is now called) gives you a powerful set of tools for everything from sharing code between teams to testing and building your iOS apps in the cloud to letting key business stakeholders see the progress the developer team is making on their burndown list. But that’s only going to help you once everyone realizes that devops is more about culture than technology, and that you have to invest time and money making it work. Alongside those VSTS licences, make sure you budget for the upfront work that will deliver the automation and stability that cuts down the time it takes your developers to reliably deliver new capabilities. 

[Related: CIO.com’s holiday gift guide]

2. Internet Explorer 11

Windows 10 comes with a brand new browser, Edge. Edge has a modern rendering engine that copes with pages designed for Chrome and Safari that Internet Explorer can’t always handle, but it doesn’t have plugins or extensions or browser helper objects or toolbars or any of the other things that your line of business Web apps built for IE 8 might need to work. And most of your PCs are likely still running Windows 7 (if you have Windows XP, the first present you give the IT department should be an urgent Windows migration). That means Internet Explorer is going to be part of your browser strategy for quite some time, but make sure that’s IE 11, because none of the other versions of will be supported after January. Use the Enterprise Mode tools to mark which sites you want to load in Edge, which need to load in IE and even which version of IE the browser needs to pretend to be.

3. Windows Server 2016

When it arrives in the second half of 2016, Windows Server 2016 can be your container strategy as well as your virtualization strategy. It can give you software defined storage and software defined networking that let you guarantee quality of service using cheap commodity hardware, and you can add Windows Server 2016 to mixed mode clusters so you can stage your migration gradually. But the licencing model switches to a per core basis rather than per processor, so you need to budget for the Datacentre Edition to get all the features.

4. Exchange 2016

Email is a commodity. Your business probably can’t get by without email (gifting your IT department “email-free Fridays” is a gift that keeps on giving, because they’ll also get “email-overload Mondays” along with it). But while getting email wrong is expensive, doing email right doesn’t give you much of a competitive advantage. If you’re still on Exchange 2003, yes, you should absolutely gift your company an upgrade to Exchange 2016. But you should also consider moving to Office 365 and having Microsoft run your email servers for you, and you’ll never have to put a mail server upgrade on your gift list again.

5. Line of business purchasing

If you’re telling your IT team that, “All the business departments are buying their own cloud services next year and you're going to manage them,” you’re probably being unusually realistic about IT buying trends. But don’t expect them to see it as a gift unless you also come up with a policy that tells business teams how to buy the right services, a budget for cloud service discovery so you know what they’re using and privileged access management so that only the right people have admin accounts on cloud services (which you can manage as people move departments and leave the company).

[Related: Gift guide: The 15 best books of 2015 for IT leaders]

6. Hybrid cloud

C-suite executives are often the ones driving the idea of hybrid cloud in the enterprise (which might be why Avanade is expecting to see more hybrid cloud use in the next few years than HP Enterprise is predicting). But often, they don’t understand the key technology questions involved in implementing them.

If your senior execs see hybrid cloud as the right strategy and they have a deadline in mind, then hybrid cloud is likely to be one of the gifts you’ll be giving your IT team, if not in 2016 then soon after. Make sure the gift package also includes the budget for each department that’s going to be consuming the private cloud you’re going to have to build, along with the commitment that they’re going to use it.

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