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Global IT spending wrapped in caution tape

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What's black and yellow and stings? Nope, not a bee: the global IT spending budget, tightly wrapped in crime-scene caution tape – that's the continuing prognosis from the economists and IT market watchers at Gartner.

"While the challenges facing global economic growth persist – the eurozone crisis, weaker US recovery, a slowdown in China – the outlook has at least stabilized," explains Richard Gordon, research vice president at Gartner who does forecasting, in a statement accompanying the latest IT spending update.

"There has been little change in either business confidence or consumer sentiment in the past quarter," Gordon says, "so the short-term outlook is for continued caution in IT spending."

Gartner's IT spending projections

IT spending in 2011 was lower than Gartner thought it was back in April

There were two interesting bits of news in the forecast for 2012: a revised 2011 spending estimate across five broad areas in the IT sector and the inclusion of a 2013 forecast just to give us all a warm feeling – which is not all that hard in the US these days, what with the triple-digit heat wave.

That 2011 spending figure has been bobbling all over the place in late 2011 and early 2012. Last summer, Gartner was projecting that IT spending on computing hardware, enterprise software, IT services, telecom equipment, and telecom services would add up to $3.644 trillion. Then in April this year it said it looked like total IT spending would be a bit higher, at $3.661 trillion. The projection was for 2012 spending across the five areas to be a total of $3.751 trillion, down from a $3.798 trillion forecast in January.

As it turns out, after sharpening its pencils once again, Gartner said that spending in 2011 was even lower, at $3.523 trillion across computing and telecom, growing 7.9 per cent from 2010's levels. And polishing up their crystal balls, Gartner's prognosticators have reduced their forecasts for global IT spending to a mere 3 points of growth, to $3.628 trillion.

That's $170bn in revenues – some of it due to currency effects and some of it due to cuts in budgets – that is not going to be in the IT vendor coffers that they thought might be there based on Gartner's projections back in January.

Hardware spending this year – including sales of PCs, tablets, servers, storage, and networking gear used in the office and data center – will amount to $420bn when reckoned in US dollars, up 3.4 percent from the revised 2011 figures. Enterprise software, which includes code for personal devices as well as for servers and software sold over the cloud, will see 4.3 per cent growth, to $281bn. IT services, which include hosting, systems integration, business process outsourcing, and all the other gobbledygook that vendors peddle, will see only 2.3 per cent growth this year, to $877bn.

On the telecom front, service providers and telcos continue to build out and beef up their networks, and spending on telecom equipment among these companies will jump 10.8 per cent to $377bn, and marking the one true bright spot in the IT sector. The telecom services that run on these networks will bring in $1.686 trillion in revenues globally, which is a lot of dough – 46.5 per cent of the total IT budget worldwide, in fact – but will only grow by 1.4 per cent this year after a 6 per cent bump in 2011.

As you can see from the table above, Gartner is figuring for much higher spending on hardware and software in the data center and on desktop in 2013, and slightly higher spending on telecom services and very good growth on telecom hardware.

IT services spending will rebound – if all goes as Gartner projects – rising 8.3 per cent to $905bn globally, being driven in part by big data engagements that have a big hardware and software component and by the rise of infrastructure and platform clouds.

Gartner projects that corporate spending on public cloud services – and that is a pretty broad definition of cloud, to be sure – hit $91bn in 2011 and will rise by 19.8 per cent to $109bn this year, reaching $207bn by 2016.

"Business process as a service (BPaaS) still accounts for the vast majority of cloud spending by enterprises," Gordon said, "but other areas such as platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) are growing faster." ®

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