The good news: Your job will never be as crucial to your business as it will this year.

For most IT managers, last year was filled with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. They expanded their Web sites, built intranets and extranets, and developed e-commerce strategies. Internet technology made everything seem possible, and for the most part, it was.

This year, it will be time to turn dreams into reality. There will be fewer questions about new technology and more about how to optimize technology to make it more reliable and secure. Like second-year start-ups, most IT departments will have to stop thinking "outside the box" and start figuring how to make the box they created last year profitable this year.In short, IT will be less fun.

Yet for those who specialize in management and security, 1999 will be a crucial year. Somehow, they will have to turn 1998's pilot projects--Web servers, extranets, e-commerce sites--into systems that businesses can rely on. Performance management, high availability, traffic shaping and security will be the focus. The new systems and applications will have to be faster, safer and more reliable.

Let's look at some of the ways these trends will affect IT in the new year:

* The emergence of e-commerce and extranets will make it increasingly difficult for companies to keep their data secure. The threat of external attacks will become at least as serious as the threat of internal attacks, if not more so. Expect heavy emphasis on intrusion detection, strikeback and vulnerability- testing technologies and services.

* An increasing dependence on Web commerce will put greater pressure on government and industry to set standards for data encryption, secure transactions and Web privacy. Look for U.S. legislative and regulatory bodies, as well as industry standards groups, to set new guidelines in these areas.

* The Year 2000 scare will reach its peak. More than ever, top corporate executives, as well as consumers themselves, will be looking to IT experts for answers regarding the millennium bug. The effectiveness of long-developing remediation and contingency plans will be tested for real.

* Web site performance will become crucial to business success. New competition among Web commerce sites will mean a new emphasis on response time and availability. Sites that provide poor performance will lose customers and revenue to their rivals. In short, IT departments will be responsible for business performance, even business survival, in 1999. Many of the responsibilities will fall on those who handle management and security. Those who manage their IT environments well will be the heroes of 1999; those who manage poorly will be the goats.

By TW120199