The trend to consolidate data centers is well in process, or even into the home stretch, for most companies and organizations. Nearly a year ago, a survey by Gartner in 2007 noted that 92% of respondents had a data center consolidation planned for, in progress or completed.So what about the software applications themselves? These have been much more distributed than data centers, having homes on the desktop, branch office, regional offices and data centers.New ResearchNemertes Research has published the results of a new research report on branch IT architectures that’s interesting, citing that branch office app centralization may also have reached close to its limit. The report cites that 67.7% of companies currently store their applications centrally, up from 56% one year ago. Also interesting is the 25% that also reported a “hybrid model” where most are centralized, while some are still hosted locally. The question there is how can you further optimize those applications that you must keep local (maybe retail transaction app, or even basic IT services like Windows Print)? Certainly virtualization can play a big role — either virtualizing the local server(s) you decide to keep in the branch, or even skipping them and virtualizing the branch platform to host the remaining local apps directly…a strategy Cisco is driving with the recent addition of virtualization to its WAAS platform.And then there’s software as a service (SaaS) options, which centralize applications even further — into the cloud of your SaaS provider like Salesforce.com, Google and others.What all these technologies and solutions really give you as IT leaders are a couple key benefits: flexibility, and business agility. Flexibility so you can choose *what* application goes *where*, based on cost, time management, resiliency requirements and other criteria. So you’re no longer bound by physical or cost limits. You also receive much better business agility, because the architectures and solutions you can build with these new application delivery models allows your business to deploy new apps, features and services much faster than before, from central (yours or a provider’s) infrastructure vs. distributed systems.While these trends towards application centralization, branch virtualization, and SaaS/cloud-based hosting are in their early years still, the directions seem pretty clear where the majority of architectures and deployments models will go. Your Thoughts?Where is your organization with its application deployment and delivery models? Centralizing (and if so, what apps are going home vs. staying out still)? What are you still keeping local for remote users? And as SaaS a part of your plans?