Gartner's hype cycle, July 2013
Gartner's hype cycle, July 2013

People generally make predictions about the future around this time of year (almost as if they are asking Santa Claus to make it so!).  To avoid being left out, this post provides my thoughts on some of the things to watch for in 2014.

First, let’s be fair: I’ve already read other people’s predictions, and I have no scientific evidence or quantitative measures to prove that my crystal ball is close to being accurate.  Without doubt my own biases have crept into my thinking, and I have a Canadian perspective.

It’s also good to examine key constraints that the IT industry will face in 2014.  My thoughts:

  • Users and buyers are still learning – most of us are still trying to understand the potential and business value of the SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) suite of technologies; the Gartner hype cycle is in full swing and we certainly have not yet hit a plateau;
  • The technologies themselves are still maturing – a lot of SMAC-oriented systems and solutions exist but very few are mature; new market segments are forming and chasms (using Geoffrey Moore’s insights) are waiting to be crossed;
  • Vendor competition is intensifying – the race to get products and services out to the marketplace is intense; however, no one has settled on common definitions yet much less developed and adopted industry standards; and
  • The fragile economy is an “elephant in the room” – money is less accessible since the recession; enterprises are more cautious about new IT investments, especially if the business value is not obvious; and consumers continue to struggle with high debt levels.

So, with these constraints in mind, what can we say about the outlook for 2014?  I would like to call 2014 the year of “everything.”

1.    Software-defined everything

We are seeing the emergence of a software-defined era with new products for software-defined networking (SDN).  SDN will, over time, expand to become software-defined IT.  After all, virtualization is really just software-defined servers and multi-tenant databases are software-defined data repositories.  The cloud computing characteristics (self-service, elasticity, pay-as-you-go) depend on advanced software; hence, software-defined clouds.  SDN in 2014 should point the way towards software-defined IT in the future.

2.    Service-oriented everything

Service-oriented systems with open APIs (application programming interfaces) will advance and become more sophisticated in 2014.  “Everything as a Service” will start to become the preferred business model, even for social services and learning services.  Bring Your Own Service (BYOS) – combining service orientation with personalization will increase the alignment of IT with business and social systems.  In 2014 we can expect to see increased formalization and automation of cloud-based services, service management and service brokerage.

3.    Everything-to-everything communications

Various labels are used for this – machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, the Internet of things (IoT) and  the Internet of everything (IoE) are some of them.  Just about everything will become an network endpoint to in the provision of services.   For example, your phone could ask the coffee machine if the coffee is ready;  your watch will connect to your phone; your pedometer and heart monitor could work with a health tracking application (and your doctor); and, cars could interact with each other to improve safety.  The Internet of Everything will create new requirements for the Internet and increased demand for an “always on” world.

4.    Personalization and quantification of everything

In 2014 IT will adapt to the user instead of vice versa.  Personalization will start to be possible without custom application development (in conjunction with role-based profiles and security).  Products such as Apple’s Siri, wearable devices, personal display interfaces (such as Google Glass), virtual reality, location tracking and other services will improve and be more integratable in 2014.  Everything will also be measured to allow for pay-as-you-go operations and to monitor the user experience.  The goal will be to “keep it simple” for users and operators alike.

5.    Data about everything

The data explosion (or is a data tsunami more appropriate?) will continue into 2014 and beyond, with no end in sight.  Both people and IT services require access to data, generate new data and need data to be well-managed and well-protected.   Raw data will be collected from people, systems, sensors, microphones, cameras, instruments, and all types of machine.  Derived content and information (music, television, movies, books and virtual reality) will be significant sources of data.  All this data will need to be organized, processed, stored, archived, protected and made more easily accessible.  In 2014 more attention will be paid to the protection (i.e., encrypt everything), the qualification (such as access restrictions and copyright) and the quality of the data, especially with cloud-based systems.

6.    Cloud computing for anything and everything

While not everyone will have a personal (or family) cloud as early as 2014, the direction is clearly towards universal access to a wide range of services.  Personal clouds and smart homes would offer a wide range of services ranging from telephony to electronic money to on-demand education.  Clouds will also proliferate in 2014 as service providers build more and more data centers and offer a wide variety of Software as a Service offerings.  Inter-cloud communications and portability will become a more urgent requirement, as will tools for integrating and orchestrating various vendor’s cloud services.  Increasingly, clouds will be based on open software such as OpenFlow and CloudStack.  Cloud computing should pass through the Gartner Hype Cycle “trough of disillusionment” quickly.

7.    Management automation for everything

One consequence of “IT is in everything” is that there is more to manage.  The control, management and governance for both traditional and cloud-based systems will grow in importance, especially when it is not obvious who is accountable for the success of the service.  If your toaster connects to your coffee machine, will it be clear who is accountable for its correct and continuous operation?  If you accumulate sensor data from wearable devices, who manages the data and ensures it is kept safe?  In a cloud environment, who monitors whether the charges actually represent correct usage?  Management as a Service will emerge as a requirement in 2014.

So, those are just a few of my ideas for IT in 2014.  What do you think?

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