Yep, it's that time of year when pundits and wannabe pundits start making their prognostications about the year ahead.
Since I'm in the latter class (wannabe pundit) part of me feels obligated to offer up my somewhat unique and biased views. In some sense, you can see this as a preview of many of the themes that I'll be inevitably exploring during 2011.
The Art Of Stating The Obvious
For those of you who read me regularly, you'll recognize just about all of these discussions. Industry evolution doesn't occur on nice and neat annual boundaries -- themes usually take years to play out.
So you won't see any "this is the year of" predictions here :-)
Also, I've discussed just about each and every of these themes already, sometimes at length. So, sorry to disappoint you, but there's nothing really new here -- except, maybe, with regards to brevity :-)
1. Big data goes from headache to opportunity
So much of the IT industry discussion these days are about reducing costs, being more efficient, etc. That really never goes away, does it?
That being said, there's a growing audience of profient IT users that see huge opportunities of harnessing big repositories of data along with massive amounts of compute to create entirely new forms of business value.
Indeed, at EMC, you can see those themes reflected in recent acquisitions and investments.
2. Private clouds go from pilot to production
2010 saw literally hundreds of IT organizations set up something cloud-like in their own data centers. They liked what they saw. Now that these environments have matured (technology and process), many of them will move to supporting more traditional production workloads.
Indeed, I'm looking forward to having enough real-world data points to begin to compare and contrast the efficacy of different private cloud approaches.
3. Pre-integrated converged infrastructure (e.g. Vblocks) will prove surprisingly popular
During 2010, this ended up being one of the most controversial developments in the IT infrastructure business. Many detractors (especially competitors), but a few vocal supporters, and not all of them work for IT vendors :-)
The full story here isn't entirely public knowledge yet, but when it's told, more IT leaders will realize that there's an entirely new (and attractive) infrastructure option on the table: pre-integrated converged private cloud infrastructure that's sold and supported as a single unit.
Why? IT is shifting from a cost center to value generation. And valuable IT time generally shouldn't be invested in non-value-added activities.
4. Service providers are widely recognized as the new “channel”
IT service providers are becoming a major force in our industry, and quickly. I even have a separate blog devoted to this topic. In my mind, these partners are equally as important -- perhaps more so -- than the usual gang of technology partners, SI partners, reselling partners, etc.
Thankfully, we're doing well here -- but there's so much more that can be done. It's a different crowd with very different needs.
5. IT security and GRC goes from IT concern to board-level concern
As business becomes more about information, the typical report-outs to the board will start to include a more regular diet of IT and information-related risks: what are they, and are the proper controls in place? We've already seen strong uptake of enterprise GRC frameworks like Archer, and there' no sign that interest is waning.
This particular trend will inevitably drive ...
6. Information governance will move from nice-to-have to must-have
Everyone gives the appropriate lip service to the importance of organizations learning to manage information the way that they manage money: understanding what you have, how to maximize its value (and minimize its cost!) as well as keeping out of various forms of trouble.
Unfortunately, organizing around this function usually requires some sort of forcing function, and -- typically -- these forcing functions are usually the result of a really bad day in the enterprise.
My prediction? Many more organizations will have many more bad days -- and we'll see much more interest in information governance-related topics as a "priority" vs. merely an "initiative".
7. IT transformation becomes the #1 topic with IT leaders
IT is quickly evolving from a cost center to a value generator for many organizations. If you're an IT leader, and you think of your organization as a value generator for the business, you'll be incredibly interested in what the new shape of the IT function might look like, its roles and structure, and -- most importantly -- how do you get there?
Many of us see "cloud" as the primary forcing function here, but there are others -- a new focus on the value of mobile knowledge workers, organizations wanting to use analytics as a competitive weapon, in addition to the usual do-what-you-did-before-only-better topics that are perennial in IT.
8. The IT industry will continue to consolidate
You think M&A in the IT industry is at a frantic pace these days? My personal opinion is that it's early days indeed. 2011 will likely bring even more M&A, including some likely mega-deals that will shape our industry in profound ways.
Put differently, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
9. Mobile knowledge workers become the new focus for many enterprises.
If you look at the employees that contribute to the success of any enterprise, you usually can find one or more hot pockets of people who create an inordinate amount of value. These people are dangerously smart, use information like a weapon, and typically don't sit in one place all day. You may be one of these people :-)
These people are demanding something more than Windows 7 running in a mobile emulator. They want an experience that works the way they do -- apps, tools, workflow, presentation, collaboration -- the whole shebang. I dunno, maybe the iPad did it to them ...
If IT becomes about value generation, it's a logical conclusion that one of the major new targets for value generation is meeting the needs of these new mobile knowledge professionals.
10. And, like every year, information will continue to grow, and grow, and grow.
I know, IDC (and EMC) put out these estimates about the growth of information in our society. The problem with these estimates (in my estimation) are two-fold.
First, I think they're undershooting the growth rate by a significant factor. As far as I can see, the original forces that were presumed to be causing information growth appear to be accelerating rather than holding constant. An upward revision of growth rates in the near future is not unlikely.
More importantly, the growth is very uneven: information growth is extremely explosive in a fascinating variety of niches and use cases. And that's what keeps this business so interesting ...
Here's looking forward to wrapping up a productive 2010, and on to a brave new world in 2011.