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Ten Game-Changing Technology Shifts for 2012

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I expect you will have read Ron Tolido’s post on seven very specific IT areas to watch in 2012 .  Well, there are some things which are traditional and one of them in this industry is to start the new year with a set of predictions about which new technologies will be important in the year ahead. Well here are my thoughts on the topic that takes us beyond the current three terms that are enjoying attention as being at the center of the hype cycle: ‘cloud’, ‘mobility’, and ‘big data’. None of these three is a single technology, instead there is a clutch of new technologies that are behind these three headline grabbers.

However, there is one mega trend to remark on, but it does have various names that make it less easy to identify exactly what it is; some talk of the ‘bring your own revolution’, ‘the tablet revolution’, ‘the consumerization of IT’, or even ‘the post-PC era’. It can be summed up as the shift from the computer being at the core of technology development to people becoming the central focus. Here are ten technology-centric groupings of activities, products and themes that support this change:

1. The Core Change: People rather than IT are the new focus

New forms of connection and delivery enable users to drive their own choices about where and how they work, find information, indeed even choose what software they download and use. This intensely personally focused use of technology underpins more intellectually based and decentralized activities and in particular has started a revolution in how the ‘front office’ activities of a business and its staff can function free from the restraining infrastructure of an enterprise desktop and office.

Examples: the consumerization of IT, bring your own, the post-PC era

2. Intuitive presentation and usability

The shift away from the PC and its attendant keyboard and mouse towards more portable devices used whenever and wherever to suit circumstances has introduced new interactive techniques based on touch screens and gestures that also suit a change in using wider media for interactions beyond mere text using a keyboard. The drive to display information in optimal ways for the interpretation and interaction by a human rather than data for a computer is underpinning a new generation of ‘services’ usually called ‘apps’.

Examples: smartphones and tablets, gesture-driven, increasing multi-media

3. From big IT to small services

The shift towards personal choice and assembly of small granular services rather than enterprise level deployment of monolithic applications changes the development methods and methodology. Large numbers of small services can be rapidly orchestrated into chosen processes, and equally quickly changed again. Solutions can be small, experimental and innovative, while deployments don’t have to be big bang everyone-at-once affairs. These new services will present new challenges and organizations need to make sure they don’t underestimate the numbers of services or the complexity of managing this environment.

Example: the creation of App Shops and creative developers of services

4. User-driver environments

The three previous groupings have given rise to completely new user-centric environments as the origins of Web 2.0 people rather than content-centric technologies have matured and grown. Social networks allow the person to define their topics of interest and involvement with the ability to ‘receive’ selectively, as opposed to email where the sender is in control. Huge networks are developing around the ‘topic’ linkages as information moves to include ‘collective consciousnesses of the social network’.

Example: social CRM, social networks, external Web-based services

5. Big data means more than a lot of data

Location and context-aware rich Internet applications are bringing both new requirements in the collection and use of information which, in turn, means a wide range of data formats including blending multi-media in with existing traditional data definitions. Intelligence takes on a new meaning around the rapid searching and assembly of unstructured data triggered by an event or circumstances.

Example: NoSQL databases; search engines, image recognition

6. Tight-coupled computers to loose-coupled people

Computers and applications ‘push’ structured process data integrated through a predetermined set of fixed ‘tight-coupled’ connections defined by client-server architecture. In contrast, people interact and ‘pull’ unstructured information and services on a cloud or Web architecture, which is defined as ‘loose-coupled’. The former is supported by technology-based integration of computer systems through enterprise architecture. For the latter, the user and devices become the focus, with management of ‘services’ the new integration issue. When using the ‘loose-coupled’ Web/Cloud the user chooses where to go, versus a traditional enterprise application environment, which offers only predetermined transactional paths.

Example: the ‘true’ cloud based on the Internet/Web, second generation browsers

7. Development and deployment methods

Small, personalized services that will run on cloud platforms, and are therefore simple scripting assemblies, require a radically different approach to development than traditional, monolithic applications which need to interface with operating systems to ensure performance and security. The

length of time for development and deployment is also a reflection on the length of time it will stay in service, i.e. a six-month traditional application development may stay in service for many years with ongoing maintenance requiring full documentation, whereas a week-long service development and deployment may have a life of only a few months and then be scrapped rather than maintained.

Example: agile development, Force.com, and the rise of platform-as-a-service

8. Next generation data centers deliver true cloud

The shift from deterministic numbers of applications and systems in a deterministic, traditional IT environment to the ability to provide totally flexible allocation of computational resources on demand defines the ‘next generation data center’, an industry-recognized term. In addition to the obvious flexibility required to support the people inside the enterprise working in new ways, the radical shift in requirements towards participation in a common external environment with other enterprise data centers as part of the ‘true’ cloud environment creates the need for a new ‘cloud services’ layer. The work of the Open Data Center Alliance, and other similar bodies, focuses on developing common standards for next generation data centers to host services whether from internal or external sources.

Example: standardized and online, ‘bare metal’ based running cloud layer, increasingly green

9. Mobility in every sense of the term

The rich variety of devices using wireless connectivity, either 3G or WiFi, sever the old ‘fixed’ understanding of what and how a device – usually a PC – is connected into a corporate enterprise network. The term ‘mobile’ has tended to be used to describe delivering a traditional client-server application onto an external device with intermittent connectivity requiring complex synchronization and resulting in data held on the device outside the enterprise. Mobility is usually referred to as being browser cloud-based with little or no data being held on the device, allowing any browser connectivity and interaction with any cloud service at any time by any connection type e.g. total mobility in all the elements.

Example: Android smartphones and tablets, Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad and SAP Mobility Platform

10. The redefinition of security

Security is clearly a major issue as the expansion of activities moves outside the enterprise invoking wider interactions in semi-public environments with many unknown combinations of people and services. However, traditional IT based on transactions i.e. enterprise, data-rich environments inside the firewall, demands its own approaches to protecting the enterprise data center model around firewall techniques. But the new external world cannot function if its devices are subjected to the locked down, VPN-connected demands necessary to protect both PCs and enterprise data. A new and very vibrant set of approaches and technologies is delivering a new and appropriate governance and security model.

Example: Jericho Security, closed App Shop models 

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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