Cloud Predictions Beyond 2011 – Part 1: Consumer Services Rule

In the past weeks we launched directly from the season of cloud events into what SysCon calls the Annual Predictions Bonanza. Gartner released its predictions on December 1 leading with “critical
infrastructure will be disrupted by online sabotage
.”  At CIO magazine Bernard Golden gave two
interesting points of view
, one for vendors and one for users, and even CA Technologies offered insights into the changes we expect in 2011, including how “security will shift from being perceived
as a cloud inhibitor to becoming a cloud enabler
.”

So, what happens after 2011?  In a few upcoming blogs I will highlight some “megatrends” that I believe are happening – or need to happen – in the decade about to start. (Now, you may argue that the decade started a year ago, but starting to count at zero is very “old school IT” and “old school IT” is definitely not what we are going to see going forward.)
BIG IT becomes Consumer IT
Traditionally “BIG IT” represented the IT operations of large banks, governments and Fortune 1000 companies. These organizations were typically the first to implement new technologies, ranging from the first mainframes to powerful UNIX clusters and later rack-based systems. Many technology companies used the 80/20 rule — that the top 20% of companies were responsible for 80% of
the overall Global IT spend — to guide their strategy.  Today the total data processing at the
average stock exchange still dwarfs the number of transactions a phenomenon like Twitter handles
, but online entertainment is rapidly catching up.

This really hit home while visiting a large hosted European data center a few weeks ago. There were some corners where you could still find enterprise servers zooming away, but the really big server farms and all the reserved open spots were dedicated to consumer-related services such as online gaming, mobile internet and messaging, and on-demand television. The rise of of these consumer services will cause unprecedented demands for cloud storage, cloud networking and cloud processing in 2011, but the average enterprise IT manager won’t particularly notice. In fact, many traditional IT chiefs may still feel they are “BIG IT”.  If you’re interested in an analyst covering these new consumer areas then you may enjoy Om Malik’s GigaOM site.

You could say that this trend of data centers becoming more and more consumer-centric is the top- down part of IT consumerization. The bottom-up part is employees bringing their consumer technology (iPhones, iPads, etc.) and expecting to use them while doing their job. The long term impact of this top-down trend will be that traditional BIG IT technology vendors will start to focus their R&D more on new, fast growing markets. Vendors with a running start in this new reality will be consumer electronics companies (like Apple) and technology vendors that grew up – or grew big – with the internet. As a result Enterprise IT will become a secondary market, a market where data center inventions and investments that were originally made for the consumer and entertainment market can be redeployed. Something to take into consideration when picking your strategic technologies and vendors for the next decade. 

Now consumer IT won’t take over Enterprise IT completely during 2011, but the days that we made fun of hardware vendors that made more money on consumer printers and ink than on enterprise data centers are definitely behind us.

P.S. — OK just one prediction for 2011.  In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about the four P’s of Innovation – Problem, Ponder, Publish and Pilot. For Enterprise IT, 2010 was clearly the year of publications (just look at the number of blogs with cloud predictions). That would make 2011 the year of piloting. Check back for my next blog on what I expect the production period will look like.

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