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Analysis of Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009″

October 16th, 2008 by - 11,645 views

gartner_logo This week, Gartner, Inc released their list of the top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009. This information stems from research performed within the Technology sector and factors in their client and research feedback. This list, released at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo, is considered to be potentially “disruptive to your environment or market in some way,” says Gartner analyst David Cearley.

While I sometimes find some of Gartner’s commentary on trends in technology a bit conservative and missing other critical data, this 2009 list does represent current trends that I have seen and mirrors many of my own expectations. Just last week, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington declared that Web 2.0 was dead. I think that many of us have already moved well beyond Web 2.0. My view, for some time, has been that Web 3.0 (for lack of a better term) will be a combination of Integration and Standards and the coupling of the two, with other enabling technologies such as Cloud Computing providing the necessary lubrication. We saw the term “mashup” become prevalent during the past year or so, where companies sought to integrate similar services (or even disparate ones) in a new service delivered via the Web. A could of quick examples of this is evident with the numerous Twitter services that use Twitter data and either present this data in different ways or full integration into other services, or the advent of Yahoo!’s Pipes.

Key to Integration is making the connections easier through the use of public APIs. As more companies expose their API’s to developers, the wheels for integration become even more greased. This is all fine and good provided that these API are carefully documented, but more critical is that APIs must adhere to some sort of standard. Unfortunately, the “standards” requirement is a lot harder to require and maintain. At a recent Cloud Computing Interoperability meeting that I participated in, most attendees agreed that Standards are a huge priority, however, defining these standards would be a daunting task to undertake. But this interop was a clear step forward by the leaders in the industry towards defining these standards. If you step back a few years, you could view Web Services as a precursor to the API movement we see now (API’s are a subset of Web Services), and XML standards helped to propel the acceptance of Web Services and Integrations in general.

I feel that those companies who are currently working to aggregate (or integrate) various API’s into their business model are well positioned to be the ones who can help drive these standards. Case in point, GoGrid has a public API and recently signed up various Cloud Aggregators (such as RightScale, Appistry and GigaSpaces). These companies use a variety of other Cloud Infrastructure providers within their management services. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized how important these Cloud Aggregators’ roles are in driving some Cloud standards. They have views into all of their partner API’s and can easily find similarities and differences between these API’s. Any API’s that these aggregators come up with themselves are one step closer to a standards-based API that could potentially be generic enough for use by many if not all providers.

What is also interesting, is that this concept of Integration and Standards actually does apply to our current World Financial Crisis as well. We have a bank and financial institution pandemonium with mergers seemingly occurring daily. These institutions will need to integrate diverse systems in order to succeed and the government will be forced to derive some standards to govern their vested interest in these institutions. Sure, this is a fairly broad application of these terms in this comparison between Web 3.0 and Finance, but the ideas are similar.

But back to the Gartner predictions for 2009. First, we need to take off our rose colored glasses here. Any time you make a prediction, the odds are that you could be wrong in the long run. I realize that this is a bit pessimistic, but just look at our Economy right now. There were plenty of naysayers who told us that we were going down the wrong path, but we still proceeded ahead, ignoring these predictions. Technology trends are no different than Economic ones; you can make an attempt to predict based on the past however, the difference here is that technology seem to be a lit less volatile compared to the economy.

So, let’s take a look at Gartner’s 2008 and 2009 Strategic Technologies list:

2008 Strategic Technologies 2009 Strategic Technologies
1. Green IT 1. Virtualization (#5 previously)
2. Unified Communications 2. Cloud Computing (new)
3. Business Process Management 3. Servers – Beyond Blades (8)
4. Metadata Management 4. Web-oriented architectures (new)
5. Virtualization 5. Enterprise mashups (6)
6. Mashups 6. Specialized Systems (new)
7. The Web Platform 7. Social Software & Social Networking (10)
8. Computing fabric 8. Unified Communications (2)
9. Real World Web 9. Business Intelligence (new)
10. Social Software 10. Green IT (1)

I’d like to dive into these lists, not all topics but just the ones that caught my attention. Interestingly, I find that several of the items on these lists seem to have blurred boundaries while others clearly stand alone.

Green IT, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Computing Fabrics/Servers – Beyond Blades, and the Web Platform/Web-oriented Architecture, in my mind, are Technologies where this “blurring” is clearly evident. Cloud Computing obviously is the buzzword of 2008 as well it should be. One can actually lump the others in this short-list under “the Cloud.” Fortunately (or unfortunately), this all-encompassing term is used in every technology conversation nowadays. The problem is, because it is being used as such a generic term, many people are having trouble really understanding what “the Cloud” truly is. Some points:

  • The Cloud is definitely “Green” in that there are obvious power and energy savings compared to traditional rack & stack servers.
  • Green works hand-in-hand with Virtualization. While power and energy efficiencies can be gained through hardware optimizations (e.g., green chips, reduction of power-hungry servers), these efficiencies can be more dramatically realized through virtualization of hardware appliances and components.
  • Similarly, Cloud Computing employs the use of Computer Fabrics; instead of partial resource utilization of a bare-metal server, with Cloud Computing one can target just CPU or memory aspects (infrastructure resources and components) and gain efficiencies through their isolated uses.
  • Finally, if you plug in the Web as a Platform or Architecture provider and delivery mechanism, one can clearly see how Computing resources can be delivered via said architecture as opposed to traditional methods (e.g., architect in and deliver via the Cloud vs. bare metal and more static and rigid infrastructures).

Back to my earlier point of Integration being a key driver of Web 3.0, Gartner lists (Enterprise) Mashups as another Strategic Technology to watch. I heartily echo this. It will, undoubtedly, take the Enterprise much longer to realize this from a concept point of view as well as the actualization of this technology, but we do know that integration is critical. Why not leverage experts from various practices and bolster your own services or products through integration with these experts. Mashups is a Web 2.0 buzzword that I would recommend be dropped for a more encompassing term of “Integration.” Mashup has the connotation of being very Web-centric (e.g., only visible on the web). Integration, on the other hand, can be applied to both Web-centric delivery but also to more behind-the-scenes channels of Web Services and specifically, APIs. Integration using APIs will give companies clear competitive advantages versus those SMBs or Enterprises that opt to maintain closed systems. Integration of systems can also help drive BPM (Business Process Management) as well as BI (Business Intelligence). By overlaying dissimilar data sets, new conclusions can be made based on the analysis of the data intersections or relationships, thus presenting more distinct and unique offerings.

Lastly and perhaps the ugly duckling of the group, Social Software and Social Networking, I believe will be core to 2009. During any economic crisis or recession, Companies immediately look to slash Marketing and PR budgets above all other Departments. Prior to Web 2.0, Marketing and PR was all about blasting your product or service messages out to the masses. Web 2.0 introduced the idea of engaging in conversations with groups of users and understanding the needs of those users. More recently, with the huge adoption of Social Networking by all types of users (business and personal), the message became even more targeted, reaching almost a 1:1 conversation. This has evolved into Social Marketing using Social Networking/Software as the delivery mechanism. While more difficult to do well and somewhat hit-and-miss at times, Social Marketing is potentially more efficient than dropping gobs of money on keyword buys, sponsorships, or events. Enterprises are already moving towards engaging their prospects or customer base through community-based outreach and social networking channels. Doing it right, however, is a completely different beast. It’s good to see that Gartner views this as a critical technology component of 2009.

We still have to maintain a clear perspective in all of this though. If the Global Recession truly hits as it seems that it will, the items on the list that directly and positively impact the bottom line of companies will naturally rise to the top. Maintaining a cost-effective, competitive advantage in the future will be much more difficult to achieve. I dare say that adopting Cloud Computing as a primary technology strategy will be one of the main catalysts for technology-savvy business to not only stay in business, but also be successful in the long run.

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Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan, formerly the Technology Evangelist for GoGrid, is a recognized technology, social media, and cloud computing pundit and blogger who writes regularly about technology news and trends.

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