Thursday, December 15, 2011

Predictions: What You WON'T See in IT For 2012

While everyone is jumping in with 2012 predictions ('Tis the season) I want to impress on everyone that a dose of sobriety is in order.

IT vendors - and even analysts - are understandably eager to see new technologies and operating models (cloud) adopted quickly. But let's acknowledge the High Tech adage: Not very much happens in 2-3 years, although massive changes occur over a decade.

At any rate, I wanted to highlight things I believe we won't see happen in 2012. Perhaps because we're just being a bit over-eager, or perhaps other enablers have to precede them. Here goes:

An Instant Cloud
Despite claims from vendors, and a plethora of tools and technologies, you still won't see an "instant-on" private cloud solution in 2012. And you probably won't for years to come. I know many folks (mostly vendors) will vehemently disagree with me, but let me challenge you all with this: Cloud is an operational model, enabled by technology. Simply implementing a tool (BTW, most of which are still only tenuously integrated with each other, as well as with hardware and networking platforms) won't solve the problem for you. And definitely not for an enterprise-ready level of availability

Building infrastructure is one thing; knowing how to operationalize it, integrate it into your enterprise, and how to re-structure your service delivery processes are very different. 

However, I do believe that in the next 3 years or so, mainstream enterprises will come to realize that the issue is only partly technology-based. And I hope that change-management and organizational design models will mature to the level of technology models so that "turn-key" process change and skill development will accompany the product sale.

One Dominant Public Cloud
Despite growing use of AWS, Google and Azure, I believe that none of these will be a runaway dominant leader for 2012. Or ever.

Although there will likely be 2-5 very large public cloud leaders who compete on economies-of-scale, I believe the invisible hand of the market will instead cultivate many more "special purpose" community clouds. These players will develop based on knowing their specific market requirements - i.e. competing on security, compliance, use habits, special-purpose applications, performance, etc.  Take for example financial markets (NYSE's Capital Markets Community Platform), Healthcare (varied provider solutions), or even Federal, State, and Local Government (varied initiatives).

The next 2-3 years will definitely see more specific examples of these special-purpose cloud computing initiatives - and perhaps even the emergence of a few 'dominant' community clouds in selected markets. But in 2012, we won't see the community cloud market held back by the presence of large public clouds.

Broad Use of IT Chargeback
Financial chargeback (and showback) have been discussed for years, and are being implemented in greater numbers lately. And although I am a proponent of IT Financial Transparency, we won't see the broad-based use of chargeback unfortunately still won't go mainstream in 2012.

In my opinion, implementing financial transparency tools are second-level initiatives. They don't make sense to implement until and unless the IT department first has other financial controls and metrics in place. And they certainly don't make sense unless IT and the lines-of-business agree on what they're trying to achieve with better IT financial transparency in the first place. Is it really cost-recovery, or merely better knowledge of variable costs and consumption?  Is it an attempt by IT to become more 'competitive' and to measure itself against external providers? Is it an effort by the CIO and CFO to gather better build-vs-buy decisions? The enterprise has to ask these questions before forging ahead with a chargeback program.

So, while 2012 may not be the year of chargeback, it might be the year when IT begins to take a more evolved approach to measuring its variable cost, to metering consumption, and to implementing the goals and strategies it will need to begin these initiatives. Broad-based use of chargeback may still be a few years off, but I hope that IT financial maturity begins soon.

IT is Elevated to a Strategic Business Enabler
Unfortunately, in 2012, we'll still see the vast number of enterprise IT groups continue to report up to the CFO, to be pressured to keep-the-lights-on with less, and to simply be considered a cost center by the organization. As much as IT should be treated as a core enabler of the business, this just won't be so in 2012. It takes time.

But a transformation of IT is taking place, slowly. Saavy CIOs are thinking of themselves as "internal SPs", and beginning to relate to partnering with lines-of-business in a formal manner. To make this transformation, IT first has to adopt new models for services consumption, operations and technology.

In the new context of Business Enabler, IT partners with Lines-of-business to ensure that (a) services are quickly made available to support the top-line revenue needs, (b) IT works with business managers to educate them about potential new services and top-line opportunities, (c) IT adopts a 'consumerized' mindset whereby it supports an "any device" approach to endpoints, and (d) IT is as comfortable with brokering external services as it is with generating its own - doing whatever it takes to support the needs of business users.

But for 2012, let's push IT - and the business - to begin planning for this transformation.

Customers Catch Up to Vendor Vision
As a long-time marketer in high-tech, I've seen the tendency of vendors to push customers to adopt the Next Big Thing. And that N.B.T. is frequently disruptive (or at least discontinuous) with respect to the "legacy" approach to doing things.

To be sure, there are always customers who are leading-edge in their technology adoption. But the mainstream customer adopts technology *incrementally* and rarely if ever discontinuously. This is a byproduct of (a) the human tendency to mitigate risk, and (b) business' tendency to plan change - and budgets - incrementally.

So, for 2012 - and for the foreseeable future -  this trend won't change. Hopefully vendors will be more clear about what's "vision" or what's "for early-adopters", and maintain a healthy dose of sobriety about selling high-brow discontinuity to the mainstream market.

As this relates to Cloud computing, it's clear that more of the mainstream market is adopting virtualization, and has bought into the concept of cloud computing initiatives. But let's be clear: In 2012 the average IT infrastructure won't be completely re-built into a private cloud.  However, I believe that the majority of medium and large IT shops will all have begun their progression toward the private cloud eventuality.

Other (prediction-related) links

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