Six Predictions for 2009

(1) Tight budgets in the ressession will accelerate the adoption of Cloud computing

Cloud computing, which is arguably the biggest paradigm shift in IT since the PC, came crashing onto the radar screen of the business world in 2008. Led by market leader Amazon Web Services several large technology companies started offering cloud computing services in 2008…Google App Engine in the middle of the year and Microsoft Azure services coming online towards the end of year.  Intuit’s Quickbase has been around for several years and in 2008 began gaining real traction in Fortune 500 departments tired of waiting in the IT backlog line.  Many small companies offering cloud services rose to prominence including Zoho, DabbleDB, Mozy, Salesforce/Force, Ning, Wetpaint, and Rightscale just to name a few. In 2008 Cloud computing user groups started popping up in major cities around the world. In 2009 the state of our economy will further drive the need to cut IT costs of maintenance which is often over 80% of the entire IT budget and focus more dollars on applying technology to adding innovation and improving cash flow.  Businesses are going to find that adopting the cloud computing model will not only reduce maintenance but also speed up delivery of solutions. Small companies that have run their business primarily using a combination of Quickbooks and Excel spreadsheets will began to discover cloud applications in 2009 and adopt them at a rapid pace due to their ease of use and lack of requirements for IT support.
(2) Twitter usage will explode to 50 million accounts
Twitter is going main stream in 2009. Twitter is just too cool, useful, powerful, and common sense. Everybody using Twitter knows this. Twitter went from near zero to 5 million in 2008. In 2009 it will easily go to 50 million. Companies will hire people to monitor twitter for tweets on their brand and make appropriate responses. The number of 3rd party apps for Twitter exploded in 2008 and will continue doing so in 2009.
(3) The reduced value of email will finally become apparent to corporate leadership
As new social networking tools for communication and collaboration like Twitter, Facebook, Google Sites, Blogger, Wordpad, and Google Talk are brought through the back door of enterprises by employees who use these tools at home the need for email and even more importantly the time for traditional email will continue to decline. In my own experience most of my emails now are spam and ham anyway while my best most relevant communications more often occur inside social networking environments. I predict that in 2009 management at many enterprises will finally “get it” and maybe some will even form a strategy for “official” adoption of all the great new tools that are available above and beyond email.
(4) Trust will be the new “control”
If you make the decision to make the leap to cloud computing then you are giving up “control” for “trust.” You are making a decision to trust the vendor of cloud computing services to safeguard your data, not to sell your data to a 3rd party, and to assist you if there is a problem. If you want control, then you need to setup your application 100% behind your own firewall on your own server and managed with your own staff. You will pay for the server hardware, staff salaries, and training for staff so they know how to maintain the technologies. And you will count on your staff to know more than the best organized hackers in the world to secure your network. I think more people will choose “trust” over “control” in 2009. It’s a trend that the under 25 crowd has already adopted completely.
(5) “Do it” yourself IT
In the past IT solutions required installing applications on servers or mainframes that were controled by the IT department. Units within a corporation requested projects which had to be approved in the budget and then put onto the IT group’s project backlog list where they remained sometimes for months if not years. Nowadays cloud computing enables solutions to be created that run outside of the control and even beyond the eyesight of traditional IT. And since many cloud apps are free they can even be created and maintained outside the traditional budgeting process as well. Suddenly without warning you have a business unit using a system making them more efficient and effective where IT and the management approval chain had nothing to do with approval or development. This is one of the most disruptive shifts I have seen in my 25 years working as an IT professional in large organizations. Many IT groups simply don’t get what’s happening (many are in denial) as they grow ever more marginalized as the systems they are responsible for maintaining grow less important to the business.
(6) Virtual Worlds will continue to expand and proliferate
Virtual worlds are here to stay and will continue to grow in 2009. Second Life for example grew by 61% in 2008. As virtual worlds continue expanding from the 3 Cs (communication, collaboration and commerce) to more advanced rapid prototyping, simulation, education, and data visualization they will continue to attract increasing numbers of education and training professionals, medical professionals, scientists, and engineers.

Turning IT into a service organization

IT departments have historically seen themselves as the guardians of the computer network and the protectors of the company’s data and technology assets. In relation to users, IT has often believed that the primary mission is to protect them and the network from themselves. This approach has been called “playing god on the network” or “culture of no” philosophy and while it may have served a purpose in the past, nowadays more forward thinking IT organizations have began to realize that they need to fundamentally change their approach. The best IT leaders are turning their departments into service organizations that are focused on using technology as a business enabler, super-serving and partnering with end users, and educating users about new technology as it emerges onto the business landscape.

The State of Python

Python Atlanta (PyAtl) got off to a great start in 2009 with their January meeting. Steve Holden, chairman of the Python Software Foundationand the author of the book “Python Web Programming“, gave an informative and entertaining talk on the state of the Python community along with some good insight into the workings and objectives of the PSF. As an amusing sidenote Steve mentioned the reason he’s in Atlanta this week teaching a workshop on Microsoft Sharepoint.  Another great presentation was given by Chris Johnson,  owner of Atlanta business ifPeople, on the Plone content-managment system. Plone is a python based CMS built on top of the Zope application server. As usual the pyatl meeting started at 7:30pm and was over by around 9:30pm. The meeting is held in a convenient venue the GTRI Food Processing Technology building on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus.