By David Terrar, CEO of D2C Limited, Co-founder of Cloud Advocates
As usual the last quarter of 2011 was full of predictions in the technology press and the blogs for the coming year. Back in October, Gartner, the leading information technology research and advisory for big companies, suggested their top 10 strategic technologies for 2012. Here are a few cloud related thoughts on their list:
Media Tablets and Beyond
Various forms of Tablet have been around since the 80s, but the category was redefined with Apple's iPad in 2010. We are now used to a cloud connected, easy to use, touch screen device with some on board storage and a range useful apps. Gartner suggests that no single platform will dominate but Apple is the market leader by a long way. There are plenty of Android based devices to chose from too, but they all seem to be "me too" devices, and it's notable that all of the Android based manufacturers are cutting prices to shift units. In 2012 Apple will jump further ahead again with the iPad 3 and the Kindle Fire will arrive in the UK to create a new, sub £200 media tablet category. I'm sure the Kindle Fire will be a great success, but I'm also sure that it won't affect sales of iPad's in the slightest.
Mobile-Centric Applications and Interfaces
To quote Gartner, they say:
"The user interface (UI) paradigm in place for more than 20 years is changing. UIs with windows, icons, menus, and pointers will be replaced by mobile-centric interfaces emphasizing touch, gesture, search, voice and video. Applications themselves are likely to shift to more focused and simple apps that can be assembled into more complex solutions. These changes will drive the need for new user interface design skills."
Apple's iPhone and iPad have changed the game. We're now in a post-PC world where more and more "normal" people, rather than just us "geeks", will access and use technology without learning what "ctl alt del" is for. Much of what they do will be in the cloud, but they won't even notice - that's just the way this new stuff works.
Contextual and Social User Experience
Most of us are carrying around the Internet on the smart phone in our pocket or the tablet in our bag. More and more applications and services will make use of our social network and location based data, and that will be true for business to business as well as consumer and e-commerce applications.
Internet of Things
More and more physical things and assets will have embedded sensors and intelligence. They'll begin to recognize or use the location of your mobile device. They'll use image recognition to identify you or other things. Near Field Communication will begin to be embedded in to smart phones for ease of payment. The underlying cloud computing power will turn theoretical use cases in to practical applications.
App Stores and Marketplaces
Apple and Android have set the scene for ease of finding and buying mobile apps. That trend will move to all platforms and Enterprise IT too. It is part of the computerisation of IT and it is changing the way we expect to buy and deploy all software and services.
As Gartner says:
"Analytics is also beginning to shift to the cloud and exploit cloud resources for high performance and grid computing."
Whether it is enterprise applications in big companies, or public cloud providers with a large community of end users, we're collecting more and more data. The economics of data storage and cloud technology mean we can afford to store more too. The technologies involved in handling and manipulating this mass of data are crucial.
This covers everything from increased use of flash memory in devices to SAP's in memory database technology. The more data we have, the more we need this kind of technology to handle it and get results fast.
Extreme Low-Energy Servers
Lower power consumption and greener technology. I can see this is important, but I'm not sure why it makes Gartner's strategic top 10.
"Cloud is a disruptive force and has the potential for broad long-term impact in most industries."
"Enterprises are moving from trying to understand the cloud to making decisions on selected workloads to implement on cloud services"
We certainly believe the cloud is strategic, both as a choice for your business systems and collaboration applications in 2012, but also as the foundation for the other strategic technologies in the list above.
David Terrar is a consultant and software developer who specialises in the use of Cloud applications and social media in business. He is a co founder of Cloud Advocates, an association of consultants who aim to demystify the Cloud and provide pragmatic help and advice for businesses, organizations and accounting practices. To find out more, visit www.cloudadvocates.com
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