Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The cloud is falling, says Gartner: tablets and mobility should top IT's list instead

Just when you thought cloud computing was receiving an unending supply of positive hype, the Gartner Group pulls a fast one on us.

Gartner rolled out their list of strategic technology trends for IT to pay attention to for 2012 at their annual Symposium this week in Orlando. And, instead of Gartner piling on with more publicity for cloud, it seems they pulled a bit of a switcheroo.

Cloud computing, which reigned supreme atop their 2011 list, dropped all the way down to No. 10 this time around. Which might cause a cloudwashing vendor or two to worry that the sky (or at least the fluffy white parts of it) is falling.

Cloud drops

David Cearly, the analyst who presented the list in Orlando, gave a number of reasons for cloud coming down to earth this time around. “We could see the failure of the cloud to live up to the hype…The luster could wear off.”

But that’s been a distinct possibility for a few years now. In fact, most of us expect it. Gartner themselves placed cloud just over the peak of inflated expectations and starting to slide into the trough of disillusionment on their hype curve released earlier this year.

However, according to Jason Hiner of Tech Republic, Cearly also noted that cloud is not necessarily seeing a big drop in interest; in fact, it’s actually getting incorporated into lots of other various IT operational areas.

That leads to two potentially opposing conclusions. Either cloud computing is on its way to disappointing its many ardent (and often fanatic) supporters…or it’s gathering sufficient understanding and adoption, that it’s becoming a de facto part of the way IT runs itself in multiple areas.

I think I agree with Hiner’s assessment: neither of those diametrically opposed reasons is likely to be the true reason that Gartner knocked cloud computing down a few pegs. Hiner suggests that they might actually have done it for the shock value. Sounds entirely plausible to me. And if that was the reason, it worked. It got me (and many other more reputable writers) to write a post on the topic, didn’t it?

The new champs: tablets & mobile apps

So cloud is down and out…what took its place?

The new leaders at the top of the list are two topics that are the subject of a bit of a frenzy by enterprises – at least in the enterprises that I’ve been watching as part of my New Thing: tablets & mobile.

In fact, Larry Dignan of ZDNet wrote that “simply put, the analysts and the CIOs in attendance [at the Gartner Symposium] are a bit tablet happy.” Gartner analyst Nick Jones even started his early morning mobility-themed session on Tuesday welcoming the “smart people that realize mobile is more important than breakfast” [thanks, @mattfusf].

For “media tablets and beyond,” as Cearly put it, “the implications for IT is that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is one of a variety of environments IT will need to support.”

And as I’ve noted a couple times recently, tablets open up all sorts of interesting possibilities, alongside some pretty strategic development, support, and operations choices. The native interface for tablets like the iPad is very compelling and enterprises want to make use of it. Somehow.

The No. 2 item that Hiner reported Cearly mentioning onstage was “mobile-centric applications and interfaces.” If an enterprise is going to play in the mobile space, new types of tools are needed to take the data feeds from applications and transform them so they are usable on the target device.” This, Cearly notes, takes legitimate “engineering skills,” given all the screen sizes, operating systems, and applications themselves.

Mobility projects will have many follow-on effects, too

The mobility efforts that enterprises have underway or are considering will also likely have much broader and more profound effects, cascading into some of the other items mentioned on Gartner’s list, like context-aware computing and the rise of app stores and marketplaces.

In fact, once enterprises get past the initial roll-out efforts of mobile-enabling their applications and working on tablet support, that’s when a whole set of second-order effects would start to get attention. What will all this mean to application design? "Big" and "monolithic" are not ideal for small and frequently disconnected devices. There’s an opportunity to look at things differently, to re-evaluate how capabilities and services are surfaced to a user.

So, as Dignan noted, much of Gartner’s list comes down to the single concept of mobility. “The list makes distinctions between technologies, but in a nutshell you have mobility on the front end and back end that will keep companies busy for the next two years,” Dignan writes.

Quibbling over the order

The order of Gartner’s 10 strategic technologies for 2012 may seem like it had a bit of meddling from the PR department, but, in the end, I think the list feels about right.

Why? Cloud computing has users and providers that are working to make it standard operating procedure in many situations. It’s on its way. Meanwhile, tablets and other mobile devices have jumped into such prominence and have such sway over our personal life that making them enterprise-connected seems like a no-brainer. And something that needs immediate attention.

Besides, if you don’t like the order of Gartner’s list, just wait until next year.

1 comment:

Gary Wilson (earthgecko) said...

'as Cearly put it, “the implications for IT is that the era of PC dominance with
Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows
is one of a variety of environments IT will need to support.”'.

I am not sure where Mr Cearly has been, but unless I am mistaken that has been
true since the advent of the commercial Internet and well before that.
Further to that I think it is fair to say that anyone who actually works in IT
has been exposed to a number of operational flavours, whether that be through
ADSL routers, hardware appliances or mobile phones in their career. By its very
"No SPF" nature, IT has always been diversity. Proportionally not many Windows
boxes ran Apache 1.3, sendmail, POP3 or php. However of the other hand most
company documents were composed on Windows (and remember Novell).

The core of IT has always been disverse, it is one of the reasons for its
success. Things occupanying niches. The clouds are just niches, in fact they
are more. They are habitats with diverse ecologies. Whether that be AppLogic's
ADL or EC2's API or Rackspace's cloud server images or EC2's AMIs.

Functionally the ecosystems fulfil very similar roles, however the diversity
protects the whole. Many clouds reduces the points of failure. Wherever there
are clouds there are storms, and sometimes those storms are hurricanes.

The two opposing conclusions are already both true.

I can almost garantee that cloud computing has disappointed many it's ardent
(and often fanatic) supporters. If they have been running infrastructure on a
cloud for 18 months, I would be willing to bet that 90% of those architects will
have been disappointed.

"it’s gathering sufficient understanding and adoption, that it’s becoming a de
facto part of the way IT runs itself in multiple areas.". I would agrue it has
already, it is not "becoming", it is. Especially in the SME and start-up arena.

All clouds will fail at some point. Via user error (misunderstanding) and by
actual cloud infrastructure failure. Most have already, in some way or other.
Amazon writing a stripe through EBS volumes... that was a pretty MAJOR #fail.

Error is part of all systems, by universal design.

However I think at some point, some cloud is going to have a catergory 5
hurricane. A possible vector is from inside the cloud itself.

The hype around the cloud is not over-hyped. Clouds are supercool, but super-
cooling can have dramatic effects on the weather.

And I think there may be something Gartner cannot see over the horizon which
could be a game changer in the clouds. we just have not thought of it yet, but
maybe it will be emergent, beyond our ability to predict.

Evolution tends to be emergent. It also tends to "reboot" on overt failures.

Mobile apps and tablets up next year... not hugely, not yet. They are still in
the experimentally phase, early adopters and all. Polishing the interface will
take a while still. We will still be writing comment posts on keyboards for a
while to come.

May be sales will be up a fair bit, but most of our productivity will still be
PC based for a few years to come. They have been some successful because they
are in scale to us, to our dexterity and right now ALL generations are
comfortable with the format. For quick on the go, mobile. For chill and check
out, tablet. For creation, PC.