Random Musings from a CTO: 2011 Trends, 2012 Predictions

A tech-industry veteran looks back over the past year and predicts the big IT trends we can look forward to in 2012.

By Harry Labana, CTO, AppSense

Looking back, 2011 will be recalled as an eventful year in the high-tech space -- one where the actual definition of desktop virtualization became clearer, the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 became a necessity, and the cloud showed its first failures.

Will 2012 be even more noteworthy? We are on the edge of a new frontier in the enterprise, where user needs are taking priority over corporate mandates. We’re moving into the next phase of computing, where -- despite the type of technology being developed -- it is bending to the will of the people.

2011 Trend #1: The year of desktop virtualization enlightenment

As we ushered in 2011, the majority of pundits were calling for it to be the year of desktop virtualization. This was no different than predictions made as far back as 2007. To be sure, we made progress in 2011, as thousands of desktop virtualization projects were rolled out at enterprises worldwide. As I look back, I see it more as the year of enlightenment for desktop virtualization, a year where two realizations finally hit: VDI and desktop virtualization cannot be used interchangeably and desktop virtualization isn’t for everyone, only specific use cases apply.

Since first coined, the definition of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) has been confused and many IT professionals have failed to understand that there are multiple types of VDI. Now that the definition of desktop virtualization is becoming clearer, people want to use different architectures; however, the overall goal remains the same: organizations want to add new capabilities to their business. As they realize those capabilities, cost will be reduced with a better-managed desktop infrastructure.

It's great if desktop virtualization can aid in their management great, but there are still use cases where a physical approach is best -– and 2011 was the year of enlightenment because it became clear to enterprises that a common-sense approach is needed.

2011 Trend #2: The Windows XP rapture is upon us

In 2011, enterprise came to terms with the impending end of Windows XP. It was also the year that Windows 7's market share reached 40 percent and exceeded that of Windows XP.

Enterprises now have a clear understanding that the Windows XP expiration date, April 8, 2014, is not so far off, and they’ve begun to spend more time evaluating Windows 7 and planning their corporate migration. With many enterprises having delayed hardware uxpgrades over the last several years, this massive movement to Windows 7 will also spur many organizations to investigate virtualization and the benefits of a commoditized desktop as they look to replace hardware.

Plans have been made and the transition to Windows 7 is underway. We’ll continue to see a lot of movement in this area in the first half of 2012. Unfortunately, enterprise migration plans that are made after that point will be nearly impossible to carry out at meaningful scale.

2011 Trend #3: The year the cloud failed

We will remember 2011 as the year the cloud failed. Of course, the insane amount of reaction it caused was due in large part to the spotlight that has been put on cloud computing. From Amazon to Google, Microsoft to RIM, cloud outages from human error, connectivity issues, and lightning strikes made headlines in 2011.

The takeaway for companies large and small is the need to expect and plan for failure when utilizing the cloud. There were many instances of large businesses such as Netflix, Reddit, and Heroku (a Salesforce company) suffering through these outages. They had plenty of money and resources and there was no excuse for them to be surprised and unprepared when the April 2011 Amazon EC2 outage hit.

As a result of these events, it should be clearer than ever that enterprises should not put all their cloud eggs in one basket. IT should be contracting with multiple vendors and architectures should be as independent from the cloud providers as possible. Additionally, companies have started to learn to avoid vendor lock-in and contract with multiple vendors, so if failure does occur you are able to move to another vendor.

Looking Ahead

As I look ahead to 2012, I see enterprises finally realizing the importance of increased job satisfaction as a driver for maximizing worker productivity. In doing so, enterprises will refocus and prioritize on user needs, which will lead to a new phase of computing, one where technology bends to the will of the people.

2012 Prediction #1: IT shifts from device-centric to data-centric

The workforce is changing. The new generation of workers prize flexibility over dollars and other perks, and enterprises must adapt to the times. These workers want to bring their own devices (Macs, tablets, mobile phones, etc.) into the enterprise. They want to stay on top of work, but don’t want to stay in the office, so they need to be able to work from anywhere, and they want 24x7 access to the data needed to get the job done.

As we move to a world where users require more freedom and access, it is this data that will provide the link across all platforms. The world will begin to shift from being device-centric to being data-centric.

We’ve seen the beginning of this data centric world with the rise of companies such as Dropbox and Box.net, which allow users to place their content in the cloud to enable easy access and sharing. What about existing data? In 2012, we’ll see new businesses arise along with new and inventive ways of accessing that “old” data from any device, any time.

2012 Prediction #2: Technology bends to the will of the people

The consumerization of IT will continue and give way to the rise of people-centric computing. It’s the lesson that Steve Jobs has been teaching us for decades, and finally IT is beginning to understand: the digital world must be designed around an individual, not a device. This change makes IT user-centric.

People want everything -- the interface, data, applications -- on every device personalized, for use in every location. In 2012, we’ll come to realize a vision where our digital identity is immediately accessible via any device, in any location. Power will be transferred from the machines to the people, and we’ll unlock technology to free human possibility.

2012 Prediction #3: Security becomes ubiquitous in the cloud

The industry will begin to think differently in terms of security, especially if we want to achieve the ideal of the elastic cloud.

Although the ability to centrally manage the software on the desktop can help mitigate the physical challenge associated with patching and updating software, security is more than this and must change and evolve to support the cloud. If an enterprise decides to move its data center to Amazon in order to scale resources, how do they maintain the same security footprint? In 2012, companies will begin to rethink their approach to security. Is it the perimeter of an infrastructure that needs security, or is it the particular object itself?

In the end, it boils down to striking a balance by having the right processes and procedures in place to manage the systems and ensure that no matter how data is consumed or what device it's accessed from, users are operating within the governance rules of my organization and that security is enabled no matter if a user is on the desktop or in the cloud.

There’s one thing that is clear about 2012, new game-changing technology will burst upon the scene and it will begin to rewrite the economics of IT and become the engine for the interconnected, interactive, people-centric, always-on world.

Harry Labana is the chief technology of AppSense. [Note any special accomplishments here] You can contact the author at harry.labana@appsense.com
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