6 IT Predictions for 2011 -- And a Resolution for Change

From automation to the cloud, IT leadership to self-awareness, these trends may dominate IT this year. Are you prepared?

By Jake Sorofman, Chief Marketing Officer, rPath.

Shorter days and lengthening shadows somehow beckon the armchair prognosticators among us, who conjure the clairvoyance of Nostradamus to envision the road ahead.

Today, I am that armchair prognosticator, and -- with no shortage of skepticism in the practice of prediction in general -- I offer my IT predictions for 2011:

Prediction #1: Heightened Self-awareness for IT

The first step to change is admitting a problem exists. Under the pressure of public cloud momentum, IT will trade any lingering denial for self-reflection as they embrace the reality that days are numbered for traditional IT delivery models. Acknowledging the end to yesterday’s pokey ways will bring a new clarity of focus and a new set of imperatives that will drive forward IT transformation.

Prediction #2: Private Cloud Proliferates

At the center of this transformation will be the private cloud. The rise of the public cloud is the deus ex machina for the future of IT: a demonstrated example of what IT has the potential to become. The public cloud example will become the beacon for change and as CIOs recognize that without a transformation, IT will be disrupted and perhaps disintermediated by the rise of public cloud itself. In 2011, we’ll see widespread investment in private cloud projects as IT leadership defines the reference architecture for next-generation IT delivery models.

Prediction #3: Public Cloud Thrives

At the same time, we’ll see continued growth -- explosive growth, in fact -- in public cloud services, where affinity will continue to bind to small and mid-sized businesses and non-production enterprise workloads. We’ll also see more evidence of rogue workloads leaking to the public cloud outside of the reach of corporate policies. This will motivate IT leadership to define governance models for controlled usage of public cloud services.

Prediction #4: Hybrid Cloud Emerges

Definition of such governance models will enable enterprise IT to begin experimenting with hybrid cloud models. Initially, this will look like a simple stratification of deployment environments based on lifecycle stage -- for example, development and test workloads run only in public cloud. Such early experimentation will enable IT leaders to define the reference architecture for the dynamic data center of the future, where workloads can move fluidly between deployment environments. By enabling application portability, workloads become a liquid commodity and a marketplace emerges. IT can dynamically retarget workloads based on optimizations for price, policy, or performance, and they achieve true leverage over service providers.

Prediction #5: New Models for IT Leadership

New architectures that enable dynamic workload portability will change the ideals of the CIO from operationally focused to sourcing and portfolio focused. We’ll see some old-line CIOs cycle out in the face of change, and we’ll see new stars born on the basis of a new vision for IT, inspired -- and not threatened -- by the rise of public cloud services. The successful among them will find ways to define the “to-be” IT delivery model while looking after “as-is” realities.

Prediction #6: Automator or automated?

Speaking of “as-is” realities, we’ll see new models for leadership emerging within the ranks, as the doers who make the trains run on time face a fateful choice: be the automator or be the automated. As automation becomes the foundation for new IT delivery models, these ranks will split between the resistors and the agents of change. These agents of change will become leaders in their own rights, as they happily trade up to higher levels of contribution and put robots to work on their behalf.

The Last word

So, that’s it: my six IT predictions for 2011.

Will they come true in the next 12 months? That’s a tough call from the comfort of my armchair, but predictions are not nearly as important as resolutions for change. Consider this list as you prepare your professional resolutions for the New Year or prepare your IT strategies and plans.

I predict you’ll be better for it.

Jake Sorofman is chief marketing officer for rPath (www.rpath.com), a firm specializing in automating system deployment and maintenance across physical, virtual, and cloud environments. You can contact the author at jsorofman@rpath.com.