My 2009 IT Industry Predictions

It’s that time again, when everyone who thinks they’re a pundit (that would be everyone with a blog or Twitter account) has to make predictions for the coming year. But predictions are perilous: Get it right and you look like a mere trend-watcher; get it wrong and you look like a fool. It’s such a hassle! So I’m doing something different this year: I’m going to make predictions for 2009 now that it’s over, and reflect on just how smart I am (not) to have made them. Or something.

What I Would Have Gotten Right

I definitely could have predicted a lot of what happened in 2009. I mean, these were slam dunks!

  1. Twitter rocks the world – I wasn’t early to Twitter, but I spent the early part of 2009 evangelizing its benefits to companies and co-workers alike. Considering how common Twitter is today, it’s hard to believe how roundly criticized and misunderstood it was this time last year. Yet here we are, on the verge of 2010, and Twitter has seeped onto our business cards, presentation templates, and web sites. I might not have predicted how stable (!) Twitter got by the end of the year, though.
  2. Apple’s Macs and iPhones rule – I switched to the iPhone and the Mac in 2007 and 2008, respectively, but it looks like I wasn’t much of an iconoclast after all: By November, half of the Tech Field Day delegates were using MacBooks, and the Windows and Blackberry holdouts have started vocally defending their operating system choice. Pretty much like Mac folks used to do way back in 2008.
  3. The recession is a serious pain – Companies put the brakes on spending and hiring, many even shifting both into reverse in 2009. This came as no surprise to humans capable of thought. The impact on enterprise IT companies was similarly predictable: Although most were able to survive, the impact of 2009 will continue to be felt for years. I might have predicted it would be worse, though I’m glad to say I would have been wrong.
  4. EMC, NetApp, HDS, HP, and IBM continue to quibble – Surprise: Big company bloggers spend way too much time criticizing the products and actions of each other and way to little time talking about the true value of their own products.

Non-IT slam-dunk predictions: Obama was reviled by the right; the war in Afghanistan continues; people do stupid stuff in the name of reality shows.

What I Probably Could Have Predicted

Although some details would likely have been missed, I think I would have seen these coming.

  1. Cloud compute and storage hits the enterprise – I was a believer in the cloud this time last year, and I bet my future on it by taking a position at enterprise cloud storage provider, Nirvanix, in March. I would have predicted that enterprise buyers would be putting serious thought to buying cloud products, but the scope has surprised me. We’re talking enough petabytes that the non-cloud players felt compelled to strike back with the private cloud pitch. Awesome!
  2. Sun and Data Domain were acquired – My money would have been on Dell, IBM, or HP as buyers for this pair, but EMC wouldn’t have been outside my guesses. Still, Oracle buying Sun and vocally committing to keep it going, SPARC and all, would never have come to mind. But I wouldn’t have guessed against it either, so I’ll give myself a point here!
  3. Cisco and EMC buddy up – I’ve long thought an outright merger of these two was in the cards, but even the recession couldn’t make the financials work. A partnership would have been on the list, and Acadia came as no surprise to anyone.
  4. Cloud outages and data loss – I definitely could have predicted that high-profile cloud services would fall over throughout the year, and that some would lose data. Not all are enterprise-grade, after all. But the outages at Google, Rackspace, and Amazon, and Microsoft’s Danger data loss, surprised me. Don’t those guys have their acts together?
  5. IT conferences falter – I spoke at Interop in 2009, but it lacked the 20,000-strong crowd it once had. Storage Decisions and Storage Networking World managed to fill their halls, but the old-school IT conference has lost its luster. Although VMworld remains strong, attendance was definitely off.
  6. FCoE and SSD are still starting – I’ve been lukewarm on Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Solid State Drives, but I’m a bit surprised that storage vendors didn’t push them harder in 2009. I might have guessed there would have been more customer uptake to match the buzz.
  7. SMB storage is hot – There’s a hole in the storage market between $1,000 and $20,000, and companies like Drobo and Iomega are rushing in to fill it. Now that ESX has solid iSCSI support, I expect a world of innovation here. (Oops, that sounds kind of like a 2010 prediction!)

Also in the predictable category: Goldman Sachs and Bank of America thrived while others fell; Ford is the strongest of the remaining US automakers; Boeing finally got the 787 off the ground.

What I Never Would Have Guessed

I’m not perfect, even in retrospect. Some of the Tech news from 2009 was just completely off the wall.

  1. Microsoft Bing: This time for sure! – Seriously, Microsoft should stick to in-house thinking instead of trying to copy its rivals. Yet somehow, miraculously, Bing appeared and did not suck. In fact, I’m hearing regular (non-techie) folks around town talking about using the search engine. I’ve even used it! Could they actually have a winner?
  2. Windows 7 rocks – Really? Seriously? Could Microsoft have come up with a solid replacement for Windows XP?
  3. Ship it! – It’s not even 2010, and enterprise storage buyers can go out and purchase NetApp’s OnTap 8, EMC’s FAST, EMC Atmos Compute, and unicorn tears. Well, maybe not unicorn tears.
  4. Still no GDrive – Seemingly every company has a cloud storage platform, from Amazon to Rackspace, Nirvanix to EMC, so why not Google? Could GDrive join Duke Nukem Forever as the most famous vaporware of the decade?
  5. The executive shuffleDave Donatelli was supposed to lead EMC, not HP. Alan Atkinson was supposed to launch another startup, not take over Xiotech. At least NetApp was gentle.
  6. Mac OS X (still) lacks iSCSI and ZFS – Come on, Cupertino, what’s wrong with you guys? I’ve been hyping ZFS for years, and iSCSI is commonplace. Yet Snow Leopard is stingy with both. Makes me want to hiss like one of those blue folks in Avatar.
  7. Gestalt IT is a success – On a personal note, Gestalt IT didn’t even exist this time last year, and now we have a successful IT infrastructure blog and social media event. Amazing!

Other total shockers: Everyone loves Michael Jackson again; digital Beatles tunes are available everywhere but iTunes; Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize arrives 10 years early.