Prognostication is a perilous business, but pundits are drawn to the topic in the month of December. The fact that most predictions fall on their faces demonstrates the intoxicating mix of hope, dreams, and irrationality that mark both geniuses and fools. I am neither, so I like to make predictions after the fact! But this year I’ve been asked to look to the future, so I’ll stick with the safe road and pick current trends rather than guessing what I hope will come.
Five Trends For Everyone
1 – Ubiquitous Connectivity
I named mobility as the mega-trend of the last decade, noting that it’s hard to spot a trend from the middle and harder still from the start. But I feel vindicated on that 2009 call, and will take it one further: 2011 will see ubiquitous connectivity become mainstream. With “MiFi” entering the vernacular, a proliferation of “4G” networks and integrated wireless data, and free WiFi having already become passe, I’d say “online everywhere” is here. Although incredibly challenging from both a technical and business perspective, I expect everyone and everything to be online-capable.
2 – The iPad and Foes
Steve Jobs’ bizarre claim that the overgrown iPhone tablet was the most important thing he ever did is starting to look prescient. A new generation is coming of age without windowing GUIs, mice, and keyboards thanks to gaming consoles, smartphones, iPods, and (finally) tablets. 2011 will finally see serious Android, WebOS, and Windows tablets, but the iPad (and forthcoming iPad 2) are the platform to beat, and Apple is firing on all cylinders. This war will be all-consuming next year.
3 – Wave “Hi” to Kinect!
Microsoft has a serious hit on their hands with the Kinect add-on to the Xbox 360. The gaming system is the best thing to come out of Redmond in a long time, and it continues the “no controller” concept of the iPad, finally kicking the Wii to the curb. The massive success of the Xbox will lead Microsoft shareholders to abandon their calls for Ballmer’s head, instead asking for a spin-out or IPO of the gaming division. Expect PCs to include Kinect-like features in the coming years as well.
4 – Facebook Is the Internet
Now boasting a quarter of all web pageviews. Facebook is looking increasingly like AOL for the rest of us. 2011 will see Facebook’s gravity pull in content from everywhere, and its satellites sprout all over the Internet. It will become the single sign-on, the central “like”, the address book, and the meeting place. But fear not, Facebook-phobes: Nothing is permanent, and this too shall pass.
5 – The Internet Changes and No One Notices
The IP address space is exhausted, BGP and DNS security lapses rise, and net neutrality falls by the wayside but Farmville still works so no one cares. The Internet is changing, and controversies over key components are coming coming to a head. I imagine the network engineers will be busy keeping ahead of catastrophe, but they’ll manage somehow. I’m not sure if IPv6 will finally take off or if the carrier gambit will succeed, but I’m confident we’ll still have an Internet at the heart of the technology world!
Five Trends For the Datacenter
6 – Clouds Gather Quietly
“Cloud” was the buzzword of the last two years, but now it’s getting down to work. Traditional IT staff still won’t see much of it outside of blogs and conferences, but non-traditional systems are all heading that way. Look for major uptake of cloud platforms and services from the home to enterprise applications and everywhere in between. Ironically, the “c-word” itself will soon be dropped from these successful services just as it gains acceptance in IT shops.
7 – Virtual Everything
The impact of server virtualization hasn’t been as great as supporters claim, but widespread acceptance of hypervisor-centric data centers is here. There’s really no reason not to deploy every datacenter server as a virtual machine and lots of resulting benefits. Expect to see mission-critical apps finally move to VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V in 2011. And expect to see the resulting infrastructure called “cloud”!
8 – Farewell, Fast Hard Drives
Storage I/O performance is now the realm of solid state, not spinning disk. SSDs have reached the level of performance, capacity, availability, and sophistication that we no longer need 15k rpm enterprise hard disk drives. You’ll use SSD if you want IOPS, but you’ll still need spinning platters for capacity and maximum throughput for a long while. Don’t expect hard disk drives to disappear, but the fastest will exit at the end of the year.
9 – Not-So-Converged I/O (Yet)
DCB ain’t ready, folks. Neither is FCoE. Although Ethernet will eventually sideline InfiniBand and Fibre Channel, that’s not a 2011 topic. I expect to hear a lot of noise about converged network and storage I/O, including high-profile customer adoption stories, but we’re still a few years short of actual impact and serious market share movement. Practical application starts in 2011, though, and it’ll get major coverage and big-money action in the vendor space.
10 – RAID is (Finally) Dead!
There won’t be much ink spilled in memoriam outside storage blogs like this one, but conventional mirroring and parity has finally met its maker. Today’s hard disk drives are too big to rebuild singly, and alternatives like wide striping, erasure coding, and touch-me-not disk packs are taking over.
And One More For Me
11 – The Internet is Shiva
Every business will be permanently changed as Internet-enabled platforms destroy profitable monopolies and build new opportunities. Google conquered advertising and destroyed traditional publishing but enabled a flowering of democratic dialog. PayPal and Square will do the same to banking in 2011, but their own come-uppance might come sooner than they like. No matter your business, someone has their sights set on you and the Internet is their tool. The trick is to keep dancing, keep innovating, and love the paradox.
I’ll be discussing my thoughts on the key tech trends for 2011 on Wednesday December 1 at 4 Eastern/1 Pacific. Tune in at Tweetchat or follow me on Twitter with the hashtag, #SANchat. This chat is organized by Compellent, but the discussion is mine and I will receive no compensation for participating.
Image Credit: Eleven by Wetsun