10 things you need to worry about in 2017

It's time for our annual ritual: Burn some incense, peer into the dark, and fret about the future

10 things you need to worry about in 2017
Credit: Thinkstock

Each year, including last year, I’ve supplied you with “areas of concern”—that is, stuff that might not go well for you or our comrades in the coming 12 months. I’m happy to oblige once again this year with 10 items that may go bump in the night.

Hadoop distributions

Big data, analytics, and machine learning are alive and well, and they’ll eventually transform business in most of the ways they’ve promised. But the big, fat Hadoop distribution is probably toast.

This isn’t to say everyone involved is in trouble, but we’re looking at more of an à la carte situation, or at least a buffet, where you don’t have to swallow the whole elephant. Burned by projects that never completed or met their promise in previous years, companies will be more reluctant to bite off the whole dish and instead look at what they’re trying to do and actually need at the infrastructure level. Technology companies that can adapt to this reality will make even more money.

Hadoop vendors

Three major Hadoop vendors along with big “do everything companies” (especially the Big Blue one) are in this game. We already saw Pivotal essentially exit. It’s hard to see the market continue to support three Hadoop vendors. See the above item to figure out who I’m betting on.

Oracle 

Oracle likes to buy companies. It helps make up for the fact that the core Oracle database is old and clunky, and Oracle doesn’t make anything new or great. If it buys something you use, expect the price to go up. Oracle loves the long tail, particularly entrenched, hard-to-remove, older technology. Once it’s in the company’s clutches, you get that famed Oracle technical support, too.

Databricks

Something will change at Databricks, the cloud company built around Spark, the open source distributed computing framework that has essentially supplanted Hadoop. While Spark is great, the Databricks business model isn’t as compelling, and it seems easily disrupted by one of the big three cloud vendors. The company is run by academics, and it needs hard-knuckled business types to sort out its affairs. I hope the change won’t be too disruptive to Spark’s development—and can be accomplished without hurt feelings, so we don’t lose progress.

Deregulation

Now that we have the Trumpocalypse to look forward to, you can expect “deregulation” of everything, from unlimited poison in your groundwater to the death of Net neutrality. Lest you think that will boost the tech economy, note that software vendors make big money selling compliance solutions, fewer of which will be necessary. Also, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and electronic medical/health records have been a boon for tech. Some of Obamacare may remain, but very likely the digital transformation of health will be scaled way back.

Clinton’s plans had their own problems, but regardless of where you stand politically, the Trump presidency will hit us where it hurts—especially after California secedes. (Or will there be six Californias?)

Game consoles

How is this related to enterprise software? Well, the game industry is a good chunk of the tech sector, and some giants depend on console games as blockbusters. Game consoles are specialized computers with a very specific programming models and guaranteed upgrades. Everyone is doing “pro” versions to get shorter-term revenue grabs—instead of waiting, say, seven years to sell new consoles—which comes at the cost of a stable platform that game developers can depend on.

Meanwhile, mobile games are huge, Steam keeps rising, and people are playing computer games again. I suspect this will start to depress the console business. Game developers will struggle with how many platforms they need to keep up with, and some giants will stumble.

Yet another hacking scandal

Once again, tech, government, and business will fail to learn the lesson that security can’t be bought and deployed like a product. They will persist in hiring the cheapest developers they can find, flail at project management, and suffer nonexistent or hapless QA. If a program runs, then it has stmt.execute(“select something from whatever where bla =”+ sql_injection_opportunity) throughout the code. That’s in business—government is at least 20 years behind. Sure, we’re giving Putin a big hug, but don’t expect him to stop hacking us.

The economy

It seems like the Great Recession was just yesterday, but we’re due for another. At the same time, we don’t have a lot of big, new enterprise tech to brag about. I’m not saying it’s time to climb in the lifeboat, but you might want to make sure you have a safety net in case we're hit with another downturn. My guess is it will be smaller than the dot-bomb collapse, so don’t fret too much.

Telco-cable mergers

With Google dialing back Google Fiber and an impending AT&T-Time Warner merger, our overpriced connections to the internet are unlikely to get cheaper—and speed increases will probably be less frequent.

Your math skills

Thanks to machine learning, it will be harder to command a six-figure developer salary without a mathematical background. As companies figure out what machine learning is and what it can do, before paying a premium for talent, they’ll start to require that developers understand probability, linear algebra, multivariable calculus, and all that junk. For garden-variety programming, they’ll continue to accelerate their plan to buy talent in “low-cost countries.”

Now let’s crank it to 11: As you may have heard, we’ve elected a narcissistic agent of the white supremacist (now rebranded “alt-right”) movement who doesn’t even know how to use a computer, and we’ve put him in charge of the nukes. This is going to be a disaster for everyone, of course, but for tech in particular if we all survive. But hey, next week I’ll try looking on the bright side.

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