Your 2014 heat map for enterprise technology

Slept through CES 2014? You didn't miss much. The real action is behind the scenes in enterprise technology, where old models are being smashed as ingenious new tech emerges

I'm glad CES is over. Wearables, hydra-headed PCs, wrap-around TVs, overly intelligent kitchen appliances, and the creepy Sense Mother leave me cold. Yes, 3D printers and drones are cool, but they don't have to light up Vegas for 'em. If you ask me, CES 2014 had a desperate feel, as it strained to sustain the wave of excitement smartphones and tablets kicked off years ago and inevitably lost.

Forget consumer. If you get excited about inventive tech, enterprise is the place to be right now, with an explosion of new solutions that celebrated analysts have characterized in various ways. Professional visionary Geoffrey Moore, for example, has coined the phrase "systems of engagement" to describe the dynamic enterprise systems customers interact with, versus "systems of record," aka the boring old enterprise apps such as ERP. The research firm IDC describes ground zero of enterprise innovation as the 3rd Platform, an amalgam of "mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking."

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These are useful high-level concepts because they draw a circle around where innovation is happening. But how do they break down in terms of actual new technology? Lately I've been creating my own enterprise tech heat map to plug the actual, promising technologies into the high-level models.

The cloud baseline

First, the obvious: The cloud is an underlying assumption for these models. In fact, the entire proposition behind systems of engagement is cloudy because they rely on the ability to scale automatically and to change applications with minimal fuss to meet shifting customer needs. Moreover, critical to the 3rd Platform idea is the notion that business can skirt IT and procure technologies directly -- all of which, with the exception of mobile devices, are available in the public cloud.

With cloud as the baseline, here's my enterprise technology heat map. I've divided it between infrastructure technologies, data layer technologies, and app dev and deployment solutions. Be forewarned that the following reflects my personal prejudices about what's interesting, promising, essential, and fun to talk about.

Infrastructure technologies
These are the enabling technologies of the cloud at a foundational level, required to deliver multitenanted services to customers at scale. Infrastructure technologies apply to public cloud service providers as well as to enterprises that run private clouds, but the public cloud providers have been the pioneers.

SDx. On every analyst's lips is the cute phrase "software-defined everything" (also known as the software-defined data center or software-defined infrastructure). It's an expansion of the basic SDN (software-defined networking) model, which centralizes the control logic of the network to essentially turn switches into drones. We've already performed a similar trick with servers using virtualization, and so-called software-defined storage is on the way. The upshot is that compute, storage, and networking become fungible "resources" abstracted from commodity hardware.

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