9 trends for 2014 and beyond

Who says enterprise IT is boring? Big ideas and bold new tech are shaking things up like never before, so it's time to consider the long-term implications

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6. Memory is the new storage. Big memory is exploding on two fronts. On the software side, every relational database vendor is adding in-memory capabilities, primarily for analytics, and dramatically reducing the time required for big processing jobs. On the hardware side, solutions from the likes of PernixData assemble a large, distributed cache using flash memory in servers, thus vastly reducing the percentage of reads and writes that must travel all the way to the SAN.

7. The future is powered by JavaScript. Thanks to an endless variety of mobile devices (plus new TVs, cars, and so on), we've never seen anything like today's diversity of client hardware. No one likes maintaining a separate, native client app for each platform. If you dream of maintaining a single code base, your app must run in a browser -- in other words, it must be a JavaScript/HTML5 app.

Small wonder a new JavaScript framework seems to pop up every week, with such wildly inventive plays as Famo.us pushing the envelope of what JavaScript can do. Plus, cross-platform mobile development environments such as PhoneGap allow easy conversion of JavaScript apps to native apps.

8. Enterprise developers turn toward to PaaS. So far, the main customers of PaaS have been commercial software developers and professional services organizations. But as more enterprises debut their own fancy Web and mobile apps, enterprise developers will see the benefits of such PaaS plays as Microsoft Azure, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, Red Hat OpenShift, or SalesForce Heroku. All of which offer the tools and services needed for agile coding, testing, and deployment of applications in the cloud.

IBM's full-throated endorsement of Cloud Foundry this year was an important milestone -- one that may make some enterprises less hesitant to put their code on someone else's platform. In addition, IDC has predicted the rise of industry-specific PaaS offerings that include pre-built services specific to particular verticals.

9. Developers continue to rule. If there's one common thread through all of these predictions, it's Marc Andreessen's two-year-old declaration that software is eating the world. With so many different platforms to write for -- and with even data center infrastructure becoming programmable -- there simply aren't enough developers to write all that code. With insatiable demand comes high salaries and status, at least for those with the right combination of skills. Can we figure out better, more efficient ways to train people in those skills, please?

These nine trends represent enormous change in a short period of time. The implications for the IT industry are interesting, to say the least. For one thing, if software defines infrastructure, then hardware becomes even more commoditized, including networking equipment. And if the prospect of applications finally seems within reach where you can write once and run on any client device, then which client device you choose becomes less important.

Meanwhile, the way software is delivered has changed forever. IBM, Oracle, SAP, and other traditional vendors are so deeply embedded in organizations they can continue to extract huge sums from customers that must maintain those wares. But the exciting new stuff? It's mainly open source or SaaS or cheap mobile apps. It seems to me that the industry may need to recalibrate its revenue expectations, even if many of the startups get acquired.

How enterprise IT will deal with a cloud and mobile world where it no longer has a monopoly over business technology remains an open question. In many organizations, there's a growing realization that to stay competitive, you need to deploy all kinds Web and mobile applications for customers and see what sticks. Can IT acquire the skills and technologies to make that happen? Or will business management be forced to turn to SaaS plays, hotshot agile dev firms, or other outside providers -- and leave IT to just keep the lights on? I can't wait to find out.

This article, "9 trends for 2014 and beyond," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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