What Enterprises Can Learn from Major Events and Surprises in 2011
December 28, 2011

Rather than makepredictions for 2012, which are everywhere right now, I want to look back at someof the surprising events of 2011. I think it’s worth considering what happenedthat wasn’t expected and what these things might tell us about the information technologymarket. Here, in no particular order, are the most important ones I see.

The Arab Spring

Although the ArabSpring movement began at the very end of lastyear, it’s fair to say that its main impact occurred this year. Social mediaplayed a significant role in these protests as a way of not only organizingprotestors but also globally communicating instantly what was happening. Earlythis year Ventana Research had identified socialmedia as one of five key technologies causing a revolution of a different kindwithin the business intelligence and information management communities, butthe speed of adoption and reach of social media have exceeded mostexpectations. Social media also is part of a trend toward consumerization of ITin which adoption of certain types of technology originate with consumers andthen work their way into enterprise IT infrastructures.

Enterprises arestill grappling with the implications of both of these issues. We are beginningto see effective use of social media as a vehicle for collaboration withinbusiness intelligence processes. You could say the genie is out of thebottle with respect to social media, but we still have a long way to go inmaking it a part of most enterprise IT infrastructures.

RIM Stumbles in Mobile Technology

The mobile market,in a state of upheaval, continues to evolve rapidly. BlackBerry devices broughtmobile technology and enterprise IT together several years ago, but their manufacturer,RIM, stumbled this year. First Apple with its iOS devices and then devicespowered by Google’s Android operating system have become the market leaders. Thesechanges were driven by an unusual force in enterprise IT: consumer purchasingbehavior. The influx of these devices into office environments forcesenterprise IT organizations to grapple with BYOD (bring your own device)issues. Apple iPad sales skyrocketed, attracting other tablet manufacturers andfueling demand for BYOD support. But other tablet manufacturers, including RIM,struggled to produce a device that could capture enough hearts, minds andwallets of either consumers or enterprises. We saw the demise of one device, HP’sTouchPad,and heard rumors of the RIM PlayBook’sdemise. The mobile and social media markets helpedblur the lines between consumer and enterprise technologies and in the processestablished a real focus on the consumer. This focus should benefit end usersas it drives up the importance of ease of use.

An Elephant in the Room

Although it wasclear if you looked in the right places, the rise in importance of big datacaught many by surprise. While big data and Hadoop are not necessarilysynonymous, our benchmark research shows that Hadoop has enabled organizations to do things with bigdata that they couldn’t do with other technologies. Analyzing more data at agreater level of detail and employing advanced analytics has enabled two-thirdsof the organizations using Hadoop to create new products or services.

The Hadoop markethas attracted a bevy of competition. Yahoo spun out its Hadoop team as aseparate entity called Hortonworks. MapR entered the market with its owndistribution of Hadoop that is part of EMC Greenplum’s big data offerings. Even Oracle announced its intention todistribute Hadoop as part of a big-data appliance offering. Other NoSQL solutions for big data suchas Cassandra, Couchbase and MongoDB have enjoyed success as well; it now seems clearthat big data will be a fixture on the enterprise IT landscape for theforeseeable future.

A Bookstore Outage Affects Millions

A few years ago whowould have thought a bookseller’s website outage would affect millions ofpeople? OK, Amazon is much more than a book-seller today, and its Amazon WebServices (AWS) has become the leading public cloud service provider. Many Internet-basedbusinesses rely on AWS as part of the backbone for their IT infrastructures. Someof these are popular social media sites such as Four Square, HootSuite, Quoraand Zynga. In fact, in Zynga’s SEC filing for its initial public offering, itcited as a risk that “a significant portion of our game traffic is hosted byAmazon Web Services.” AWS experienced two major outages this year, one of whichlasted four days.

Two lessons shouldbe drawn from this experience. First, the cloud has become a major source of ITinfrastructure. Our Business Data in the Cloud benchmark research shows significant penetration of cloud-basedapplications into enterprises. Across eight different line of businessfunctions, at least 40% of participants either already use cloud-based servicesor expect to be using them within a year. Second, if you rely on a cloudservice provider for any mission-critical functions, you need to understand thevendor’s service level agreements and make sure you and they have contingencyplans in place to deal with outages. You wouldn’t want to be out of businessfor several days as was the case with the AWS outage earlier this year.

A Machine Wins on Jeopardy

Earlier this year, IBMWatson competed against two Jeopardy championsand won a nationally televised contest. This event was the culmination of manyyears of effort on the part of IBM Research Labs, but it’s potentially just thebeginning in a series of offerings from IBM and probably others that combinebig data and predictive analytics. It was a brilliant marketing move as well asa significant technical accomplishment. Through its involvement in Jeopardy,IBM gave these two relatively “geeky” subjects an audience with the mass market,paving the way for expectation of similar capabilities in a variety ofapplications, some of which may even be consumer-facing. Without an explanationof the inner workings of big-data processing or predictive analyticsalgorithms, millions of people now know they can deliver impressive results.

By the way, we’re analyzingand writing our benchmark research on how organizations are adoptingpredictive analytics. We’ll share those results soon, but there are many signsin addition to Watson’s Jeopardy appearance that predictive analytics are onthe rise. If you’re not using predictiveanalytics, don’t be intimidated by Watson. It has become much more accessiblewith cloud-based and service-based offerings as well as improved softwareproducts that can make the capabilities much easier to use.

We have been andwill continue to be researching these topics throughout the coming year. We’lllet you know what surprises we find and what they mean for your organization.


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