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2013 Predictions: Hype in the rear-view, business impact on the horizon

The easiest and most obvious thing to see for the new year is that cloud, lightweight and mobile technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role in enterprise IT. This is reinforced by the observation that there is zero appetite today for massive projects that migrate organizations sideways instead of forward. But the cost reduction opportunity of these efforts may not be the major driver. It’s time! If you want to innovate, you must pick a very reasonable and achievable project that can be done well and can be done quickly. I predict that these technologies will solve the time issues more than any other.

When you start looking at everything in terms of time instead of money, the landscape and solutions start to change. For example, middleware projects have often been associated with massive change. Think about the move from mainframe and client/server to the web. Think about the move from web apps to service-oriented architecture (SOA). It's been all about “big” for too long. Big is expensive. Big is slow. If you want to win the time game you need to think about cheaper and faster and, for instance, paying by the application or how many resources it consumes, or even paying by the number of connections in your enterprise service bus (ESB). With the exception of public cloud, we all know that is not how it works right now in the enterprise. So, I think there is a really unique and certainly interesting opportunity for core middleware technologies outside of way we do it now.

I expect two factors to drive this from a capabilities standpoint: cloud computing and lightweight development. With its viable and affordable delivery model, cloud will enable middleware to be adopted into places we have never been before, including even potentially the SMB space. I’ve seen excitement building around cloud over the past few years and that excitement is now translating into action. This means middleware everywhere and, for the masses, can become a reality since the big and slow barriers will start to shrink.

To get there, lightweight development languages are key. The move to lightweight frameworks and containers itself isn’t new, but lightweight development needs a robust architecture. In some ways, lightweight projects have become victims of their own success. Now, these projects need to plug into some back ends or SOAs. The balance needs to be there to give the people who care most about risk the confidence that it will work. I think we turned a massive corner in this respect with Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 6 this year, and I expect to keep pushing that even more next year.

Lastly, one area that is already hitting the mainstream is mobile computing. But, the pace of adoption is likely to accelerate even more in the enterprise. Organizations that do business with consumers – for example healthcare or retail banking companies – are looking to significantly enhance the mobile experience for their customers. Being able to provide services through a phone, tablet or embedded device is, in my mind, incredibly important today, and maybe even the most important factor in our space.

However, it's not just the consumer side here. The so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement mirrors this trend from an enterprise perspective. These changes can lead to more choice, and mobile and tablet applications can have a huge influence on how IT brings technologies to the knowledge worker as well. How does mobile tie into the cloud and lightweight? Well, end users are the ones who are placing the demands on lines-of-business (LOBs) to move fast! Mobile is ultimately may be what brings it all together and ultimately may be the game changer for middleware going forward since it enables cloud and lightweight to happen.

I’ve shared a lot here, and hopefully some of these thoughts resonate with what you’ve seen or heard as well. Cloud, mobile and lightweight technology continue to play a role in shaping the enterprise IT landscape, but in new and exciting ways. These technologies have become tools—the means to new ends—and I don’t think we are even close to seeing the full extent of their impact on the world. As these technologies mature, new doors are opened and visions are created, and that’s what makes it an exciting time to be a part of the action at Red Hat.