November 2013

Top 10 Strategic Tech Trends for 2014

Top 10 Strategic Tech Trends for 2014

By Suzanne Deffree

It’s October, which means three things: The leaves are changing, most retail outlets have their Christmas decorations up, and research houses are starting to make predictions for the coming year’s markets.

Gartner began to do so at this month’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013 in Orlando, Fla., where it identified its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2014. The research firm defines this as technology with the potential to make significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years — including disruption to IT or the business, major investments, and risks from being late to adopt them.

“We have identified the top 10 technologies that companies should factor into their strategic planning processes,” Gartner analyst David Cearley said in a press release. “This does not necessarily mean adoption and investment in all of the listed technologies, but companies should look to make deliberate decisions about them during the next two years.”

For the electronics supply chain, those decisions include what components to keep on supply when considering increased end-market demand, how distributors can help OEMs and other partners and customers navigate the increased opportunities and potential pitfalls those opportunities come with design chain plans and work, and logistics issues.

Gartner’s list shows a clear merging of business and consumer forces that have been brewing demand for some time — social, mobile, cloud, and information.

1. Mobile device diversity and management
From now through 2018, the growing variety of devices, computing styles, user contexts and interaction paradigms will make “everything everywhere” strategies unachievable, Gartner said in its report. Add to that the unexpected consequence of BYOD programs, and we will see “a doubling or even tripling of the size of the mobile workforce,” which will put massive strain on IT organizations that aim for secure device interactions and information exchanges.

2. Mobile apps and applications
According to Gartner, as HTML5 gains traction, so will “the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment.” Developers should focus on “creating expanded user interface models including richer voice and video that can connect people in new and different ways.” The use of smaller, more targeted applications will continue to grow, while the use more comprehensive platforms will fall. “For the next few years no single tool will be optimal for all types of mobile application so expect to employ several. The next evolution in user experience will be to leverage intent, inferred from emotion and actions, to motivate changes in end-user behavior.”

3. The Internet of everything
The electronics industry has been in tune with the Internet of Things for some time, but Gartner sees it “expanding beyond PCs and mobile devices into enterprise assets such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions.” Basically, “the most important products, services, and assets” will become digitized. “Enterprises should not limit themselves to thinking that only the Internet of Things.”

4. Hybrid cloud and IT as service broker
Along the same lines as the mobile device diversity and management trend, “bringing together personal clouds and external private cloud services is an imperative” as we move into next year. “Enterprises should design private cloud services with a hybrid future in mind and make sure future integration/interoperability is possible.” Smart enterprises will take on a “cloud service broker” role in which they manage the “aggregation, integration and customization of services.”

5. Cloud/client architecture
“Cloud/client computing models are shifting.” As mobile devices become more advanced and offer more intensive capabilities, “the increased demand on networks, the cost of networks and the need to manage bandwidth use creates incentives, in some cases, to minimize the cloud application computing and storage footprint, and to exploit the intelligence and storage of the client device.” Still, “the increasingly complex demands of mobile users will drive apps to demand increasing amounts of server-side computing and storage capacity.”

6. The era of personal cloud
As users access their clouds through more devices, these clouds become less personal and device driven and more services oriented. “The specifics of devices” will become less important. People will utilize “a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub,” Garter said. “Access to the cloud and the content stored or shared from the cloud will be managed and secured, rather than solely focusing on the device itself.”

7. Software-defined anything
SDx — a recently coined term that “encapsulates the growing market momentum for improved standards for infrastructure programmability and data center interoperability driven by automation inherent to cloud computing, DevOps and fast infrastructure provisioning” — will come into play in 2014. This will include sometimes similar initiatives like OpenStack, OpenFlow, and Open Rack. “As individual SDx technology silos evolve and consortiums arise, look for emerging standards and bridging capabilities to benefit portfolios, but challenge individual technology suppliers to demonstrate their commitment to true interoperability standards within their specific domains.”

8. Web-scale IT
Gartner defines Web-scale IT as “a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by rethinking positions across several dimensions.” It cited Amazon, Google, and Facebook as example of firms that “are re-inventing the way IT in which IT services can be delivered.” Enterprises that don’t keep up with datacenters that look for any opportunity to reduce logistical cost and waste through Web-oriented architectures could be left behind.

9. Smart machines
Describing the coming timeframe as “the most disruptive in the history of IT,” Gartner predicts that the smart machine era will explode between now and 2020 “with a proliferation of contextually aware, intelligent personal assistants, smart advisors (such as IBM Watson), advanced global industrial systems and public availability of early examples of autonomous vehicles.” Systems are emerging that can do “what we thought only people could do.” The firm expects “individuals will invest in, control and use their own smart machines to become more successful.”

10. 3D printing
“Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.” Though such devices have been around for 20 years, “consumer market hype has made organizations aware of the fact 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.”