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ZapThink’s 2012 Retrospective and Predictions for 2013

The rules of Cyberspace suddenly and dramatically rewrite themselves

Welcome to the twelfth – yes, the twelfth! – annual installment of ZapThink’s annual retrospective and predictions for the coming year. Since we started the trend with our 2003 predictions and 2002 retrospective ZapFlash, we have taken a different tack than most IT prognosticators in that we actually grade ourselves on our predictions from the previous year, for better or worse. Last year we scored ourselves 2.5 out of 3, even going so far as to predict Amazon’s 2011 crash. Predictions for 2012? Not so good. But regardless of how well our guesses turned out, the result still makes for a story worth telling.

Our Results from Last Year
We made three predictions for 2012
in last year’s ZapFlash:

Future First steals thunder from the Cloud – We expected a shift in the US government’s attention away from Cloud Computing and the FedRAMP initiative to Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel’s Future First initiative, which combined Cloud, lean approaches, Agile, and open source. We’re awarding ourselves a score of 75% on this one. Yes, FedRAMP has become more time-consuming and bureaucratic as we predicted, and the government is moving forward with notable Agile successes as well as greater open source efforts. But unfortunately, the “Future First” moniker has not caught the excitement of the government or the public the way we had hoped it would.

HTML 5 becomes the glue of the ZapThink 2020 vision – We’ll give ourselves half a point on this one. Yes, according to the W3C, HTML 5 is now feature complete: an important milestone on the road to becoming a fully ratified standard. But that doesn’t mean it’s far enough along for broad adoption, or that it contains all the features everybody wants from it. Mobile phone developers are still more likely to code within the native environments on their respective devices, citing HTML 5 compatibility and performance issues. And then there’s all the work going into HTML 5.1. Yes, maybe HTML 5 will be the glue someday, but the glue is far from dry.

The rise of RESTful BPM – We hedged our bets on this one, pointing out that all 2012 would bring on this topic would be increased buzz. But in all fairness, we missed the target on this one. We couldn’t identify any buzz around Business Process Management (BPM) at all in 2012, RESTful or otherwise. Perhaps our timing was off, but there are no indications that RESTful BPM will be a hot topic in 2013 either.

Predictions for 2013
You’d think after awarding ourselves a dismal 1.25 out of 3, we’d make some safer predictions for 2013. Well, that’s not the ZapThink way. Here, then, are our prognostications for the coming year.

Cloudwashing reaches a level of desperation – Vendors’ all-to-common practice of using the “Cloud” label on their products or services regardless of whether what they’re offering has anything to do with the Cloud, aka Cloudwashing, is nothing new. But we predict that in 2013, Cloudwashing will reach a fevered pitch, as many vendors finally realize that they simply cannot leverage the Cloud cost-effectively in their product strategies. After all, Cloud Computing is inherently threatening to traditional vendors, as it enables customers to avoid purchasing their products altogether. Expect to hear louder, more extreme condemnations of Public Clouds, more detailed and elaborate Cloudwashing obfuscations of product features, and perhaps a few spectacular vendor flameouts.

There is also a serious risk that the Cloudwashers will win this battle. Just as the middleware vendors won the SOA battle, turning an architectural approach into a set of ESB features, “Cloud” vendors may wreak the same havoc with the Cloud. Here’s how you can tell if a vendor is trying to pull the wool over your eyes: cross out the word “Cloud” in their marketing and write in either “Web” or “virtualized data center.” If their marketing ends up saying essentially the same thing as it did when it was Cloudwashed, you know they’re trying to fool you. Be warned!

Next generation SOA begins to coalesce – For years, ZapThink has touted the difference between the practice of SOA and purported implementations of SOA. Our mantra has always been that SOA is protocol and technology independent: it doesn’t require Web Services, or ESBs, or any of the heavyweight IT infrastructure that has given SOA its reputation of complexity and failure. With the rise of Cloud Computing, architects are increasingly realizing that the bits and pieces of SOA best practice – loose coupling, intermediary-based abstraction, and automated governance, to name a few – can and should be applied as appropriate, independent of the existence of any specific, funded SOA effort.

In 2013, we predict that these miscellaneous patterns and practices will gradually coalesce into a kind of “post-SOA” architectural approach. Yes, it will still center on achieving greater levels of business agility in the context of heterogeneous resources, but this next-generation architecture ZapThink calls Agile Architecture goes beyond middleware-centric legacy enablement, leveraging hypermedia-driven, Cloud based approaches for achieving agility in the enterprise. In fact, it’s no mistake that this next generation approach is at the core of our new book, The Agile Architecture Revolution, coming out in the spring.

Cyber-9/11 – Finally, a prediction we sincerely hope does not come to pass. We predict some kind of Cyberattack so remarkable, so damaging, that it forever changes the way the world looks at the ongoing Cyberwar. Just as 9/11 changed our world forever, the attack we predict will have the same kind of psychological impact. You may not believe we’re in the midst of a Cyberwar now, but after the Cyber-9/11, no one will have any remaining doubts.

The ZapThink Take
The common theme across our three predictions is some kind of conflict between two opposing forces. We have the dinosaur software vendors struggling to maintain relevance vs. the new world of the Cloud. There’s old guard SOA, mired in the complexity of middleware and Web Services, vs. lightweight, hypermedia-driven, Cloud-friendly approaches to achieving greater agility via loose coupling. And there’s the world before the Cyber-9/11, where people don’t even realize they’re fighting a Cyberwar, vs. post-Cyber-9/11, where the rules of Cyberspace suddenly and dramatically rewrite themselves.

Fundamentally, this dichotomy is between the old way of doing things: slow, expensive, and inflexible, vs. the new way: agile, lightweight, and Web-centric. This dichotomy plays itself out in enterprises across the world. It’s one aspect of the perennial battle between siloed, bureaucratic organizations that lead to redundant legacy environments and architecture-driven organizations that can innovate even as they grow. The bureaucracies are the incumbents, the innovators are the challengers. Will 2013 be the year the advantage shifts to the innovators? Only time will tell.

Image credit: Mark Skipper

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is Chief Evangelist at EnterpriseWeb, where he drives the message and the community for EnterpriseWeb’s next generation enterprise platform. He is a global thought leader in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture. He is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer, and he also serves as blogger for DevX. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution: How Cloud Computing, REST-based SOA, and Mobile Computing are Changing Enterprise IT (John Wiley & Sons), was published in March 2013. Prior to EnterpriseWeb he was President of ZapThink, where he created the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, and ran the LZA course as well as his Enterprise Cloud Computing course around the world. He was also the primary contributor to the ZapFlash newsletter and blog for twelve years. Mr. Bloomberg is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in August 2011. Mr. Bloomberg’s book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). He has a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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