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My 2007 predictions - wrong, wrong, and wrong

One of my predictions last year was that the Solaris development community would be widely seen as bigger and more vibrant than the Linux one by the end of this year. It didn't happen - but I don't understand what's happening: Solaris for x86 is almost a stealth movement among developers - nearly everybody's playing, hardly anyone's talking. Why?

Since this week has been about green, it's time to add some Christmass contrast: blushing red. Here are my key 2007 IT predictions from December 28th, 2006

  1. Vista will make billions for Microsoft - driven by praise from the same people who hated the MacOS X interface when Microsoft didn't sell it;

  2. Itanium will continue on life support while Compaq, operating as HP, negotiates a way out with Intel;

  3. By the end of the year, the super computer listings will be entirely dominated by products built using IBM's cell processor -and the business applications performance benchmarks will be equally dominated by Sun's second generation CMT/SMP technologies.

  4. By the end of the year the OpenSolaris community will be widely recognized as larger and more active than the Linux community -and every competing OS developer community except Microsoft's will have copied the key ideas including its organizational structure, the core provisions in the community development license, and Solaris specific technologies including ZFS and Dtrace.

On the positive side Vista is, despite its predicted relative failure making billions, Itanium is just about dead, Sun's CMT stuff owns every business benchmark in its weight class; and just about everybody is copying Sun's community strategies and technology.

But what happened with the supercomputer listings? Two things: first, the duration of the funding process for the most recent entries means that they implement ideas and predictions from 2003/4, not 2005/6. Second IBM appears to be well into an internal directional conflict on Cell with traditionalists hanging their hats on software acceptability - and the lab people strengthening their case by (unintentionally) lagging the hardware.

I should have known about the first of these - and not made the prediction. Ooops.

The second is more interesting because the history of companies other than IBM which fail to adapt to advances in their own premier hardware lines is dismal. DEC, confronted with Alpha, choose to continue the VMS focus over Unix and died. SGI, facing a MIPS processor redesign wimped in favor of Intel - and made itself irrelevant to the market. HP, confronted with next generation PA RISC designs, tried to partner with Microsoft and Intel instead, and died - today's "HP" is just Compaq operating under the HP name with essentially all of the pre-merger shareholder value in HP gone.

IBM survived this once, back in 1970/1, when it put its future systems technologies on hold in order to placate its 360 customer base. Back then it took eight years for competition to ramp up to the point of becoming enough of a threat that future systems proponents within IBM were able to leverage its release as the System 38 - still outside the mainstream and still the best single product IBM has ever made. Today the company is more diversified, and only has one real competitor in high end hardware, so they can probably muddle through regardless of the decision they eventually come to - assuming, of course, that the software guys get their act together enough to let IBM shift Power8 further toward micro-scale grid computing.

Nevertheless I don't think there's anybody out there thinking super-computer and not looking at cell, so I'll repeat the prediction: cell will come to completely dominate super computer listings - but this time I'll add the CYA proviso that it will take until super-computing proposals started in 2006/7 yield working systems.

I was wrong on part of the fourth one too. The OpenSolaris community is not widely recognized as larger and more dynamic than the Linux one - and I should have known that too.

What's going on is odd: Solaris for x86 is almost a stealth movement among developers - nearly everybody's playing, hardly anyone's talking. I don't know why - it's like they're waiting for someone else to move first, some kind of magical tipping point perhaps, where it becomes ok to say you're doing this?

I also made some predictions I described as "less obvious". Some of these look okay: identity information management continues to be a disaster waiting for the legal axe to drop. My guess then: "that a bad situation will simply continue to get worse during 2007" applies to 2008 too - as do my comments then about cheering being the main point for acronyms like "Web 2.0" and "SOA."

However, I also said that:

"2007 will see the beginnings of true structural convergence - meaning web based delivery of materials selected, controlled, and presented in traditional ways. Look, for example, for someone to offer a traditionally hosted "best of the web" video series comparable to TV's original "Real People" series, but presented in TV, multicast, and custom packaging.

Ooops. I was wrong about the appearance of a "best of web" show this year, but structural convergence has clearly started - lots of newspapers, for example, are combining traditional editorial pages with on-line blogs and comments solicitation, and the big studios are all talking about responses to the new markets defined by products like the ipod video and iphone.

Overall, therefore, I'm embarrassed about not thinking through the implications the budget process has for supercomputing, for jumping the gun on public excitement about Solaris, and for not seeing that the big media players would rather drag their feet than change business processes - but, overall, I could just about live with my 2007 predictions - for 2008 :)