Top ten software trends for 2006

For service providers, architecture is destiny.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor

For me, 2005 was the Year for Thinking Differently. Only a year ago such topics as SOA, ad-supported business services, and RSS seemed either at the fringe of collective thinking or only in the early stages of acceptance to the mainstream.

Yet now, these issues are front and center. The zeitgeist is a-changing in IT at a pace not too far behind the now-storied Internet Time of the late 1990s.

So which fast-moving trends will be reinforced and which now nether-fielded concepts will step up to their own place in the 2006 sun? Here's a top ten list for software key concepts for the next 12 months.

1) About interface! The number of applications written for a rich AJAX look and feel, and with open source frameworks and PHP scripting as the supporting staff, will gather so much momentum that the model will become the de facto standard for greenfield Web applications. Case closed.

2) SOA virtualization gains steam, whereby re-architecting applications, Web services, and data centers to become service-enabled process hierarchies that span an enterprise or supply chain becomes much easier. So 2006 will be the year of SOA automation methods, tools, and infrastructure. Players to watch on this: Microsoft with Indigo, IBM et al with SCA, Rogue Wave, HP, Cape Clear, Mindreef, and Cisco.

3) Applications and middleware begin to exploit in earnest multi-threading capabilities now available in multi-core processors and the operating systems that cater to them. I'm seeing some very big performance breakthroughs for applications tailored and tuned to true multi threading and running on Linux 2.6.14. Parallelism is everything, man.

4) Web-based email becomes a no-brainer for many enterprises, from Outlook Web Access to Workplace to Zimbra. Dump the rich client for the rich interface and get a local store to cache the relevant recent data if you must. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

5) RSS takes over as its functionality deeply embedded inside Internet Explorer reaches the masses. Big impacts on data and content delivery, media, publishing models, direct marketing (take a look at SilverPop's RSS feed for each end user concept). Feeds will become the new coin of the targeted advertising and direct marketing realm.

6) Telecommunications carriers flex more muscle on business services. In a post-consolidation of telcos era, the role of the remaining communications services providers must grow. Expect to see more alignment between key IT vendors and the few remaining full-service network services providers. If, for many online businesses, the applications are the business, then for the service providers the services delivery platform is the business. In other words, architecture is destiny. Whom as a vendor then aligns with whom as a host? There needs to be technical differentiation, whereby one IT vendor shoots their wad with the biggest network(s) they can, or they all just compete on price into the cellar.

7) Apple switches to Intel, or at least x86 platforms, opening the flood gates of most all PC applications to OS X, and hastening the ability for OS X to exploit multi-core processors, multi-threaded applications and parallelism (See 3 above).  So the general performance level and breadth of software and components that can join Apple's functional leadership in desktop productivity and multi-media ease of use puts OS X even further out in front of Vista. Clones? One wonders if porting between OS X and Linux apps gets fast and furious, or Linux desktop cedes the non-Windows role to Apple. You get what you pay for, after all.

8.) Google may stumble in terms of the future growth potential of its market capitalization, but 2006 is Google's year to make good on the hype and frantic anticipation, or risk becoming last year's belle of the ball. Look for Google to get local in terms of revenue growth, get converged in terms of communications and applications, and get in trouble if Microsoft seduces AOL and, more importantly, Time Warner.

9) HP advances its resurrection with a huge push as the SOA methodology master (See 2 above). If HP can execute on software and do some well-timed and well-placed acquisitions fishing in the best-of-breed SOA startup vendor pool, then HP is very well placed to bank on its neutrality and legacy independence for SOA implementations projects, while nicely balancing Microsoft and open source. Viva la HP!

10) Embedded development emerges from its niches to rub shoulders with distributed applications development and deployment. With some 14 billion connected devices in the pipeline for creation over the next few years, the assimilation of interactions between general networked applications with device-specific components and runtimes makes huge sense. Intel gets this. So does Wind River. And I really like the idea that Green Hills is sprouting that a ruggedized RTOS is a fabulous alternative to Windows, Solaris, and Linux on desktops that require the highest levels of security.

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