Web 2.0, cloud computing 'to transform business'

Don't ignore SOA or virtual worlds either, says Gartner...

Don't ignore SOA or virtual worlds either, says Gartner...

Web 2.0 technologies may make you roll your eyes dismissively right now but the likes of software-as-a-service (SaaS), mash-ups and online services will have a change-inducing impact on business within the next two years, despite currently languishing in what analyst Gartner terms a 'trough of disillusionment'.

The analyst's annual hype cycle predicts the fortunes of emerging technologies as they progress from early day enthusiasm, through user disillusionment as they fail to live up to immediate hype and finally on to real-world understanding as expectation and achievement aligns.

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Web 2.0 techs are due to move into the final phase within two years, "as companies steadily gain more experience and success with both the technologies and the cultural implications", Jackie Fenn, VP and Gartner fellow, said in a statement.

Also on the two-year horizon - though likely to have a much more modest impact in the business world - are basic web services and corporate blogging.

Other transformational techs not far behind web 2.0 on the hype cycle are cloud computing, virtual worlds and service-oriented architecture (SOA) - which the analyst reckons are all within two to five years of mainstream adoption.

Fenn said cloud computing and SOA will deliver business transformation by "driving deep changes in the role and capabilities of IT", while virtual worlds - such as Second Life - are currently suffering from being over-hyped but, in the long term, will "represent an important media channel to support and build broader communities of interest".

Enterprise interest in cloud computing is being driven by organisations seeking to consume IT services in the most cost-effective way, the analyst said, though it warned confusion and hype will continue "for at least another year" before distinct submarkets and market leaders emerge.

Other technologies within two to five years of mainstream adoption include green IT and location-aware applications - both of which Gartner believes will have a high business benefit. The analyst also identifies electronic paper, service-oriented business apps and solid-state drives as emerging techs with high potential in this time-frame.

RFID, while still considered to be a transformational technology by the analyst, has a much longer road to travel - with five to 10 years required to reach critical mass.

Fenn said many new entries on the hype cycle - including microblogging (i.e. services such as Twitter) and social networking - are making an initial impact in the consumer world, before influencing business. She added that leading-edge companies are investigating microblogging as a means to enhance other social media and channels.

Looking further ahead, Fenn added: "Other technologies that have passed the trigger where they start to be interesting to businesses include 3D printing, surface computing, augmented reality and mobile robots.

"We expect early adopters to start applying these in novel ways and driving new classes of application, such as using 3D printers to dramatically change the supply chain by creating products and replacement parts at the point of need."

Despite all the attention from Microsoft, surface computing still has a long way to go - with a five- to 10-year roadmap ahead of it to achieve merely a moderate impact.

Other techs likely to have a moderate impact but which are a little closer to achieving this (two to five years) include microblogging, tablet PCs, video telepresence and wikis, according to Gartner.