What cloud and SOA will bring in 2012: seven 'half-baked ideas'

More Big Data power, more data center power, more user power, more opportunities await organization in the year ahead.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The year 2011 has been an interesting year in terms of SOA-cloud convergence, and the next year will see even more of it. Looking ahead, here are some half-baked ideas -- or HBIs -- on what appears to developing for the year ahead, and beyond:

1) SOA and cloud will underpin successful Big Data analytics deployments. There's quite a bit of excitement these days around Big Data, it's management implications, and the opportunities it presents to organizations hungry for more insights on their customers and markets. This is all part of the continuing rise of the Intelligent Web -- SOA, cloud and social media are turning business intelligence into "collaborative intelligence." But getting there requires managing Big Data applications in a service-oriented way -- through strategies such as data virtualization.  "We take the data infrastructure layer, and take data stores like Hadoop, and the existing enterprise systems that give that data valuable context and integrate those at the data layer. We abstract that integrated data platform from the consuming applications via service-oriented data access patterns," says John Akred, data and platforms lead at Accenture Technology Labs. "We're exposing our enterprise data platform to the enterprise via services rather than direct query access."

2) Computing power "too cheap to meter:" thanks to SOA and the cloud, massive data center power is available for literally pennies. This is a good value proposition for companies looking to expand or needing to expand their IT capabilities. Cisco's latest Global Cloud Index finds that organization’s data centers will be moving to the cloud in a big way.  And, by extension, chances are organizations will be cloud providers as much as cloud vendors. There was a time when launching a serious startup required serious capital for hiring talent, marketing and promotion, office space, and for technology to make it all happen. Thanks to the availability of powerful and low-cost on-demand technologies, innovators now have access to computing and information resources unheard of even a few years ago.

3) More business users will be building their own applications. More IT people will be involved in the business. There has been no shortage of talk about the chasm, and lack of alignment, between IT and businesspeople. Now, many users are taking their own initiatives, bringing in their own technology to bear on business problems. At the same time, IT staff are gaining a greater understanding and focus on business issues. These are two interlinked trends that started a few years back in earnest, and we'll see it really come to fruition in 2012. A new Accenture survey of of 4,000 employees from across the globe finds a large proportion (43%) feel comfortable and capable of making their own technology decisions for work. There is also an increasing trend for employee-driven technological innovation, as 24% of employees admitted to coming up with their own consumer technology solution to help solve a business problem. The "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon is turning many business end users into accidental IT managers.

4) Cloud and SOA will mean career advancement opportunities for IT executives and managers. Organizations not only rely on information technology to operate on a day-to-day basis, but also see it as their key strategy for growth in a hyper-competitive global economy.  While they may be spending less time managing their own IT infrastructure, IT executives and managers are being called upon to advise and guide their organizations into this new realm. As a result, cloud may be significantly increasing their visibility within organizations, as found in a survey of 685 CIOs by CA Technologies. A majority, 54%, believe that cloud computing has enabled them to spend more time on business strategy and innovation. The CA survey also found that CIOs who have adopted cloud computing seem to be more driven to advance in their companies than their non-cloud-adopting peers. Part of the new IT value proposition may be to oversee the business’s growth as a cloud provider itself — even though it may have been a non-IT type of business before.

5) The lines between software providers and consumers will blur even more, and more 'non-IT' companies will evolve into software providers. Some look at what's happening these days and say the IT department as we've known it is becoming a dinosaur. Gartner, for one, believes much of what IT does is being absorbed into lines of business. But, perhaps, what's really happening is not that IT is dissolving; it's that the entire enterprise is becoming IT.  The lines have already been blurring between non-IT companies and software companies to the point where you can't tell the two apart. Building out service oriented architecture, systems and applications are broken down into chunks of services that can be delivered to anyone, inside or outside the enterprise. There are now plenty of companies with robust private and hybrid clouds that could easily extend their services out beyond their firewalls. Related to the rise of private clouds will be the fact that many companies — and individuals as well — will be building and offering their own services to the world. We’re already seeing a lot of this happening with the app store model, in which software publishers can draw sizable revenues by publishing apps in the cloud.

6) Cloud will continue to disrupt the outsourcing model. As more enterprises adopt service-oriented architecture principals and practices, outsourcing may become an easier, more manageable option. At the same time, there will be fewer multi-million-dollar deals in which entire IT operations are handed over to outsourcers.  A more modularized form of outsourcing will take root because the growing standardization and “hot-swappability” of cloud services and components makes it easier to outsource pieces of the IT infrastructure.

7) "SOA" and “Cloud” will begin to fade as a differentiating terms — because it will just be the way we do things We’re now getting to the point where everything we deploy is done in a service-oriented way, and cloud is being simply accepted as the delivery platform for applications and services. Cloud will keep on coming on stronger than ever before, but, ironically, it may also soon begin to seem more ho-hum and routine than a grand paradigm shift. As has happened with SOA over the past two years, expect to see vendors this year begin to recognize this ho-hum factor and move on to new buzzwords.  But SOA didn't -- and isn't going anywhere, either.

We're clearly moving to a service-oriented way of doing business. And the services businesses will increasingly rely on will originate from a number of places -- they could be SOAP-based services, but they may also be mashups or REST-based services, or they may be coming from the cloud. And that gets us right to the roots of what SOA is all about: the deployment of loosely coupled services to complete a business process.

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