2011 Retrospective and ZapThink’s Predictions for 2012

The presents are unwrapped, family has headed home, and the leftovers are almost gone. Once again, it’s time for ZapThink’s annual retrospective and predictions for the coming year. While it’s true that many pundits and prognosticators churn out their guesses for the year to come around this time, ZapThink takes the practice one step further: we actually review the previous year’s predictions and score ourselves on how well we did. Here then are our results from last year and our predictions for the year to come.

2011 Predictions: 2 ½ out of 3

I’m proudest of how well we did on our first prediction: one spectacular Cloud flameout. We so nailed this one, with Amazon Web Services well-publicized crash in April. I can’t help but say we told you so. We even went so far as to say “if you believe your Cloud provider is invulnerable, you’re fooling yourself.” Bottom line: expect for and plan for failure, especially in the Cloud.

We did well on our second prediction as well: that we’d run out of IPv4 addresses in 2011, and that the resulting shortage would lead to the growth of a secondary market in IP addresses. In fact, a black market for IP addresses has sprung up, in addition to the more above-board purchases, like the addresses Nortel sold to Microsoft. If the IPv4 shortage hasn’t impacted your organization yet, then 2012 might be the year you feel the pinch.

Our third prediction, however, is more of a work in progress. We predicted an “Enterprise Architecture is dead” story that would parallel the “SOA is dead” meme from 2009, as organizations move away from checklist architectures to more agile approaches that show better results. We’re giving ourselves 50% on this one, as no “EA is dead” meme has cropped up, or at least, no more in 2011 than in years previous. But speaking from personal experience, an increasing number of organizations are looking to move toward more agile, cost-effective architectural approaches, notably in the US Government with CIO Steven VanRoekel’s “Future First” initiative. As checklist architectures were endemic across the government, this shift is a good sign that our tax dollars are finally being spent wisely on architecture, at least here in the US.

Before we move on to our predictions for 2012, there’s one more prognostication to mention, from ZapThink’s predictions for 2008. We predicted that ZapThink would be acquired that year. We were off by three years, but we’re  now a happy part of Dovèl Technologies!

Predictions for 2012

Future First steals thunder from the Cloud – Our first prediction centers on the US Government, who is moving headlong into the Cloud. Dozens of agencies are taking the Cloud First initiative to heart, moving email, content management, and other key capabilities to the Cloud. Now, with FedRAMP ready to take off, agencies will be able to reduce the cost and complexity of moving to the Cloud.

But perhaps, not so much in 2012. We do predict FedRAMP will save billions of dollars of IT costs eventually, but there is simply too much politics involved to expect it to pay off substantially this coming year. In fact, we expect government adoption of the Cloud in 2012 to be more about politics than achieving real value. Instead, it will be a year of expanding the focus to Future First, as various federal departments and agencies, in conjunction with industry and academia, flesh out the combination of Agile, Lean, open source, and Cloud that VanRoekel has in mind. Cloud won’t go away, of course, as Cloud is an integral part of Future First. But the focus will gradually shift to Future First.

HTML 5 becomes the glue of the ZapThink 2020 vision – As the next major version of the Web’s central markup language, HTML 5 has been a long time in coming. In 2012, we predict it will hit a critical tipping point, as the next generation of Web markup, the replacement for Adobe Flash, and the common technology framework for Mobile app development. In addition, HTML 5’s Web Sockets technology that allows for full duplex tunneling via HTTP will open up new approaches for integrating capabilities in the context of rich, cross-platform user interface experiences.

As a result, HTML 5 will provide technology underpinnings, not only for mobile computing, but for ongoing improvements in technology across the board. After all, the user interface is where the value of technology manifests itself. We predict, therefore, that HTML 5 will impact multiple facets of enterprise IT, well beyond the user interface. Stay tuned for more thought leadership from ZapThink on this topic.

The rise of RESTful BPM – Just as SOA was misconstrued as an ESB-centric technology approach, people have confused REST with a way to construct APIs. However, that’s not what REST is about. REST is an architectural style for building hypermedia applications. And while you can think of a hypermedia application as a glorified Web site, it’s actually more than that: it’s a runtime workflow.

The idea of RESTful applications as runtime workflows is both simple and deeply powerful, as it entirely changes the way we might look at Business Process Management (BPM) tools. Traditional BPM tools are heavyweight, integration-centric tools that typically rely upon layers of infrastructure. Even lightweight BPM tools still rely upon centralized state engines. With REST, however, hypermedia become the engine of application state, freeing us from relying upon centralized state engines, instead allowing us to take full advantage of Cloud elasticity, as well as the inherent simplicity of REST.

Will people understand this shift in BPM approaches in 2012? Largely, no. But what will happen is that RESTful BPM will at least appear on the radar of organizations looking to approach process automation and optimization that leverages the Cloud without falling into the big vendor trap. What we do predict is more buzz about RESTful BPM, and at least one vendor bold enough to offer a truly RESTful BPM tool, instead of the non-RESTful attempts that we currently see from the vendors today. Are you a vendor who believes you offer a RESTful BPM tool that actually follows the REST constraints? We want to hear from you.

The ZapThink Take

ZapThink is pleased with the progress enterprise IT is making toward our ZapThink 2020 vision. The point to this vision was that individual trends in IT interrelate, and thus you shouldn’t separate any of them from the broader context of change within the organization. Whether it be SOA, Cloud Computing, mobile computing, or any of the five Supertrends, the only way to understand the message of ZapThink 2020 is to take them all together.

Our predictions for 2012 follow this pattern. The point to Future First is that it brings together Agile approaches with the Cloud and more. Our expectations for HTML 5 focus not on the user interface, but on how this standard will facilitate the ZapThink 2020 vision across enterprise IT. Likewise, RESTful BPM turns traditional integration—and even traditional SOA—on their heads, circling back to the World Wide Web as the central organizer for business at large.

Our predictions, therefore, are somewhat convoluted, not by accident, but by necessity. Pulling single strands out of the complex knot we call enterprise IT wouldn’t tell a useful story. Only by leaving the strands together and exploring how they interrelate can we gather useful insight into the change that faces us every day.