Nowadays, of course,
Wi-Fi and mobile data are almost ubiquitous, smartphones have hit market
saturation in the most developed nations, and EC2 is a cornerstone of modern
business IT. The pace of technological progress continues to accelerate, it
seems, as entire new product categories change the way we live and do business,
and there’s no end in sight.
Here’s our look ahead to 10 years in the
future, and how the tech world may change in 9 ways:
we think of as productivity apps will change out of all recognition
Sure, they’ve moved to the cloud and gotten a bit smarter over the
years, but the productivity apps we use every day have remained functionally
the same since their advent – a word processor is still a word processor,
regardless of whether it’s WordStar or Google Docs, and a spreadsheet is still
a spreadsheet, be it Lotus or Excel 2013.
However, no less than the inventor of the
spreadsheet himself, Dan Bricklin, said that that’s going to change within the
next 10 years.
Endpoint form factors are
going to be the biggest driver of changes to productivity apps, Bricklin says.
What we think of as productivity apps – spreadsheets, word processors and so on
– are best used with a reasonably large screen and a keyboard.
But in a world where, increasingly, mobile
devices are the way people enter the digital realm, traditional productivity
apps don’t work as well. “So then the question becomes – what would be a
productivity tool for somebody in that situation?”
Navigating a database while waiting in line
at the grocery store, for example, isn’t the way most people use their smartphones,
so it’s unlikely to catch on, notes Bricklin, who is currently CTO at Alpha
It may be, in fact, that productivity apps
become much more diverse and specialized – rather than directly editing a
spreadsheet on a smartphone, for example, a user could simply speak into the
device to add data to a system while on the move. Databases of repair
information could help auto mechanics and plumbers.
ranks of the technology workforce will be more diverse
While the state of affairs has improved significantly over the
past several years, it’s still an inarguable fact that the tech sector has a
diversity problem. Big companies have proclaimed themselves distressed at that
fact, and vowed to do something about it, but change has been relatively slow in
The next decade, however, should see
substantially more progress being made, thanks to a growing awareness of the
issue’s importance and initiatives aimed at making the ranks of university
computer science and engineering programs more diverse.
The current situation shows that the tech
industry is still noticeably out of step with the rest of the country – women
are strongly underrepresented in the industry – just 25% of Intel’s workforce
is female, along with 30% of Google’s, 31% of Apple’s and 28% of Microsoft’s.
The biggest employer of women is Pandora at 49%. Black and Latino workers are
also startlingly absent from most of the top technology companies.
But there are hopeful signs. Intel recently
went public with its diversity figures, which were generally poor, but has
vowed to accurately reflect the makeup of the U.S. by 2020, and companies may
be beginning to realize the value of diversity along both gender and ethnic
will stay on top
To understand where Cisco might be in 10 years, it helps to look
back 10 years.
At this time in 2006, Cisco was in the third quarter of its 2006
fiscal year. The Catalyst 6500 switch had achieved $20 billion in revenue over
its seven-year lifetime; the first generation CSR-1 service provider router –
dubbed “HFR,” for Huge Effin’ Router – was two years old and had 60 big
customers worldwide; and Cisco IP phones on business desktops numbered 2
Now, the Catalyst
campus base is being replaced by the Catalyst 6800 while data centers are
transitioning to the Nexus 9000. The CSR-1 has seen three more generations,
capped off and succeeded by the Network Convergence System (NCS) series. And
Cisco has shipped well in excess of 50 million IP phones, and emphasizes cloud-based
software as for unified communications infrastructure-as-a-service.
Expect the emphasis on
software to continue and ultimately transform Cisco from the leading provider
of networking hardware into a software company. Expect its “products” to be
delivered as services priced on a perpetual or subscription-based license,
hosted, operated and managed from a Cisco cloud. There will still be routers
and switches, but in campus networks they will increasingly become thinner and
thinner, like the NID to the PSTN in your home; the horsepower of hardware
processing and acceleration will be reserved for data centers and clouds.
Expect today’s Nexus
9000 and NCS to be succeeded by one or two generations in 10 years, like the
Cat 6500 and CRS-1 were 10 years earlier. Expect Cisco to gain more share in
data center servers and conceive of even more ways to hyper-converge compute,
networking, storage with applications, services and microservices developed
using tiny, semi-autonomous containers. Expect Cisco to reinvigorate
on-premises computing by making it more cost effective and secure than
Expect Cisco to be the
leading provider of connectivity for the Internet of Things.
And expect Cisco to
perhaps actually be the No. 1 IT company in the world, a title it currently
covets. And expect many of its competitors and combatants to by laying in its
in 2026: The foundation of computing
“I’m not even sure we’ll still call it ‘cloud’ in 2026, it’s
just the way we do IT,” says Cloud Technology Partners’ Senior Vice President
and industry pundit David Linthicum.
Over the next decade more and more
hyperscale data centers will be built to hold our exponentially increasing
production of data and insatiable desire for computing capacity to manage and
analyze it. By 2026 we’ll get to a point where our smartphones are ultra-thin
client devices that have access to this virtually-unlimited cloud-based compute
and storage capacity.
Whereas today organizations are creating
their new applications in the cloud, in 10 years the cloud will be the dominant
and natural place to host applications. Today’s concerns about security of the
cloud will be reversed in a decade: The cloud will be considered the safer
place to store data compared to attempting to host it yourself. Companies will
store the bulk of their data – more than 100 petabytes will be norm for most
businesses – in cloud databases. They’ll have a choice of general-purpose
vanilla cloud services or ones that are tailored to their specific vertical
industries (a retail cloud, a health care cloud, a finance cloud, for example).
apps reign in the Internet of Things
Despite the cloud
being the natural and dominant place for most applications and data, there will
be very little focus on the underlying infrastructure, because that will all be
managed by vendors. Instead, end users’ focus will be on ‘smart’ applications
and services that take advantage of this ubiquitous infrastructure, predicts
industry analyst and strategist Krishnan Subramanian.
Whereas today the basic unit of compute is a
virtual or physical server, in 2026 it will be the massive number of connected
devices that will be producing data that is stored in the cloud. Cloud systems
will have powerful machine learning and artificial intelligence engines that
ingest feeds of data being produced by these IoT devices and produce business
logic that drives operational decisions.
encryption will keep data safer
One big risk of data stored in the cloud is that if you need to
use it, you have to decrypt it, opening it up to possible attack. But
homomorphic encryption should fix that.
This technique encrypts data in such a way
that applications can access it and make calculations based on it without
actually using the data itself, just the encrypted representation of the data.
And the calculations made by the application, once completed, can be encrypted
So, for example, a patient
record could be stored, and an application that predicts the patients’ outcomes
could be applied to the data. But since the data is never decrypted it is never
at risk. Such a scheme would help medical providers meet the requirements of
medical-confidentiality laws and regulations.
This example is part of a Microsoft Research
paper this year about achieving high throughput, accurate and private
manipulation of encrypted data.
7.Open-source will be, if possible,
even more commonplace
Much has been made of the flourishing of free and open-source
software in recent years – collaborative, fluid teams working on open code
bases are responsible for a large and growing proportion of the software used
in the enterprise world.
And there’s no reason to think that the
trend will change anytime soon. Neela Jacques, the executive director of the
OpenDaylight SDN project, says that an over-reliance on closed, proprietary
systems has hurt business users in the past.
“Companies have realized that it’s inefficient
to try to build proprietary platforms that have a low chance of success,” he
says. “What we’re seeing is an emerging model where organizations spend a
moderate amount of resources with others to establish a collaborative, standard
Moreover, according to Jacques, the
open-source community will become increasingly professional over the next
decade – removing one of the barriers to entry for conservative companies
worried about the occasional fiery war of words that periodically roils some
“The conversation will move to how we build
and maintain the greatest shared technologies of our time, from licensing to
certification to training talent to support these resources,” he says.
will finally hit its stride
The Internet of Things is a phenomenon that we’re constantly
told is in danger of taking off and really changing the world around us, but it
never quite seems to happen. But within the next 10 years the technology will
start to realize its potential, according to IDC
vice president of network infrastructure RohitMehra.
Most of what’s held IoT back can be sorted
into two categories – security issues and interoperability problems. The
relative novelty of the technology means that there are few generally accepted
communications standards, which in turn means that it can be difficult to have
multiple IoT devices working together unless they’re all from the same
manufacturer. That limits their utility, since the entire point is to have
everything working as a seamless whole. Additionally, IoT devices represent
potential ways into a network for attackers, and their security isn’t always
But Mehra says that these problems will be
solved – for a given degree of “solved” – within the coming decade.
“I think all the pieces
are slowly falling into place, today’s network can adapt, it can really scale,
and all on the fly as application needs change – and what that means is, now,
if I’m an IT guy, I can really think of leveraging the cloud, leveraging my big
data and analytics applications, to do what’s best for all my IoT endpoints.”
9.Big Data will play a Big Role on
The definition of big data has ballooned so much that it’s
beginning to lose meaning.
The impact of the increasingly quantified
tech world, however, has been meaningful indeed, and it will continue to have a
notable impact on the network into the foreseeable future. Judith Hurwitz, who
runs the consulting firm Hurwitz and Associates, says that big data’s role in analytics will be
“One of the most important trends that is just
beginning to impact the network world is machine learning and cognitive
computing,” she writes via email. “The ability to analyze massive amounts of
data to look for patterns and anomalies changing the way new tools are able to
anticipate problems before they can cause outages or intrusions.”
Watson-esque tools to perform complicated
analysis require commensurately humongous data sources, so in a very real way,
big data is powering what could be a renaissance in network analysis and
Nor is that influence limited to the network
by itself. Matt Roberts, marketing director of telecom management firm Amdocs,
says that data from other parts of the infrastructure can be built into an
“We’re moving to these new environments
[where] … a lot of the decision-making or human intervention can be done
through the use of intelligent analytics,” he says.