Predictions for 2014

My views on market developments in 2014 are not sensational, I’m afraid. I offer them up as one antidote to the more outrageous and implausible predictions that tend to circulate at this time of year.

My list is not exhaustive; I have deliberately stuck to areas that I have personally researched to a reasonable depth over the past year or two, and which I feel I can comment on in an informed manner. So here goes:

1. The march of virtualised infrastructure will continue, with more momentum gathering in the storage and networking camps. However, the upward trend in adoption will remain gradual with no imminent inflexion point. 2014 will not be the year when SDN (software defined networking) sweeps the industry, for example, or software defined anything for that matter.

2. The data centre will continue to be the pivot point for IT delivery, and externally hosted cloud services will remain the tactical option which complements on-premise IT and traditional hosting for certain requirements. As part of this, the ‘IT channel’ will remain as critical as ever to both customers and vendors, and cloud providers will increasingly realise its importance too.

3. The cloud marketplace itself will remain immature, with significant variation between players with regard to commercial terms, service levels, interoperability, etc. Buyers who make assumptions and don’t perform basic due diligence will risk of being let down and/or locked-in. Amazon is a particular player to watch as it continues to become more enterprise savvy.

4. While the emphasis on mobile will continue to rise through 2014, the notion of ‘BYOD for everyone’ will give way to a more sensible discussion of how best to blend of BYOD, CYOD and more prescriptive deployment of devices. We’ll also start seeing more people thinking about end user computing holistically, rather than treating desktop and mobile as totally separate domains.

5. Microsoft will not nose-dive into oblivion, or even irrelevance; it will continue to make money, remain integral to enterprise IT and will gradually get its act together on the client side of the equation. As part of this, we will start to see more Windows 8 migrations among corporates, though more conservative companies will still only go as far as Windows 7 in 2014.

6. People will continue to a) overlook the huge disjoint between iOS and OSX, b) ignore Apple’s limitations as an enterprise supplier, and c) use Apple to promote the virtues of tightly-coupled (a.k.a. closed) approaches to IT. Sadly, other vendors will continue to try to emulate Apple, so the undoing of years of progress in driving open interoperability will carry on for a while.

7. Traditional ‘big incumbents’ (like HP, IBM, Cisco and Oracle) will continue to market around disruptive ideas while making the bulk of their money through selling more traditional solutions behind the scenes. As always, don’t let vendor marketeers set your agenda; focus on your own requirements. The new privately owned Dell could come up with one or two surprises, though.

8. Vendors will realise the futility of throwing marketing dollars at trying to convince us that social tech will replace email and traditional collaboration solutions. But if you are fed up of all the nonsense, don’t relax too soon. With help of evangelicals like’s Benioff, the noise will switch to ‘customer experience’ rhetoric, so there’s no danger of a ‘hype void’ opening up.

9. The industry’s Hadoop-centric ‘big data’ obsession will settle down into a more sensible discussion of how the broader set of advances in analytics, which have been largely ignored over the past decade, can make a real difference to the business. BI 2.0 anyone?

10. The CIO role will become more important, not less, as the complexity of enterprise IT and pace of change continue to increase. The role of architects, security specialists and other IT professionals will also remain critical. I think (at least I hope) that in 2014 the realisation will dawn that while it’s always useful and entertaining to challenge the status quo, neither users nor cloud providers are going to take responsibility for defining and executing your business enablement strategy when it comes to the effective, efficient and safe use of technology and information.

If you hadn’t guessed it by now, this last point is my response to those on the one hand who tell us that the corporate IT department and on-premise IT will be made redundant by cloud providers, and others who say that some of the trends we are seeing around use of personal mobiles and Dropbox are an indicator of users and departments taking care of all of their own IT requirements in the future. Both of these notions remain ludicrous and fail even the most basic of common sense tests.

I do not apologise if this makes the IT market sound a lot less exciting than many marketeers and pundits would have us believe. It is the reality that CIOs experience and Freeform Dynamic’s research consistently reveals.

As always, I am happy to debate through the normal channels if you disagree.

In the meantime, I would like to thank the thousands of IT and business professionals who have taken part in our surveys during 2013. The generous contribution of your time and insights really helps in our efforts to remain the ‘voice of reason’ in a market that sometimes seems to be dominated far too much by fashion, sensationalism, evangelism and even hysteria.

Finally, thank you to all of our clients and followers, and the great feedback you give us on the work we do. We know we are far from perfect and there are limits to our knowledge and experience, but we do care and we do strive to produce genuinely useful insights and guidance.

Merry Christmas to everyone and best wishes for a successful 2014.

Originally published on CIO website

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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.