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Rather than make predictions for 2012, which are everywhere right now, I want to look back at some of the surprising events of 2011. I think it’s worth considering what happened that wasn’t expected and what these things might tell us about the information technology market. Here, in no particular order, are the most important ones I see.

The Arab Spring

Although the Arab Spring movement began at the very end of last year, it’s fair to say that its main impact occurred this year. Social media played a significant role in these protests as a way of not only organizing protestors but also globally communicating instantly what was happening. Early this year Ventana Research had identified social media as one of five key technologies causing a revolution of a different kind within the business intelligence and information management communities, but the speed of adoption and reach of social media have exceeded most expectations. Social media also is part of a trend toward consumerization of IT in which adoption of certain types of technology originate with consumers and then work their way into enterprise IT infrastructures.

Enterprises are still grappling with the implications of both of these issues. We are beginning to see effective use of social media as a vehicle for collaboration within business intelligence processes. You could say the genie is out of the bottle with respect to social media, but we still have a long way to go in making it a part of most enterprise IT infrastructures.

RIM Stumbles in Mobile Technology

The mobile market, in a state of upheaval, continues to evolve rapidly. BlackBerry devices brought mobile technology and enterprise IT together several years ago, but their manufacturer, RIM, stumbled this year. First Apple with its iOS devices and then devices powered by Google’s Android operating system have become the market leaders. These changes were driven by an unusual force in enterprise IT: consumer purchasing behavior. The influx of these devices into office environments forces enterprise IT organizations to grapple with BYOD (bring your own device) issues. Apple iPad sales skyrocketed, attracting other tablet manufacturers and fueling demand for BYOD support. But other tablet manufacturers, including RIM, struggled to produce a device that could capture enough hearts, minds and wallets of either consumers or enterprises. We saw the demise of one device, HP’sTouchPad, and heard rumors of the RIM PlayBook’sdemise. The mobile and social media markets helped blur the lines between consumer and enterprise technologies and in the process established a real focus on the consumer. This focus should benefit end users as it drives up the importance of ease of use.

An Elephant in the Room

Although it was clear if you looked in the right places, the rise in importance of big data caught many by surprise. While big data and Hadoop are not necessarily synonymous, our benchmark research shows that Hadoop has enabled organizations to do things with big data that they couldn’t do with other technologies. Analyzing more data at a greater level of detail and employing advanced analytics has enabled two-thirds of the organizations using Hadoop to create new products or services.

The Hadoop market has attracted a bevy of competition. Yahoo spun out its Hadoop team as a separate entity called Hortonworks. MapR entered the market with its own distribution of Hadoop that is part of EMC Greenplum’s big data offerings. Even Oracle announced its intention to distribute Hadoop as part of a big-data appliance offering. Other NoSQL solutions for big data such as Cassandra, Couchbase and MongoDB have enjoyed success as well; it now seems clear that big data will be a fixture on the enterprise IT landscape for the foreseeable future.

A Bookstore Outage Affects Millions

A few years ago who would have thought a bookseller’s website outage would affect millions of people? OK, Amazon is much more than a book-seller today, and its Amazon Web Services (AWS) has become the leading public cloud service provider. Many Internet-based businesses rely on AWS as part of the backbone for their IT infrastructures. Some of these are popular social media sites such as Four Square, HootSuite, Quora and Zynga. In fact, in Zynga’s SEC filing for its initial public offering, it cited as a risk that “a significant portion of our game traffic is hosted by Amazon Web Services.” AWS experienced two major outages this year, one of which lasted four days.

Two lessons should be drawn from this experience. First, the cloud has become a major source of IT infrastructure. Our Business Data in the Cloud benchmark research shows significant penetration of cloud-based applications into enterprises. Across eight different line of business functions, at least 40% of participants either already use cloud-based services or expect to be using them within a year. Second, if you rely on a cloud service provider for any mission-critical functions, you need to understand the vendor’s service level agreements and make sure you and they have contingency plans in place to deal with outages. You wouldn’t want to be out of business for several days as was the case with the AWS outage earlier this year.

A Machine Wins on Jeopardy

Earlier this year, IBM Watson competed against two Jeopardy champions and won a nationally televised contest. This event was the culmination of many years of effort on the part of IBM Research Labs, but it’s potentially just the beginning in a series of offerings from IBM and probably others that combine big data and predictive analytics. It was a brilliant marketing move as well as a significant technical accomplishment. Through its involvement in Jeopardy, IBM gave these two relatively “geeky” subjects an audience with the mass market, paving the way for expectation of similar capabilities in a variety of applications, some of which may even be consumer-facing. Without an explanation of the inner workings of big-data processing or predictive analytics algorithms, millions of people now know they can deliver impressive results.

By the way, we’re analyzing and writing our benchmark research on how organizations are adopting predictive analytics. We’ll share those results soon, but there are many signs in addition to Watson’s Jeopardy appearance that predictive analytics are onthe rise. If you’re not using predictive analytics, don’t be intimidated by Watson. It has become much more accessible with cloud-based and service-based offerings as well as improved software products that can make the capabilities much easier to use.

We have been and will continue to be researching these topics throughout the coming year. We’ll let you know what surprises we find and what they mean for your organization.


David Menninger – VP & Research Director

The information management (IM) technology market is undergoing a revolution similar to the one in the business intelligence (BI) market. We define information management as the acquisition, organization, control and use of information to create and enhance business value. It is a necessary ingredient of successful BI implementations, and while some vendors such as IBM, Information Builders, Pentaho and SAP are in addition integrating their BI and IM offerings, each discipline involves different aspects of the use of information and will require it sometimes integrated and sometimes separate.

Some might consider information management as the “plumbing” behind BI. They take it for granted and only notice when it is missing. We have a more holistic view. Our recent benchmark research on business analytics shows that, for example, organizations struggle to collect all the data they need, with two-thirds of them stating they spend more time in data related activities than analytic ones.

Three key issues are driving our information research agenda in 2011:

1) Combining all the sources and types of data into an integrated information architecture.
2) Enabling organizations to manage and analyze larger volumes of information.
3) Providing accessibility to information throughout the organization.

We’ll be updating our information management benchmark research this year to see how these central issues are impacting IM overall. In addition we will focus on five technology innovations my colleague has identified as the business technology revolution in 2011: cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media, analytics of more types over more data and collaboration. Let me flesh out each of these a bit as they impact the evolution of IM.

As I pointed out in “Clouds Are Raining Corporate Data,” cloud computing is having an increasingly large influence over the IT landscape. It’s likely that, whether you realize it or not, corporate data exists and/or is migrating outside the walls of your organization. Cloud-based applications and services raise information management challenges that don’t necessarily exist in on-premises deployments. We’re investigating these issues now in our Business Data in the Cloud benchmark research program and where many new providers dealing with cloud data like Dell Boomi, Jitterbit and Snapdata play into the existing landscape of IBM, Informatica, iWay Software, Oracle, Pervasive and Syncsort to name just a few.

Mobile technologies are enabling organizations to deliver information to users when and where they need it. They are one of the forces driving cloud adoption as organizations look to make it easier to deliver applications to users regardless of their location. Mobile applications also are consuming and producing more location-related information and creating a need to manage this kind of data.

In the world of information management, social media has created entirely new challenges. Most social media data is unstructured text and is forcing organizations to embrace text analytics to deal with it, in many cases for the first time. The volumes of social media data and the speed with which it should be collected and analyzed also present new challenges. From an IM perspective, organizations must learn how to solve these challenges while enforcing appropriate data quality, data governance and life-cycle management policies.

Analytics present an additional set of IM challenges. The necessity of managing more data and different types of data has led to the adoption of large-scale technologies such as Hadoop. In research that is under way now we are researching the various ways of dealing with these huge data volumes and the role of Hadoop in that process. Predictive analytics also create IM challenges. Sampling, which is a key to producing unbiased predictive models, may or may not become less critical as database analytics grow in popularity. The models and the scores that such analytics produce are another form of data that must be managed and retained, often for compliance and auditing purposes. We’ll be studying these issues as part of predictive analytics benchmark research that will commence in the first part of 2011.

Collaboration provides a means to communicate and extend the processes of IM. It creates a new channel not only for delivery of information but also for input into the delivery process. Using collaboration tools such as Twitter, Chatter  or Tibbr can help organizations use data and related information by involving more people. This wider audience collectively contains more knowledge about the underlying data and can also comment on its quality, which ultimately will lead to better data and more trust in it. Collaboration tools also provide a mechanism to link the workflows of information management with the constituents involved in the process.

Information management continues to evolve and grow, somewhat to my surprise as indicated in my recent assessment of Informatica. These changes present challenges for IT groups and lines of business alike. With our IM research agenda, we hope to provide useful information to both functions and help you navigate together through this changing landscape and achieve the goal of creating and enhancing business value.


David Menninger – VP & Research Director

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