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ZapThink’s 2013 Retrospective and Predictions for 2014

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At last, the moment has arrived: the thirteenth and final installment of ZapThink’s annual retrospective and predictions written by one of ZapThink’s original members. ZapThink will live on as a division of Dovel Technologies, and I will continue my thought leadership at an as yet unselected opportunity, so in a year’s time, you may see the fourteenth installment of this annual tradition. But for today, let’s score ourselves one last time on last year’s predictions and make three new ones for 2014.

2012’s Predictions for 2013

Cloudwashing reaches a level of desperation. We predicted increasing levels of obfuscation relating to vendors’ supposed Cloud offerings, as well as condemnations of Public Clouds and a few vendor flameouts. We’ll give ourselves a full point on this one. Yes, there’s no question that the vendors and service providers in the Cloud marketplace have made great strides in putting together real offerings that actually work. But the fact remains that there is more smoke and mirrors than ever. Furthermore, the stories of turmoil at key vendors have colored the Cloud marketplace, as the likes of VMware, Dell, and Oracle continue to reorganize internally and revamp marketing externally to grasp the brass ring as the carousel goes around ever faster. And as for vendor flameouts? One word: Nirvanix.

Next generation SOA begins to coalesce. As organizations move away from heavyweight, middleware-centric, first generation SOA, they look forward to lightweight, RESTful, Cloud-friendly approaches to SOA that redefine the role Services play in the enterprise. ZapThink nailed this one as well, only the new catchphrase for next-generation SOA is the API Economy. Today’s definition of API, after all, is an update of the notion of Service, where the added bits are those next-generation aspects that make today’s APIs lightweight and Cloud-friendly. Are we concerned people don’t call the API Economy SOA? Of course not. As I’ve said for years in the Licensed ZapThink Architect course, it doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that you’re using the right tool to solve the problems of the business.

Cyber-9/11: some kind of Cyberattack so remarkable and unexpected that it changes the way the world looks at the ongoing Cyberwar. We’re going out on a limb of sorts to give ourselves 100% on this one as well, even though the event that qualifies wasn’t the kind of Cyber-9/11 we were expecting: the NSA spying scandal. I must admit that I didn’t foresee the US government as the perpetrator, but we predicted an unexpected attack, and the NSA news was unquestionably unexpected. And there’s no doubt that Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the NSA’s shenanigans has changed the way the world looks at Cybersecurity.

ZapThink’s Predictions for 2014

Three for three: a perfect score! Perhaps our crystal ball didn’t take enough risks. Well, I won’t be the one reviewing the score in twelve months, so there’s no reason not to give the old ball a little extra polish.

OpenStack will implode. Yes, the OpenStack initiative has many different projects that must work together seamlessly. Yes, the OpenStack team is unusually large for an open source effort, with an eclectic mix of large and small players. But it’s not the ambitiousness of the initiative nor “too many chefs” problem that will do OpenStack in. Instead, I predict that it will succumb to a kind of innovation paralysis.

Many of OpenStack’s core architectural decisions were made quite early in the maturation of Cloud Computing. The team has committed perhaps millions of lines of code in the intervening time. But the Cloud hasn’t been waiting, as innovation in other areas continues at a rapid pace. It’s just a matter of time before the OpenStack digerati lift their eyes from their keyboards and look around, and see that perhaps it makes sense to build a Cloud orchestration platform quite differently than what OpenStack will have become.

Innovation doesn’t happen in straight lines. It involves false starts and dead ends, new ideas triumphing over old, only to be vanquished in turn by further rounds of even better ideas. OpenStack hasn’t weathered this storm of innovation sufficiently. How to build something better than OpenStack? We may not have the answer yet, but rest assured, someone will come up with one or two soon.

Next-generation PaaS will coalesce. As the least mature of the three core Cloud service models, Platform-as-a-Service is a tumultuous marketplace. The players in this space, from Salesforce Heroku to Google App Engine to Dell Boomi, offer a remarkable diversity of features and capabilities. But they all suffer from the “horseless carriage” syndrome: taking an existing approach and sticking it in the Cloud. Take development, stick it in the Cloud. Take QA and deployment, stick them in the Cloud. Take integration, or perhaps B2B integration, put it in the Cloud as well.

In contrast, what characterizes next-generation PaaS are offerings that are fundamentally different from corresponding on-premise offerings, if calling out such a correspondence is a coherent notion in the first place. Completely rework the notion of integration by leveraging the Cloud. Turn the world of Business Process Management on its head with the Cloud. Rewrite the book on Master Data Management with the Cloud. Or better yet: how about all three at once?

Once again, Cyber-9/11. Yes, the NSA revelations were unexpected and transformative. But I’m still waiting for that offensive Cyberattack, one so devastating and unexpected that it shifts government policies across the globe and throws traditional private sector Cybersecurity measures into chaos. Will 2014 be the year of this event? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if you’re not prepared for an imminent Cyber-9/11, then you’re simply not prepared at all.

The ZapThink Take

What to put in the final paragraph I write as ZapThink, after a dozen years? Thank yous, of course.

Thanks first to Ron Schmelzer, ZapThink founder and partner for ZapThink’s first decade, for such a wild ride. Thanks as well to Paul Leslie, Dov and Elma Levy, and the rest of the folks at Dovel Technologies, for giving ZapThink a good home and for simply being such decent people. Thanks to the over 1,700 Licensed ZapThink Architects and hundreds of other students who took our classes over the years. Thanks to our clients for trusting us to give you good advice and plenty of tough love when you deserved it. And last but definitely not least, thank you to all the people who pinned our posters on your walls, all the readers of this ZapFlash and our other thought leadership, simply for giving us your attention! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Image credit: Mark Skipper

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is Chief Evangelist at EnterpriseWeb, where he drives the message and the community for EnterpriseWeb’s next generation enterprise platform. He is a global thought leader in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture. He is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer, and he also serves as blogger for DevX. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution: How Cloud Computing, REST-based SOA, and Mobile Computing are Changing Enterprise IT (John Wiley & Sons), was published in March 2013. Prior to EnterpriseWeb he was President of ZapThink, where he created the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, and ran the LZA course as well as his Enterprise Cloud Computing course around the world. He was also the primary contributor to the ZapFlash newsletter and blog for twelve years. Mr. Bloomberg is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in August 2011. Mr. Bloomberg’s book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). He has a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).