2011 Outlook: Better than 2010 and really wild

With more optimism combined with scary security %^$#, 2011 could be a wild ride

Well my friends, 2010 was quite a year and as is our want, in this, the first issue of the New Year, we throw caution to the winds, dust off our crystal balls and, seeing as we're all consenting adults, indulge in a little hardcore prognostication. But before we head off into the wild blue yonder, let's take a look at my forecasting for last year.

I began with generalities (always a safe way to go), opining that 2010 would be "the year of recovery, the year of realigning that which needs aligning, along with cleaning up what's dirty, polishing up what's tarnished, primping up what's, er, unprimped, and pimping up that which is unpimped. In short, generally getting ourselves out of the morass of negativity and gloom that was 2009."

In a broad sense I think I was right on this (I get one point) but the recovery has definitely been softer than expected and my thought that "confidence is going to be erratic" was pretty much spot on (I get another point).

Read about what can be expected in 2011 in the tech industry as well

As a "re-digression" (if such a thing there be) of the digression in last year's column, I'm pleased to note that the prediction by Igor Panarin that the U.S. would split into six parts starting in June 2010 as a result of "a civil war triggered by mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation", didn't come to fruition. We may have had the economic collapse and we certainly have the moral degradation, but no civil war, so, Igor, it looks like you lost that bet.

As for the rest: I predicted user experience engineering becoming more important and I was right, sort of (score a half point); data warehouse analytics, huge but not as talked about as I expected (another half point); enterprises forging ahead with server virtualization (check, one point); large scale enterprise adoption of cloud computing despite the risks and the gotchas (check, one point); Windows 7 a success (check, one point); Android-based cell phones taking the gloss off the iPhone market (check, one point); netbook market exploding in 2010 ... well, if you include the Apple iPad I was spot on and even without the iPad, I was generally right (one point).

Net neutrality? Unfortunately I was right about this being a big issue and the FCC's recent announcement that it will sort of regulate the ISPs for wired access but not wireless (thanks a lot Eric Schmidt) is going to lead us into a frenzy of legal wrangling over 2011 and quite possibly on into the future ad nauseum (big check, one point).

Social networking in the enterprise, both inbound and internal, was a huge issue so, check again (one point) although y'all still haven't really got to grips with this trend. And finally government monitoring and data collection of civilians continues at an unashamedly rapid pace. Check again (one point).

I make that a total of 11 out of 12; not at all bad I'd say.

So, that leads us to 2011 and what we might have in store for us. This year instead of shouldering the mantle myself, I threw out the question to everyone and their brothers to see what they are expecting and the responses have been interesting. In the following I've cited the first person to raise the topic, so if your name is missing, sorry, you were pipped to the post.

In terms of market growth:

* Worldwide IT spending growth will be a solid 5.7% as hardware growth moderates and software and services spending rebounds (Frank Gens/IDC Predictions Team).

* Emerging markets, led by China, will continue to drive global IT spending growth, with 2.6 times the growth rate of developed markets, contributing over 50% of all new growth (Frank Gens/IDC Predictions Team).

* The mobility explosion will continue — with huge device volumes, new form factors, and millions (yes, millions) of mobile apps (Frank Gens/IDC Predictions Team).

* Broadband networks will struggle — and innovate — to keep up as 4G wireless networks crawl to market, Ethernet exchanges mitigate wired bandwidth squeezes, and content delivery networks gain clout (Frank Gens/IDC Predictions Team).

* The expanding digital universe — reaching 1.8 trillion gigabytes — will drive demand for cloud-friendly information infrastructure and real-time analytics for "big data." (Frank Gens/IDC Predictions Team).

* High definition live and on-demand video will become more prevalent on the Web, creating more sizable "video floods" that can take over enterprise WAN links and Internet gateways; 3D video on the Web will still be a novelty and have almost no impact on corporate networks (Blue Coat Systems).

* Traffic from the Web, including text, graphics, audio and video, will represent more than 75% of corporate network traffic, up from 50% in 2010 (Blue Coat Systems).

* Social networking will become the second largest class of Web traffic on corporate networks, behind live and on-demand Web video (Blue Coat Systems).

But if there's one overriding trend for 2011, it's that security will become, if you can believe it, more scary and more important than ever:

* There will be an increasing demand for solutions in [the area of privacy of personal information, such as medical records, financial information, information posted on social networking sites] (Professor William Winsborough, Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at San Antonio).

* [There will be] a large botnet cyberwar and ... Zeus will end up winning and holding its ground against other botnets that try to attack it (Neil Daswani, CTO, Dasient).

* Malware will get stuffed into the local browser storage provided by HTML 5 and executed via a browser vulnerability. Cyber criminals will leverage this because HTML5 is new and has bugs in it (Neil Daswani, CTO, Dasient).

* There will be more advanced [instant messaging] threats directed at the use of webcams and audio. Webcam-logging and audio-logging will become just as popular as keystroke-logging (Neil Daswani, CTO, Dasient).

* [A] cyber war against the government [and financial institutions that refused to handle donations to Wikileaks] has been declared (Professor Darren Hayes, Pace University's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, New York). This kind of "hacktivism" has become commonplace and will impact any company that runs afoul of hacker sentiment (Mark Gibbs, Gibbs Universal Industries).

* Wikileaks has exposed just how badly the government of the world's most powerful nation performs when it comes to information system security. We can expect a lot of sound and fury about new strategies and technologies to improve data security in military, defense, and other federal systems. It will signify nothing. Eventually the world will realize that the only path forward is transparency, trust, and adherence to higher values. But I doubt that will happen in 2011 (Stephen Cobb, CISSP).

* The private sector will continue to outpace the public sector in terms of information security standards because a) the private sector has always strived, out of necessity, to master the art of secure information sharing, and b) people and pocketbooks in the private sector can suffer painful consequences from security lapses (Stephen Cobb, CISSP).

* We will see a serious cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure emanating from either the People's Republic of China or from Eastern European criminal gangs. If the former, the purpose will be twofold: to test cyberattacks methods such as the Stuxnet worm which was almost certainly a live-fire field exercise by the U.S. and/or the Israeli cyberforces as a ["muscle flexing"] to gain diplomatic bargaining power in the growing contest of strength between the U.S. and China (M. E. Kabay, Associate Professor Information Assurance, School of Business & Management, Norwich University, Northfield, Vt.). 

The above is a first pass at figuring the IT security hot buttons for the coming year and Mich Kabay (provider of the last nugget) and I are looking to expand this exercise over the next few months with a more comprehensive and formal analysis of the issues. If you want to take part in this study, please sign up by sending a message to opinions@gibbs.com and we'll be in touch.

In the meantime, your comments to backspin@gibbs.com on these issues as well as those I've not covered are more than welcome. Let's hope that this turns out to be a Happy New Year.

Gibbs is reinventing his crystal ball in Ventura, Calif.

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The new face of personal computing

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