Outlook 2013 ... Even more interesting than 2012!

Gibbs reviews his predictions from last year and surveys the more than 400 predictions that he's been sent by IT professionals

"May you live in interesting times" -- often referred to as "the Chinese curse."

Whoooosh! You know what that sound was? That was the sound of 2012 passing into history and while the view of the past year in your rearview mirror may be in reasonably sharp focus, to clearly see what 2013 will bring you need me to corral the auguries, marshal the ghost of IT Future, and scour the industry.

A LOOK AHEAD: Read through all of Network World's Outlook 2013 package

Before we look forward let's look back and see how I did with [my predictions from last year?

I started with "Annoying stuff: Botnets, malware, hackers, distributed DoS attacks, spam, phishing." Yep, all of these were huge features of the 2012 IT landscape. General K.B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and chief at the Central Security Service (CSS), noted at a recent conference: "Symantec placed the cost of IP theft to the United States companies in $250 billion a year, global cybercrime at $114 billion annually ($388 billion when you factor in downtime), and McAfee estimates that $1 trillion was spent globally under remediation."

Annoying stuff in 2012 has to be scored as "true" and thus I get a point. One for one.

My prediction concerning Analytics and Big Data - that "All organizations will dig deeper into their data to understand the hows and whys of consumer behavior [and the] theory and practice of mining enormous data sets will continue to be explored and used for commercial purposes as companies try to identify consumer trends and find subtle correlations between consumers and their behaviors" - couldn't have been more true giving me another point.

As for my prediction that cloud stuff would be "even bigger than it was in 2011, and, from an enterprise viewpoint, even more problematic when it comes to security" definitely hit the nail on the head and my score increases again by one. Three for three.

I also predicted an analytics backlash because the "results of the fields of analytics and big data will start to really creep people out over 2012 and, while consumers will complain about privacy issues, nothing will be done because of the big money involved in being able to sell more, predict fraud, evaluate credit worthiness, and so on."

This prediction was true in so far as people who were paying attention to privacy issues did start to get really creeped out. It was stories such as Target identifying a teenager as pregnant and inadvertently ratting her out to her parents that underlined the risks ... but only if your understand what this all implies. Plus one, methinks.

My prediction concerning the consumerization of IT was spot on given that many of you have and continue to wrestle with this trend bringing my score to five for five.

Social networking becoming a vital source of consumer behavioral data proved to be true, and I accurately predicted that Facebook's IPO would be huge but the share price would eventually slump as the market realized that there wasn't much of a business model behind the curtain. That's two more points.

My prediction about increasing use of hacktivism was correct and the exploits of the group Anonymous increased in 2012 having a significant impact on both the US and foreign governments as well as big business. This brings my score to eight.

I argued that "Despite the FCC's rules that mandate 'hands off' wired services, the ISPs will keep trying to run their networks as they want and will come up with cunning ways to argue that they are, in fact, playing the game." I'll only give myself a half a point on this one on this one as not much happened but nothing much was resolved.

So, my predictions for last year were 8.5 out of 9 (Yay! Go, me!)

To get a broader read on the future, this year I've cast a wider net and asked anyone and everyone with any even vaguely cogent predictions (or just a particularly good snow globe) to chime in. As of this writing I have received over 400 predictions via an online form and at least 50 more via email.

So, what are the contributors predicting? There were several standout topics, with the runner-up being multifaceted concerns about security. Contributors painted a worrying picture for IT in the New Year with an enormous scope of threats and potentially biblical consequences. Problems identified included:

* More attacks along the lines of the recent Stuxnet infrastructure attacks. Leonid Shtilman, CEO, Viewfinity, predicts "local critical infrastructure attacks will become real. There have been a lot of stories about the potential for attacks on critical physical infrastructure, and now unfortunately the stage has been set for a real attack. Someone will shut down an area of a country, the electric or power grid for example. It's not just by chance that we have more customers in the energy industry -- there is a real call to action for more security around those communications networks. The fact that it's not happening today is simply because there aren't that many computer-literate terrorists. However just the way they've trained to become pilots, they're learning computer technology."

* A shortage of "white-hat" hackers. Manny Rivelo, executive vice president of security and strategic solutions, F5 Networks, says "the global shortage of white-hat IT security professionals will become acute. While this education and employment situation will likely correct itself over time, there is no evidence it will get better in the short term. Expect to see more automation and expect security functions to become easier to manage (so that non-security personnel can make the right changes)."

* And the death of malware detection. Tal Klein, senior director of products at Bromium says "detection as a mechanism for protection will shift from commodity to extinction. Detection, whether based on signatures or heuristics, the traditional methods of evaluating which vendor's information security technology is better than another's, has expired. No more signature arms races, where various tests are run that measure how good each program is at detecting malware. IT will realize next generation information and infrastructure attacks have become, for all intents and purposes, undetectable, and advanced persistent threats are targeting multiple vulnerabilities and engaging whitelisted vectors that prey on organizational structures and social relationships."

The problem of insider threats and mobile technology also came up many times.

Vincent Schiavo, CEO, DeviceLock, predicts that, "with the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players in the workplace, organizations are going to come under increasing pressure to address the need for comprehensive data leak prevention in 2013. A recent Ponemon study found that only 37% of serious data breach incidents are being caused by malicious outside hacking efforts. This means that 63% are being caused by authorized users."

Even though security was a big topic, the greatest number of predictions concerned the use of cloud technology and big data (and there was, of course, a huge intersection of these topics with security).

A significant increase in the use of private and hybrid clouds was predicted by several contributors.

Colin Jack, lead systems engineer, at Embotics, thinks that enterprises in 2013 "will opt for variety when it comes to cloud deployments, looking for the cost-efficiency and flexibility. When businesses are using hybrid cloud environments of both public and private clouds, IT must clearly weigh the benefits of the workloads against associated risks and cloud management costs."

The predictions about Big Data also heavily focused on usefulness and scope. One prognosticator says privately, "every phone and conference call, text chat exchange, or video and web collaboration session is a potential data stream to be captured and harvested for business value. Recording, transcribing, indexing and tagging communications will drive a new productivity boost from big data. Once organized, filtered and made searchable, contextual communications will start to become easier - much to the approval of users suffering from communications and information overload. Users will rely on the system to track what is relevant and current, and draw out previously hidden content and people associations to improve team performance and get more done."

That's a particularly interesting prediction because it parallels a trend we've seen in law enforcement and homeland security; a strategy of total surveillance - gathering as much data on everything and looking for patterns.

While this goal of total communications capture may indeed enhance productivity, the obvious corporate concern is that e-discovery in litigation or crime investigation could expose considerably more ostensibly confidential data than ever before. You can expect the federal government to approve of such corporate initiatives and to quietly promote them.

Beyond the security, big data, and cloud categories, the scope of the rest of the predictions was amazing. Mobile apps (and mobile in general) came up a lot, as did social networking, desktop applications, data center, open source, digital entertainment, storage technologies, virtual infrastructure, analytics, business intelligence and virtualization.

In fact, the range of topics and variety of predictions was so great I'm still digesting them all and I'll be making them available online for you to peruse, comment on, and see if you agree with each proposer's estimate of how likely each prediction is.

One thing is certain, if you thought 2012 was an interesting year, 2013 promises to be even more exciting, amazing and challenging than 2012. We do, indeed, live in interesting times. Happy New Year. I hope ...

Gibbs has his fingers crossed in Ventura, Calif. Your forecasts to backspin@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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