Where Is i-Technology Going in 2004?
"So where is it all going?" It's the question every technology sage is always asked, and yet, of course, it's the question that's the most difficult to answer.
Here at JDJ we decided nonetheless to ask a welter of the brightest and most prescient i-technology professionals what they are seeing, what they think the individual pieces in 2004 are, and how those pieces fit into the bigger picture.
Java features prominently, Web services (and associated technologies) looms large, and SOAs (service-oriented architectures) make their debut, building on the Web services buzz but taking us to the kind of loosely coupled, asynchronous, message-oriented paradigms much favored by enterprise architects.
In these globalized times, as the three E's - Excitement, Expertise, and Energy - return to the technology market, it is apparent from the comments that follow that many of the innovations of the last few years are expected at last to bear fruit in 2004, and that the industry's stakeholders - software vendors, developers, technology investors, and users alike - are looking forward to the year ahead with renewed vigor.
What are the common themes that our selected seers identified? We'll let the respondents speak for themselves.
We hope you enjoy what they have to say.
Jeremy Allaire, cofounder with his brother "J.J." of Allaire Corporation, which later merged with Macromedia - and now Technologist in Residence at General Catalyst Partners, Boston - says that "We're in the midst of a new convergence of trends that are resulting in what I call Internet 2.0."
Allaire continues: "Like the trends that converged to form the first-generation Internet (commodity PCs, ubiquitous and affordable connectivity to IP networks, prevalence of LANs in corporations, widely available design tools, the introduction of HTTP/ HTML and the Web browser, etc.), these trends are mutually reinforcing, creating an accelerating dynamic."
Allaire's top 10 trends, those he says he's "watching closely and that appear to continue gaining ground," are in Table A.
'Repurposing' Applications, Not Inventing Them
Though not a venture capitalist like Allaire, David Litwack - as president and chief executive officer of SilverStream Software, now a senior vice president with Novell and a member of its Worldwide Management Committee - has a wealth of experience in Internet technologies of every stripe. With complete responsibility for Novell's Web Application Development Products, Litwack is well positioned to survey the present and future i-technology scene.
"Too much is made of the specific standards associated with Web services," Litwack observes. "While these are important, it misses the forest for the trees. The key trend is that we are building fewer and fewer pure new applications and instead are increasingly repurposing what we have."
The mechanism for doing this, Litwack explains, is "to virtualize, to create composite or logical applications in front of our physical systems or, in short, to create services."
These services, he says, may sometimes be SOAP/WSDL based and generally will be XML. "But the principle remains the same. Create a logical data source that is constructed from one or more physical systems that represent a real business function as perceived by some audience. The effect is to present to the user an application that looks like it was developed just for them - everything they need to do their job and no more than they need."
That, according to Litwack, is the future. His other, more specific predictions can be read in Table B.
Outsourcing in the U.S. Will Fade
From open source to outsourcing, Adam Kolawa, the charismatic and forward-looking president of Parasoft, believes that no theme will be more important in 2004 than "BPO" - business process outsourcing.
"In about a year," predicts Kolawa, "companies will start to see that outsourcing is not working for them as they had hoped.
"Yes," he says, "there's a scare within the industry right now and developers are afraid of losing their jobs, but companies will see that the quality of code developed offshore isn't getting any better and they will end up spending just as much to fix the code as they would have if it was developed by their own team."
There is, nonetheless, another side to the story: "I have had several encounters with other U.S. companies," Kolawa observes, "and I think the productivity of developers is staggeringly low."
He has seen statistics from which it appears that, in the U.S., developers are responsible for about 5,000 -10,000 lines of code each - "which is about a factor of 10 too low to really be productive," he says.
"Something has to change," Kolawa adds, "because if they continue to produce so little, these developers will be out of jobs. The rate of pay developers receive doesn't justify the amount of code they produce."
But BPO, Kolawa insists, will turn out not to be the answer. He offers an example to back up this prediction. "One architect I met recently had a team of 32 programmers working on 100,000 lines of code. They worked with a company in India who claimed to be CMM Level 5 certified. However, when they got their code back it crashed. Apparently the company in India didn't understand the specs."
'Client/Service' Is What's Next
Mitchell Kertzman makes some very interesting prognostications, as befits someone with an almost unique background.
The former CEO of Sybase and co-creator of PowerBuilder is now, in true gamekeeper-turned-poacher fashion, a venture capitalist. From his position as a partner with Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, in San Francisco, he looked toward the new year for us.
"My new view on the industry from the venture capital seat is absolutely fascinating," says Kertzman. "The rumbling about the end of innovation in technology is certainly not true, particularly in software."
Kertzman's thoughts on 2004 and beyond are in Table C. "There are a couple of broad technologies," he says, "that I think will see lots of excitement in 2004."
Like Kertzman, Rajiv Gupta is one of the leading lights of the technology world. Now CTO of Confluent Software, Gupta is the serial innovator once responsible for HP's "E-Speak" - back in 1999, which was years before its time,
making him a perfect choice when it comes to looking forward.
As far as Gupta is concerned, he believes that the technology slump is over for now. "But that does not mean that we will not see continued belt-tightening," he adds.
"We will see more discretionary spending on i-technology products and services," Gupta continues, "but we will also see relentless outsourcing.
"In other words, we'll see further belt-tightening in some areas such as proprietary Unix servers and possibly even the needless upgrade cycles of some software such as MS Office, but we will see a willingness to spend more on
software to provide visibility and control in operating an enterprise."
The remainder of Gupta's observations are in Table D.
Weblogging and RSS
Tim Bray, as co-inventor of XML, is someone who knows how to set his watch five minutes ahead of other people's.
Not surprisingly, then, XML-based RSS feeds appeal to him, to the extent that he says, without hesitation: "Clearly the most culturally important thing going on at the moment is the explosion of Weblogging and syndication technology."
The two trends are "related but certainly separable," says Bray. "The commercial impact of all this is just impossible to predict," he continues, "but the world in 2005 won't look at all like it did in 2001, and syndication [during 2004] is going to be a big part of the difference."
Some of the other predictions Bray has for 2004 and beyond can be found in Table E.
Massive Marketing Spending by MS
Javalobby founder Rick Ross was a natural expert to turn to
for a forward-looking exercise like this. Ross can always be relied upon to keep focus, and in Java terms that means keeping an eye on "the competition" - and sure enough he observes "Microsoft will continue to spend more on marketing than most of their 'competitors' generate in total revenue."
Ross is genuinely more concerned about Sun though than about Microsoft, as you can see from his various predictions in Table F.
Other Java Voices, Other Java Views
Another voice we naturally wanted to hear is that of Vijay Tella, chief strategy officer, Oracle Application Server (see Table G). We also invited the man considered by many to be "the father of XML," Sun's Jon Bosak (Table H) - whose answers naturally included a reference to his latest baby, UBL - and Wireless Business & Technology's editor-in-chief, Bill Ray (Table I).
'Open Source Will Become a Safe Choice'
One of the best-known "new kids on the Java block" is Marc Fleury, who more formally is the CEO of the JBoss Group. He was one of the many we consulted on the burning question of whether or not open source/Linux poses an economic threat to proprietary software.
A Final Thought for 2004
Let's give the last word though to Java advocate Rick Ross, founder of Javalobby. In response to JDJ's question, "Who in your opinion is the person of the year in the i-technology world and why?," he stated:
The obvious answer to this is "The Unknown Developer," who fights and wins the technical battles without fanfare, much as "The Unknown Soldier" did. I'm tired of the idol-making and ego-stroking in this industry. It has always been the quiet, unknown developer who selects which technologies will succeed or fail and makes the world better for users everywhere.
Development managers and developers alike, JDJ suspects, would say "Amen" to that.
Enjoy your own 2004!