I was recently asked by CenturyLink to contribute an article for an ebook on predictions for business technology in the year 2020. The ebook “Business Technology 2020″ can be found on CenturyLink’s ThinkGig blog. You can also view it using the following link/bitly: http://bit.ly/1149RVV Below is my contribution to the ebook.
I was recently asked the question, “What will business technology look like in 2020?”
My first thought was, “That’s so far out into the future; there is no way to think that many years ahead.” Then I looked at the calendar and realized it was almost 2013, and that 2020 really wasn’t far down the road. I also realized my oldest daughter will be wrapping up college around 2020 and entering the workforce for the first time. So I decided to ask her what she thought it would look like.
My daughter’s first response was one of shock that in seven years she would be starting a career. She told me she thought people would just be using some kind of tablet for work, but a tablet a little bigger than what we use today. One that lets you do multiple things at once: be on a video call, edit a document, and look at a Web page. She also thought the cube mazes at many offices would go away because people would not need to be plugged into anything to do their work.
Though the musings of the future in the eyes of a 13-year-old are interesting, I have my own thoughts on what business technology will look like in seven years. If the past decade is any indication, we are in for a wild ride. I have often said that if my company’s revenue and operating income had grown over the past decade at the same rate as our data storage and bandwidth requirements, I would have retired early. My crystal ball shows that growth in data to still be going strong in 2020, which means a continued demand for more and faster storage, faster network speeds, and larger data circuits.
I have said before that I could see being the CIO of a company without a data center. I don’t think that we will be there by 2020, but it will certainly be closer to a reality. I envision a continued contraction in the size of corporate data centers and the continued expansion of computing capacity being delivered by third-party service providers. I recall five years ago worrying about whether the main data center we built would be large enough to handle our growth and physical consolidation of smaller satellite centers. As I walk through that data center now, I worry about what to do with all the space where racks full of servers once stood — servers that have now been virtualized and take up a small fraction of the physical space. The worry of having a too small data center has been replaced with the worry of having one that is too large. As we march toward 2020, server virtualization and X as a service — X being software, platform, infrastructure, or application — will continue to change the shape of data centers. There will be fewer servers, more network hardware, and less energy consumption.
When I look back at how much has changed with end user devices since I entered the workforce in the early 1990s, I can’t help but think that we will see that same pace and innovation over the next seven years. They will not have gone completely the way of the typewriter, but the install base of desktops and laptops will be reduced substantially by 2020. Tablets and smartphones will be the standard devices in the workplace, and I am sure there will be some not yet thought of device form factor that will be the hot new thing in 2020. Rest assured: There will still be people camping out in June 2020 to buy the iPhone 13. Much like my daughter, I also see the use of the traditional office phone, hard-wired data drops, and the conventional office cubicle slowly being phased out as we approach 2020. I might even dare say that for some businesses, the office as we know it today will cease to exist. The office will truly become wherever the employee happens to be, which will surely drive InfoSec professionals crazy.
So in summary, how do I see 2020? More data. More mobility. Smaller corporate data centers. I just hope that CEOs in 2020 realize they still need CIOs.