Thanks to cloud computing along with other disruptive technologies such as mobility, M2M and big data analytics, workers will have more and better information at their fingertips, allowing them to make smarter decisions faster in 2014.
"We are experiencing the democratization of enterprise technology," says David Small, chief platform officer of Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "Mirroring what has happened in consumer technology, enterprise technology users look for services to be delivered on demand, to a time and place of their choosing and in the way that they want. In 2014, enterprise success will be measured by how well organizations are able to use technology to meet user expectations and harness individual innovation."
This, of course, means 2014 will continue the trend of putting pressure on the CIO and the IT shop to transform, says John Considine, CTO of Verizon Terremark (formerly founder and CTO of CloudSwitch).
In 2014, Considine says, the two roles of the CIO and IT function will be thrown into increasingly sharp relief: the CIO and IT organization as an operations arm on the one hand and the IT organization as innovator that delivers new solutions and technologies on the other.
"These two roles must exist simultaneously for the CIO and the IT organization, providing the basis so the business can innovate, be agile and go forward," Considine says. "That's going to be the center of how IT functions in 2014."
The cloud is no longer an "if" for many businesses, it's a given, says Tony DiBenedetto, founder of technology services provider and cloud solutions specialists Tribridge. Most businesses already work in the cloud, or store data there, or deploy applications from the cloud, he says, and as a result the cloud will be the major driver of IT spending and decision making for the foreseeable future.
What will the coming year hold for the cloud? Here are 10 predictions for 2014.
1. Further Segmentation, Greater Education
Right now, DiBenedetto says, customers are just beginning to understand the differences between public, private, and hybrid cloud deployments. In 2014, the market will see a greater segmentation and better education about which type of cloud works best for individual businesses, and the types of workloads for which each variety of cloud works best.
"In 2014, I predict we'll see savvier consumers as figure out which workloads are best for different clouds," he says. "Demarcation is going to go further as organizations determine the importance of business-critical workloads, and consider their security. CIOs will ask themselves, 'Do I want to share my database and infrastructure, in the cloud, with other companies? Am I willing to take the risk of slower performance, or server hassles if their workloads affect the performance of a shared cloud?' If the answer is no, then they'll move to private clouds. If the answer is yes, then they'll pick a public cloud, but maybe they'll use that for less critical applications," DiBenedetto says.
2. Human Resources and Marketing Take Charge of Tech Innovation
Traditionally, when departments wanted to adopt and deploy new technologies, they had to go through the IT department, DiBenedetto says. Human resources and marketing department heads were often at the bottom of the technology priority list, and had to develop sophisticated ways to sell their needs to the IT department. With the cloud, however, that process is completely turned on its head, giving HR and marketing, for example, just as much purchasing power as the rest of the business, he says.
"The cloud really blows up the idea of IT as a gatekeeper to innovation," he says. "In 2014 and beyond, HR and marketing are going to be a much bigger priority as businesses try to address the talent gap and the enhanced focus on user experience, and now they'll be able to take the initiatives to solve those problems themselves by researching, buying, deploying, and managing applications and solutions in the cloud."
3. The CIO Becomes a Cloud Enabler
As IT changes and moves away from the traditional 'gatekeeper' role, so too must the role of the CIO change, DiBenedetto says. The cloud has put tremendous pressure on CIOs to reinvent themselves and their role in order to remain relevant. If they want to remain innovative and drive a cutting-edge organization, he says, they must educate their teams, help them get to the cloud faster, and be on the front lines of innovation.
"To stay successful and relevant, CIOs have to embrace the cloud. They have to drive change management, challenge current and outdated processes, and knowing that they're going to have to do things differently," DiBenedetto says.
4. Small Companies Have Access to Big Software
The cloud has democratized the software and applications procurement process to the point where even the tiniest company can have access to game-changing solutions, DiBenedetto says. And that shift has opened up a new wave of innovation and competition for legacy application providers like Oracle, SAP, and other huge software companies. That democratization will continue in 2014, he says.
"Almost anyone can put an application on the internet now, provide services and support via the cloud without the backend infrastructure that was previously needed," he says. "These smaller firms won't compete based on platform, but the heated battles will occur in the niche application market," he says.
5. Shift to Application-centric Software Development
Finally, the move to an application-centric approach to software development will gain even more ground, DiBenedetto says. The cloud has created a market environment where less emphasis is placed on hardware and much more on software, and larger vendors are going to be forced by consumers to create these types of solutions, he says.
"Again, the cloud is enabling more innovation, and we're going to move toward 'solutions as a service,'" DiBenedetto says. "Users are going to be in control the use of technology based on what they need on a daily basis, whereas before, technology and innovation were controlled from the top down. Large vendors said, 'You need this software program to do your job,' but now, this is going to be driven from the bottom up. We've waited for this - and needed this, for almost thirty years," he says.
6. IT Increasingly Decentralizes
In 2014, the combination of cloud, mobility and M2M technologies will put pressure on IT to further decentralize as IT becomes core to every business function, Verizon predicts. IT will work more closely with individual business units and focus on developing tools for seamless process enablement that empower employees and customers.
Verizon predicts that the C-suite, lines of business and staff functions will increasingly take the lead role in engaging and deploying in the cloud as a result of the deployment speed, flexibility, control, cost value and big data analysis advantages they see.
As a result, IT will be integrated into financial performance planning and the lines between the IT department and finance will continue to blur as technology becomes the valued enabler rather than the end game.
"The consumerization of IT, the decentralization of IT, the adoption of cloud—they're all very closely linked," Considine says. "Cloud is attractive for the financials, but other the last few years we've refined that a bit to really capture the notion of agility."
7. The Cloud Delivers Software on Tap
While the cloud already provides the capability to rapidly build and deploy applications, better technology and faster response times will come into focus in 2014, providing even greater ability for organizations to get the resources and technology they want, on demand, where they want to get it, Considine says.
He notes that 2014 will see the cloud deliver truly enterprise class capabilities with higher value and more complex software and software building blocks available on demand.
"We see 2014 really driving that forward," he says. "You will be able to build very complex apps, very serious apps in the cloud."
8. Providers Add Gravity to the Cloud
In 2014, where mobile is the norm and rich media content is a given, the cloud flexes its muscles as the location where growing data volumes can be stored, accessed and analyzed on demand, according to Verizon. The company says adding software and services to the cloud will be a key focus for cloud providers as they duke it out for customers. New integrated cloud offerings will increasingly enable mashups of fixed and mobile networks; systems, ideas and solutions; people and things; and intelligence and information.
9. The Cloud Gets Intelligent
Organizations are increasingly focusing on leveraging their data to enhance decision-making, drive revenue, reduce costs and improve customer experiences, and 2014 will see cloud providers move strongly to support their customers in these efforts, Considine says.
In particular, as data gets even more distributed in terms of both consumers and devices, the notion of transforming data in the cloud, and not tying it back to your corporate data center, becomes more and more attractive.
"We think a lot about analytics and the need that all businesses have for analytics," he adds. "We see a lot of internal usage and across the entire industry the notion that businesses can mine very useful information from the vast data sets they have is a big deal."
He notes that providers will put forth a range of offerings in 2014 that range from the building blocks of analytics solutions to full turnkey services.
10. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Comes Into Its Own
M2M communication is poised to change our world in a big way, and the cloud is set to play a big role in that transformation in 2014.
"When you start thinking about the so-called Internet of Things, the number of connected devices already greatly exceeds the number of people in the world," Considine says. "How do you deal with that? How do you manage those devices over time? That becomes a problem of distribution. How do you collect or concentrate the data and how do you push that data out into the world? You need a lot of technology to do that. The cloud provides some very powerful capabilities."
Verizon says that the combination of ubiquitous 4G LTE wireless service and M2M solutions as a service—on demand, over the Internet—along with strong security will help organizations decide that it's time to embrace M2M.
Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Big Data, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.