CEO Blog: My Top Five Predictions for 2013
I have a number of friends who are either industry analysts or financial analysts. I think some of them are really, really good. Claudia Imhoff and the work coming out of the Boulder BI Brain Trust is certainly insightful, although at times more candid than some would like. But that's what they do, and it has great value. I think Curt Monash has great insights. Peter Goldmacher from Cowen and Company was really in front of the Big Data wave, and does a great job. They all look at trends and are forever making predictions, public or not, and they are all good at what they do. Me? Not so much. I pay close attention to the markets we are involved in, but as for predictions, I rate myself more as a novice. So I guess this is my way of a disclaimer that much of what I am about to say can be taken with a grain of salt, but it made me think. And if it makes you think, that's never bad. So here goes…
One: The Internet of Things will become the New New Thing. Many people would suggest it already has. But in fact, the amount of money and resources currently being put into this is expected to pale in comparison to where it will be by 2015. For a while, the most visible sign of this was the IBM Smarter Planet initiative. Now go out on YouTube and search for "Internet of Things" and see what you get. It is clear that this is not a fad. It is also clear that the terms used still vary, but are beginning to converge. In addition to the "Internet of Things," you will hear "Industrial Internet," "Machine to Machine" or M2M, the Semantic Web and more. And while the key names leading some of these initiatives for some of the more heavily invested companies or industry groups, like Tim Berners-Lee of W3C will tout the nomenclature of their main affiliation (in his case, the Semantic Web), they are all converging around the central thesis that we are moving to a world of connected devices where auto-generated information will become pervasive, and the world as we know it will change. And while people have begin to talk about this, my prediction is that by the end of 2013, everyone will be talking about it.
Two: Machine-Generated Data will become more universally recognized as a key fuel for the future. Now, some may question my objectivity here as Infobright is really a platform for Machine-Generated Data. In that sense, I plead guilty. And yet, as a function of what we do, I would argue I spend a disproportionate amount of my time focused on this topic, and as such, I'm in a position to recognize this trend ahead of some. This trend is as logical as any basic mathematical progression. If A = B, and B = C, then A = C. If Machine-Generated Data - the data which is generated (and often consumed) by devices that will enable the Internet of Things - and The Internet of Things comes into its own in an undeniable, widespread way, then Machine-Generated Data will become universally recognized as the key fuel for this wave.
Three. Smart Grids will amp up. Granted, we have been hearing this for a while. Green this, Smart that. The buzz "from the left" was all about eco-friendly renewable energy sources and vastly improved transmission and distribution systems. The buzz "from the right" was that "green initiatives" are over-hyped and over-rated. I am not weighing in here, other than to say that most of these initiatives require large-scale infrastructure investments and, as such, are logically going to take longer. But here's the thing. As the broader, Internet of Things market ramps with more widespread appeal, it attracts press, talent, resources, and money. Follow the money. It's what some call the "shiny penny" syndrome. People are naturally attracted to the "shiny penny." In the mid- to late-90s, the shiny penny was anything with a dot com label; in the mid-2000s, it was any Saas company. Going back to prediction one, it looks like it is, with good reason, becoming the Internet of Things or M2M (or the Semantic Web), along with "Big Data" with non-traditional database platforms used for specific use cases. Smart Grids are a very specific use case. It is not, by the way, renewable energy. It is managing the transmission and distribution of energy (and more) using a combination of sophisticated sensors working in conduction with mobile communication technology. That also largely describes the Internet of Things, and Smart Grids are a prime example of that. So I think people and organizations are hearing the call to action, and the result will be a dramatic increase in efforts around Smart Grids.
Four. Mobile Health may not be prime time, but will move beyond a glimmer in the eyes of a few startups. Mobile Health can take many forms, almost all are really cool. The ramp I expect to see in 2013 is also due to the rise in the Internet of Things and related technology to enable these services, and the money that stands to be made from these initiatives. If you Google "Mobile Health" or "Smart Health Technology" or other variations on this theme, you will see a variety of use cases ranging from senior-living monitoring tied to social networking to diabetic monitoring systems up to and including sensors embedded into underwear (held close the the skin by the elastic) which can activate a bluetooth link based on threshold alerts. Really, really cool stuff. And this will save a lot of money, and quite possibly, lives. And other examples run far and wide.
Five. Big Data does become mainstream, with wholesale changes with the dominant players. IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, SAP, EMC and to some extent Dell, Red Hat, and others will, because of many of the trends cited above, leave 2013 looking very different than they start it. There are many cool NoSQL startups that have next to no revenues but a growing base of followers and customers and a bright future. Companies with low revenue but high valuations have that for a reason. The momentum in Big Data is growing. A quick read of some of the great reports from the analysts I mentioned above provide great insight here. And while the conventional wisdom might suggest that this trend will eat into the bigger players revenues and margins, I have a different view. The impactions of Big Data are profound, for certain. It is absolutely true that Big Data solutions (like MongoDB, for example) could replace some instances of traditional installed databases. However, the big companies like Oracle and IBM are big for a reason. They have exceptionally large installed bases with exceptionally large revenues tied to that base and so much to lose by not paying close attention to this phenomenon. And these are not run by stupid people. IBM was quick to embrace Big Data, and clearly the Internet of Things. Oracle cannot afford not to engage, and they are. Same for Microsoft, EMC, and SAP. Dell is clearly looking to increase their margins by expanding their software efforts. This is no secret, and they seem intent on moving forward, and not as constrained by legacy database revenues that might make this more difficult for them. Red Hat is is a great place, as much of the Big Data wave is via open source offerings, and they cracked the commercialization code on open source. In short, this prediction is a function of the basic idea of following the money trail. This is where the money will be. As such, the big players will drive Big Data into the mainstream, because the have to. It just makes sense.
I could go on, but this is a blog, not an eBook. I will admit that most of my predictions are probably obvious to anyone who flows the industry. In that sense, it's more of a commentary than a set of predictions. But more than anything, it is a sea change in the evolution of technology. And in my mind, it's really, really cool.