I spent much of December putting together a list of the biggest technology stories of 2004, only to have the biggest ones unfold all around me in the last few days before our year-end issue went to press.
IBM selling its PC business was a big deal, but so were the other acquisitions of last month. More than putting a cap on 2004, they helped put 2005 into better focus. As we embark on this new year, here are what I predict to be the biggest technology stories of 2005:
More merger mania. In the last three weeks, we saw Oracle conquer PeopleSoft, Sprint gobble up Nextel and Symantec buy Veritas. More acquisitions and consolidations in the software and services areas are on the horizon. On the heels of its Smarts acquisition late last year, look for EMC to continue to beef up its storage and content management software and services lines, which are driving much of its growth. We also should see consolidation in WLAN switching. And now that PeopleSoft is in the fold, well see if Oracle can be satisfied with being No. 2 behind Microsoft.
What a mesh. Wireless mesh networking is going to become a major buzzword in 2005. The technology already has made news. In November, Motorola acquired MeshNetworks, a startup specializing in what Mesh calls "ad hoc networking," which enables enterprises to deploy wide-area hot spots that can be expanded on demand by adding more access points. Watch for another startup, Firetide, to make more news in mesh network deployments this year.
Grid locked in. An architectural cousin to mesh networks, grid computing will continue its push into the enterprise. IBM is not the only big grid player anymore. Last month saw the announcement of Project MegaGrid from partners Oracle, EMC, Dell and Intel. Project MegaGrid promises to provide the platforms for automatic provisioning of computing resources as they are needed.
Mayberry RFID. Radio-frequency identification technology will also become a household concept in 2005, as retailer Wal-Mart plans to have RFID systems installed in as many as 450 stores by years end. It wont happen without support from suppliers, some of which are going along grudgingly. Privacy advocates are none too amused, either, but the momentum is there, and standards are shaping up. Late last month, the RFID standards body EPCglobal ratified the RFID Gen 2 standard, which will open the door for new hardware products. As Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson reports this week, Gen 2 is the next evolutionary step for RFID.
Really fixing cyber-security. When I wrote in October about fixing the cyber-security infrastructure, I received a lot of e-mail stating that cyber-terrorism shouldnt be that big a priority while we have soldiers in Iraq. Thats certainly a concern but not an excuse for failing to give the Department of Homeland Security and its National Cyber Security Division the funds needed to combat the ongoing problem of our vulnerable IT systems. While not being attacked—yet—by terrorists, the Internet and corporate networks are fighting a daily, losing battle against viruses, worms, spyware and spam, which is draining billions from the economy. If this is not a form of terrorism, I dont know what is. Cyber-security is an issue thats not going away.
Others to keep an eye on. Voice over IP will continue to grow, especially among consumers; open source and Linux will be in the news as the Free Software Foundation works to update the GNU General Public License; Microsoft will make progress toward "Longhorn," but dont be surprised if it gets delayed again; consumers will be under siege from marketers trying to get at them in any way possible, including via their cell phones; and legislatures will start looking at ways to curb abuse.
Embracing change. What does all this add up to? Continuing to rebound from the depths of 2001-2003, the pace of change in technology and business is accelerating. Companies should accept and embrace the change; IT managers and CIOs are going to be on the forefront of managing it. Heres to a happy and productive new year.
Scot Petersen can be reached at email@example.com.