It was the best of times for Mozilla and other open-source applications and the worst of times for InfiniBand, personal privacy and dial-up (thank goodness). This according to eWeek Labs analysts, who looked back on the year that was as it pertains to the year that will be. What to watch in 2003? Among other things, Gigabit Ethernet, event-based and government-mandated security systems, and the burgeoning growth of wireless and IM—whether corporate IT likes it or not.
ANALYST: Cameron Sturdevant
MOST IMPRESSIVE: With Version 2003, Microsoft SMS overcame its shortcomings. In previous versions, SMS software metering scheme was needlessly hobbling, and it lacked checkpoint restart to support incremental distribution of software packages. Version 2003 delivered all that and more, allowing SMS to earn the title (after many, many years) of desktop management system.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The rush by the federal government to collect personal data so that domestic spying can resume on a level not seen since the FBIs COINTELPROs started in the late 50s. Personal privacy—and the ability to keep our private lives just that—are disappearing at about the same rate as the ozone layer. Customer privacy for everyone needs to be brought back as an expectation in the online world.
MOST USEFUL: Altiris Client Management Suite, the newly spun-off LANDesk and bread-and-butter products like them. These are the quiet IT workhorse products that make getting new PCs ready for use a breeze. These products also make short work of recycling computer assets.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: The Distributed Management Task Force, much to my chagrin. The standards body certainly is not going away, but it has fallen victim to the IT budget crunch and the fact that most desktop management systems are good enough to get by without the standards work under way at the DMTF.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: The failure of the oft-predicted tech recovery to materialize. Although Web services, the Microsoft antitrust proceedings, falling chip prices and new productivity tools all made a stir this year, the biggest technology story was the incredible shrinking job market.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: NetForensics, eSecurity, Intellitactics and Tivoli, among others, provide a means to process reams of network traffic information to pinpoint how and where security problems are likely affecting network performance or compromising data integrity. In addition, watch for significant advances in VOIP.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: Last year, I said IT managers should beware of vendors attempting to sell products by exploiting fears caused by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They did, and corporate IT still needs to stay focused on bottom-line productivity. Dont confuse government spending on security with a useful trend in corporate IT.
ANALYST: Jim Rapoza
MOST IMPRESSIVE: When an open-source application developed by a few authors and maintained mainly by one guy beats the pants off million-dollar competitors in pretty much every way, Im impressed. The Bricolage project provides highly capable and extremely customizable Web content management capabilities, suitable for running even the biggest and most complex Web sites.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: For many companies, 2002 was a very bad year. Unfortunately, rather than improving their products or changing to compete more effectively, many businesses turned to enforcement of shaky patents as a way to generate income. From claims on images to online shopping to hyperlinking itself, these patent squabbles not only hurt other businesses but also could stifle innovation.
MOST USEFUL: The long-awaited official release of the open-source Mozilla Web browser brought the joy back to Web surfing. Highly customizable and with a host of features that actually serve the user rather than the company that owns the software, Mozilla has made Web surfing a much more efficient experience.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: HailStorm, dead. Magic Carpet, dead. Liberty Alliance, looking a little pale. Passport, looking OK but still not playing well with others. All this combined means that a broad platform for unique ID management, which so many vendors were pushing for earlier in 2002, is further away than ever. And most businesses are OK with that.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: The biggest threat to IT in 2002 wasnt viruses, worms or terror-backed hacker groups; it was government intervention—from legislation that would criminalize basic security research to Hollywood-backed bills that would cripple all future hardware and software.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: In 2002, the U.S. government established a set of system configuration security guidelines for government workers and departments—and anyone who, or any company that, works with these entities. More of these guidelines will be established, forcing default security mandates for many businesses.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: Argus PitBull trusted OS is still a great product, but the company itself has turned out to be a big embarrassment. I said last year that PKI would slip off the radar, and its pretty much gone now. And my prediction about Web services was right on: The focus this past year has been on B2B Web services and not on the flashy consumer-oriented services typically highlighted in vendor demos.
ANALYST: Timothy Dyck
MOST IMPRESSIVE: Microsofts .Net Framework, released in February, will be looked upon as an important milestone leading the industry toward safer, more secure and more productive programming tools. .Net Framework has a new run-time engine, class libraries and APIs that allow it to compete successfully with Java, despite that platforms maturity. Plus, the clean-room, open-source Mono implementation of .Net Framework is expected to be complete by mid-2003, making .Net Framework Unix-friendly and providing a choice of implementations.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The bedraggled end of the Microsoft antitrust case left us with an emasculated decision and a sour taste in my mouth. The decision was not a fair redress for Microsofts anti-competitive behavior, nor will it spur greater competition in the future. Microsoft is at its best when it competes in creating the best implementation of an open specification, not when it relies on its tightly controlled protocols and Windows bundling advantage to squeeze yet more blood out of its installed base.
MOST USEFUL: Mozilla finally shipped, and its a wonderful Web browser. I use it constantly. The Windows-compatible file server Samba also made great strides this year with its new ability to act as a domain controller for Windows 2000 clients and support for Windows printing APIs. The quiet project keeps producing high-quality code, delivering stronger features and avoiding security potholes.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: Combo phone-PDA devices. (Sorry, Handspring.) The higher cost of the combo devices and the momentum of the stand-alone cell phone market will keep cell phones and PDAs separate, connected (by those who want to do so) through Bluetooth. I said last year that WAP was toast, and the bread is getting steadily browner. Also, the aging troika of AIX, HP-UX and HPs Tru64 Unix are on their first “going” of “going, going, gone,” to be replaced by Linux.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: Actually, three stories top my list: The leap in security awareness among IT organizations provides a welcome emphasis on doing what needs to be done in any case; the continued soft economy, which left many IT workers without jobs or caused them to leave the industry entirely; and the Microsoft trial. I hope the first factor is with us longer than the second is as we move into 2003.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: Look for continuing organic growth of Web services. Tool support is now ubiquitous, and as databases continue to move rapidly toward XML, Web services will follow. In addition, 802.11b continues to surprise. Heres another organic phenomenon that keeps us connected when and where we want to be. VPNs are ubiquitous and effective and a perfect complement to public wireless networks. My prediction: In North America, 3G will be VOIP over 802.11b.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: I talked about the value of application firewalls that use trusted OS concepts to enforce kernel-level security controls. The concept is no less attractive to me this year and, indeed, is needed more than ever. However, it still hasnt moved out of niche territory. The technology has to be part of the base OS before ISVs will get on board, and that will take a while. The Linux 2.6 kernel will have the beginnings (but just the beginnings) of a trusted OS framework in it, making it the first mainstream server OS to incorporate some of these ideas into a mass-market product.
ANALYST: Peter Coffee
MOST IMPRESSIVE: Having pulled off one miracle by migrating Mac users to a completely new processor architecture, Apple has made it look even easier to replace the entire system software layer with the Unix-derived Mac OS X. Software developers who had abandoned the Mac are coming back, significant Mac adoptions are on the rise and Apples excellence in hardware design continues to make this a computing platform worthy of enterprise consideration.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Intels Lagrande and Microsofts Palladium attack the essence of the PC—a universal machine, capable of doing anything that one can write software to describe or build an interface to control—and threaten to turn the PC into a harem eunuch for an oligopoly of pay-per-use content vendors and channels. Legislators have likewise been too quick to accommodate the demands of deep-pocketed content creators.
MOST USEFUL: Web-based e-mail access, letting me do pretty much anything from pretty much anywhere, was on my list in this position last year and has yet to be displaced. Joining Web-based e-mail on my top tier, though, is the DSL connection that I finally installed—plus a Symantec firewall before I went home that night.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: One reason for the bargain price of FireWire hard disks is their displacement on the store shelves by USB 2.0 devices—even though USB 2.0, despite its higher gross data rate, performs worse than FireWire on high-volume data transfer tasks. Heres hoping that continued support from video equipment makers, not to mention Apple, will combine to preserve a FireWire hardware market.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: Three to five years from now, well look back and say without hesitation that Microsoft took its cue from its easy escape in the courts this year to embark on aggressive expansion into entertainment and e-commerce technologies. Whats yet to be seen is whether IT buyers, not to mention consumers, will resign themselves to one-party rule.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: The quality and capability of nonproprietary software are finally catching up to that of more costly traditional choices. This could be a year in which everything from the desktop and server operating system to the ubiquitous office productivity suite become newly competitive markets, with even handhelds using Linux—and with anything else in server roles requiring cost justification.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: I said last year that PCs as weve known them—legacy ports and all—would become less important as other devices and other ways of delivering application function took center stage. I didnt mean that people should stop buying PCs entirely, but it looks as if thats what people thought I was telling them to do. Sorry, everybody, its my fault. But HP, fortunately, refused to believe my warnings that its Compaq merger would bog down: Congratulations may be due next year, if not quite yet.
ANALYST: Francis Chu
MOST IMPRESSIVE: The advent of Serial ATA has turned the IDE technologies bounded on desktop systems for so many years into something new and exciting. Serial ATA has revolutionized desktop storage and will soon be able to compete with SCSI in enterprise applications.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Blade server offerings this year, with their limited management and provisioning capabilities. That said, the future is still bright for blades: In the upcoming year, well see more powerful multiprocessor offerings based on Xeon and Itanium chips.
MOST USEFUL: Neoteris Instant Virtual Extranet provides companies with a better way to Web-enable enterprise applications securely and effortlessly over traditional VPN solutions.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: Dial-up remote access has been steadily replaced by more robust and manageable VPN solutions. Companies are also using new tools to Web-enable applications for their remote clients, making dial-up access obsolete.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: The settlement of the Microsoft antitrust trial is the definitive tech story of 2002, but security continues to be on the top of many IT managers minds.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: Instant messaging will be on the rise, as big vendors bring their enterprise-class IM systems onto the market. And new standards will enable corporate managers to better manage and control employee IM usage across the board.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: Last year, I stated the need for wireless security products and espoused blade servers. The blade server market is growing—albeit at a snails pace—but practical security in the wireless space is still far off.
ANALYST: Jason Brooks
MOST IMPRESSIVE: Open-source alternatives to key business applications—such as Mozilla for Web browsing, OpenOffice.org for office productivity, and Evolution for e-mail and PIM chores—enable users to get work done without those pesky entangling licensing restrictions. These software advances have set the table for Linux on the mainstream corporate desktop.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: I was hoping to see more activity in the area of Internet-connected mobile devices and 2.5G wireless data services in 2002. With the slowed tech economy, however, it wasnt surprising to see demand and development stall in a product class viewed by many as gadgetry. Lower device and network access costs should give this space a boost next year, however.
MOST USEFUL: Ive been impressed with the growth of open-source content management systems such as PHPNuke and ezPublish. These products significantly lower the barrier to publishing data and collaborating online.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: Weve come to expect and demand a live Internet connection as part of our computing experience. Handheld computers and other mobile devices that lack this connectivity will continue to fade into unimportance, usurped by others that grant access to e-mail and corporate data.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: The Microsoft antitrust case is closed (mostly), and while the result wasnt to everyones liking, its served to place the tech world on notice: If were to have an open, competitive computing platform moving forward, it cant be based on a proprietary operating system.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: Desktop Linux wont change the world or pull the rug out from under Windows this year, but itll make some definite waves. Watch for Linux desktop growth to begin in school and government sites in the United States and other countries.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: Last year (as in the year before), I waved the flag for Bluetooth. The short-distance wireless technology maintained steady but slower-than-Id-expected growth. Hope springs eternal, however, and Im looking forward to snipping more wires in 2003—provided that Bluetooth begins shipping by default on more mobile phones.
ANALYST: Henry Baltazar
MOST IMPRESSIVE: Apples Xserve successfully blends the power of Unix with the usability of Mac OS X 10.2 into a neat little 1U (1.75-inch) server. Apple was late to the server market, but it used the time wisely, making design choices that other vendors shied away from. One example is Apples embrace of ATA-based hard drives, which not only lower storage costs but also allow higher storage densities per disk than the SCSI disks usually found in servers.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Despite much hype and a sizable amount of industry support, the Itanium 2 didnt make major waves in 2002. I expect things to turn around somewhat for Intels 64-bit processor in 2003, with the release of Windows .Net and applications that will take advantage of the Itanium platform. The Itanium 2 did squeeze into the scientific computing market, together with Linux, but so far it has not garnered a significant amount of market share.
MOST USEFUL: In tests designed to develop a high-speed backup infrastructure (2 terabytes backed up in less than 1 hour)—working with Veritas using its NetBackup software and StorageTek hardware—I learned that a steep technology curve must be climbed to create large-scale backups within acceptable downtime windows.
SLIPPING OFF THE RADAR: InfiniBand lost momentum during the past few years, as server vendors focused most of their development efforts on the blade server market. Expect to see InfiniBand in the supercomputing and clustering markets, but predictions of the technology dominating the server world should not be made for several years, if ever.
YEARS BIGGEST TECH STORY: The volatile mix of government and security was a hot topic again this year. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what types of laws are passed to ensure the protection of government data and how future laws may affect how we manage IT infrastructures.
WHAT TO WATCH IN 2003: 10 Gigabit Ethernet was one of my technologies to watch from last year. Things will only get more eventful for the technology in 2003, as more products designed to take advantage of it are released. 10 Gigabit Ethernet will be used primarily to link switches, but as IP storage solutions continue to improve, expect storage vendors to take advantage of this speedy networking technology.
LEVEL OF PRESCIENCE LAST YEAR: I wrote a column last year on the potential benefits of ATA RAIDs. More products have emerged in the disk-to-disk backup space since then, but so far only one server vendor—Apple—has pushed this technology choice. Expect to see more products in 2003 in the near-line and archival storage market, while ATA solutions continue to chip away at SCSIs low-end market space.