Gartner's top 10 technology trends for 2015: All about the cloud

Gartner analysts suggest you keep a close eye on the items listed in its latest trend report. Michael Kassner examines the technologies on the list and finds a common thread: cloud. 
Since 2007, Gartner has been predicting the top strategic technology trends for the coming year -- not an easy task considering the volatility of the IT market. David Cearley, Gartner vice president and fellow who analyzes business and technology trends, has been involved with this research project from the beginning. "We have identified the top ten technology trends that organizations cannot afford to ignore in their strategic planning processes," he said. "This does not necessarily mean adoption and investment in all the trends at the same rate, but companies should look to make deliberate decisions about them during the next two years."
In this year's report, Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015, the analysts describe their focus this way: "Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technologies impact the organization's long-term plans, programs and initiatives."
Cearley suggests that three overarching themes surfaced in the 2015 report:
  • Merging real and virtual worlds
  • Advent of intelligence everywhere
  • Technical impact of the digital business shift
There is an interesting long-term trend forming as well. Inspecting Gartner's picks for the past three years and its choices for 2015 (links to each year's report are at the bottom of this article), one notices that every year cloud services play an increased role in which trends are selected.
Table A
In fact, a fair assumption might be that all 10 of the 2015 trends rely on some type of interaction with cloud services. See if you agree; here are Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends for 2015.

1: Computing everywhere (first year on list)

Mobile-device proliferation is an obvious trend. Gartner thinks there will be a shift of focus from devices to how the user and device interact in different environments and contexts.

2: Internet of Things (fourth year on list)

Gartner has chosen to reemphasize its four basic "usage" models: Manage, Monetize, Operate, and Extend. It also reiterates: Do not focus too closely on the IoT, but take in the entire picture. Hung LeHong, vice president and Gartner fellow said, "This expanded and comprehensive view of the internet is what Gartner calls the Internet of Everything."

3: 3D printing (second year on list)

Gartner believes that 3D printing will continue to grow at an incredible rate for the foreseeable future. Businesses must be alert and reevaluate their market position based on what impact 3D printing will have on their products and cost structure.

4: Advanced, pervasive, and invisible analytics (first year on list)

Gartner said that embedded systems (IoT) will only add to the crush of structured and unstructured data already filling company databases. The amount and variety of data will demand more advanced analytics than are currently available. A Gartner researcher said, "The value is in the answers, not the data."

5: Context-rich systems (first year on list)

Gartner thinks the next step will be to ingrain intelligence into IoT devices that will interact with the advanced analytics mentioned earlier, resulting in systems that will not only report, but also respond to environmental conditions. According to Gartner, "Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge."

6: Smart machines (second year on list)

The combination of advanced analytics and context-rich embedded systems will evolve into smart machines. Prototypes of autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, and the like will bring in the most disruptive smart-machine era in the history of IT.

7: Cloud/client computing (sixth year on list)

"Cloud is the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style," Cearley said. "While network and bandwidth costs may continue to favor apps that use the intelligence and storage of the client device effectively, coordination and management will be based in the cloud."

8: Software-defined applications and infrastructure (second year on list)

Expanding the digital environment to include the entire physical world will require flexibility -- something existing hardware-controlled networks don't have. Software-defined networks, storage, data centers, and security will be required to make it all work.

9: Web-scale IT (second year on list)

Gartner believes that organizations will start incorporating global-class computing into the company setting. "The first step should be DevOps -- bringing development and operations together in a coordinated way to drive rapid, continuous incremental development of applications and services."

10: Risk-based security and self-protection (first year on list)

Gartner is following the lead of security pundits and reassessing what security means. Rather than working toward complete protection as in the past. Gartner and others suggest security positioning through risk assessments is a more realistic goal -- and it won't impede progress. Gartner also brought up an interesting concept: "Perimeters and firewalls are no longer enough; every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting."