2008: Year of the Cloud

2008: Year of the Cloud

Every year, there's one underlying theme that seems to be pushed in the technology arena more than anything. This year, I feel like it's the year of the cloud. The last time I did this was five years ago, so I'll have to back-fill a few years, but here are the themes I've noticed over the past 11 years.

  • 2008: Year of the Cloud
  • 2007: Year of User Experience
  • 2006: Year of AJAX/Web 2.0
  • 2005: Year of SaaS
  • 2004: Year of Offshore Outsourcing
  • 2003: Year of the Architect
  • 2002: Year of Web Services
  • 2001: Year of XML/.NET
  • 2000: Year of Enterprise Java
  • 1999: Year of Linux
  • 1998: Year of the Web

We've been approaching "the year of the cloud" for a while, now. You can actually look back to 1998, when the web started to really catch on. A few years later, as Java started to build momentum and then .NET hit the scenes, which is when XML as a standard communication language started to catch on. Also tied to the .NET release was a huge push for web services. As this was more and more successful, service-oriented architecture (SOA) started to boom. In my mind, that was a big boon to the outsourcing trends, which have seemingly quieted down a bit, but not completely. SOA also led to the software as a service (SaaS) trend, which triggered Microsoft's software plus services (S+S) push, but that was more of a side story. With everything moving to the web, backed by [typically open] services, asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) was the next big push. This was tied to the "Web 2.0" moniker, which I'd argue wasn't quite what Tim Berners-Lee intended. Either way, this led to the big push for better user experiences, which many people confuse with user interface design. The Web 2.0 push also kept the industry on its web focus, which is where we are left today.

It's easy to look back and see how we got here. Trends show that architectural changes typically take two or three years to gain momentum in the community, so we'll probably have a couple of years before the next major architecture peaks. The trend towards distributed computing has grown more and more, but I have a feeling things are going to start coming back a little. We've been pushing out to the web for a lot of reasons; one of which is the rise of the Mac. What we've been losing out on, however, is the power of the desktop. I see the S+S push to continue, but more as an underlying theme than a strong focus. Services will continue to be the foundation, maintaining the importance of cloud computing, but the desktop will be where the processing occurs. I see Silverlight proving a huge success, which will eventually bring .NET to the Mac. This will probably bring Novell and Microsoft a little closer together, with respect to Microsoft's relationship with Mono, but this may simply be a change in focus for Mono. Oh, and when I say, "bring .NET to the Mac," I'm not talking about the scaled-down version in Silverlight. I'm talking about the real deal. I see WPF and Silverlight merging along with the smart client architecture built into .NET today. This will take more than a few years, but it seems to be inevitable. Most likely, by the time all this happens, multi-core will be a way of life, as opposed to the we-should-be-thinking-about-threading thoughts most developers have today. Armed with a strong multi-threaded foundation, which is easy to use, the combined WPF/Silverlight presentation tier will quickly overtake Flash and Air. By this time, we should also start to see more integration into our everyday lives...

Okay, I'm probably getting a little out of hand here. If I go much further, we're going to be on the USS Enterprise, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. I'll just leave it at, it'll be interesting to see what's next. My money's on the power of the desktop, which we've lost over the past 10 years.

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