A running start to 2012

For IT, 2011 was a transitional year. A lot of big things were on the horizon ( data center as a service, for instance), but few of the profound concepts jelled. The consumerization of IT arrived in full measure, and cloud computing stopped being science fiction. Will the changes that take place in 2012 be more concrete? Here's my list of likelihoods for the new year.

Big data. The benefits of business intelligence and analytics have never been more keenly desired than they are right now. The trouble is, most corporate data doesn't line up into nice, structured rows; it comes in a wide variety of formats. This makes harnessing the huge volumes of data we now have at our disposal a tall technical hurdle. Hadoop , the software framework and file system that many believe will be an important tool for mastering big data, is promising. There's a long way to go, but progress toward conquering big data will be the most significant development in 2012.

CoIT, BYOD and mobile. In 2012, discussions about whether to embrace or clamp down on the consumerization of IT (CoIT) and the trend of employees bringing their own devices to work (BYOD) will begin to look silly. Consumer technologies can be put to work. And as long as that's the case, they'll be part of the workplace. It's time to get practical and start focusing on how you manage security and other aspects of those technologies. You also need a strategy for managing and supporting mobile apps.

Social media and the enterprise. It's too late for most companies to create internal social networks; they're not going to succeed. And attempts to block Facebook and Twitter are pointless. Those are the social sites that people devote their time to -- they're the lingua franca of social media. The question is, will companies such as Facebook create services that are useful to enterprises? If they do, a new social media explosion will begin.

Cloud computing . By the end of 2012, cloud computing may start to look a bit like a rumpled old suit. The problems will be glaring, and we will have more examples of cloud gone wrong. But we'll also see solutions to these problems begin to emerge, as well as some early best practices. Cloud is here to stay. The only question the jury is out on is which aspects of cloud will take off.

Virtualization. Server virtualization (which may seem old hat to some of us) will grow vigorously in 2012. Why? Because many companies have yet to adopt it, and their server rooms are filled with equipment that should have been replaced in 2008. As enterprises seek to modernize their hardware, many will turn to server virtualization to stretch their capital-expenditure budgets.

Tablets vs. PCs. Will tablets really replace PCs? No. The truth is that tablets aren't replacing notebooks on the business desktop; they're an extension of the computer experience for some. Short term, at any rate, the tablet sales explosion has been overrated as an agent of change for enterprise IT. The advent of lightweight but powerful 15-in. ultrabooks will be the breakthrough that keeps PCs relevant in a world where people have been seduced by the convenience of tablets.

Security. The confluence of constrained budgets and the rise of more sophisticated hacking techniques could easily spell disaster for some enterprises in 2012. It's a great time for a security review.

Best wishes to all of you for 2012.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. You can contact him at sfinnie@computerworld.com and follow him on Twitter ( @ScotFinnie ).

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.

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