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FSLogix 2014 Predictions - This is the year for DaaS! Or is it?

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed article by Kevin Goodman, CEO, FSLogix

This is the year for DaaS! Or is it?

I'm starting off my 2014 predictions like I do every year, by calling the Atlanta Braves as the winners of the World Series.  Eventually I'll be right, like the last time they won in 1995, and when I do I'd like to have it in print somewhere.  I was going to make a prediction about Bitcoin at $800, but over the last month I've already been right, and wrong, and right and wrong several times.  Virtual currencies will take a greater place of prominence as to how we conduct business in 2014, but they are far from mature technologies.  They will hopefully undergo some pretty serious transitions before becoming a regular part of everyday life.   If you think the DOW and NASDAQ roller coasters are exciting, invest in a virtual currency that drops 40% on a Friday and recovers it by Monday afternoon.  I hope that's not what the future looks like.

Every so often someone will write an article about the state of computing and we'll all take a moment to marvel that there is more computing power in a wristwatch than was used to send the first men to the moon in the 1960s, but even those observations that were once startling are now seemingly passé.  Let's just assume computing power will increase and storage cost will decrease this year as they have every year since the early 1950's. 

Technology advancements by themselves are not what I'm looking for when I think about the future.  Having more technology in a greeting card than we used to land the lunar module isn't changing our lives the same way landing a man on the moon did.  Look at the magnitude of that historical achievement we accomplished with technology that seems so rudimentary today.  We've had unbelievable innovation in the last 40 years, and even in the last 4 years, but so much of it remains shelfware compared to how it could be used to change the way we work and live.  Think of the time lag between the invention of the steam engine and hundreds of years later when steam power transformed the landscape of commerce and travel, and became an everyday part of our culture, a backdrop for crime novels and romantic trips along the coast.  The invention of a technology and the advent of it's transformative power can still be separated by decades, even when it seems like they are close enough for us to reach out and touch.

In the late 1990's, Traver Gruen-Kennedy was responsible for making the term "Application Service Provider" (ASP) one of the most used words in the media, probably beaten only by "Y2K."  Since Y2K was predicting the end of the world as we knew it, this was a fairly stunning accomplishment.  For those of us who had been in IT for many years, ASP seemed like a positive return to the past.  Instead of becoming your own PC tech, running applications locally, and becoming responsible for the backup, recovery and security of your data, ASP promised the benefits of old-school mainframes; having everything centralized in a protected data center and managed by experts, but built on and delivering the very latest in technology.

In this new ASP "hosted" view of the world (or what we used to call "outsourced") you'd get the benefit of the latest technology, like a graphical UI and multimedia, all behaving as if it were running locally on a PC.  The vast wealth of information and computing power on the Internet would be combined with low cost, ubiquitous access devices that would be available anywhere, to anyone, without having to manage the technology yourself.  In the late 90s, after finally having convinced the world that we should all have our own PC, it seemed for a moment absurd.  Why carry around a PC when you can access one in the cloud?  After all, I didn't have to have 20 satellites on my roof and a production studio in my garage to get 200 cable channels.  I didn't have to "install" the Superbowl on my neighbors TV to watch it at their house.  Jean Luc Picard didn't carry a PC, he carried some kind of commodity tablet or sat at a terminal and accessed an artificial intelligence based information library.  You never saw an IT person in the background trying to fix Picard's terminal, and he didn't spend 50% of his time installing applications and security patches.  The Captain of the Enterprise just researched, learned, achieved, and contributed.  How close were we to that?  It seemed pretty close.  Not quite Star Trek, but a good start.

It was all coming together; faster, cheaper, and more reliable connectivity, robust wireless, faster processors, thin client devices, and commodity storage; everything we needed to change the way the world worked.  No more time spent troubleshooting your PC, installing applications or downloading Windows updates.  The power of the cloud at your fingertips, using any device, from a simple Kindle to an ultra-thin and lightweight laptop shell - sleek and simple access devices connecting you to the world of tomorrow.

That was 15 years ago.

ASP lasted a short time while competing with nearly identical models in Hosted Computing, Server Based Computing, and even Thin Client Computing, championed by remote computing leaders like Wyse Technology.  In parallel we had web based applications and the launch of Software-as-a-Service.  Then Utility Computing, advances in grid computing, Everything-as-a-Service, and Cloud Computing.  The concepts stayed the same, but the names changed every couple of years.  More recently this same idea has been driven by mobile technology and Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD).  We have all bought into the notion that everything should be available as a service, managed somewhere else, and we just plug in and consume it.  We all believe it because it's so close we can touch it.   We've seen it on TV for 60 years and we have pieces of it all around us.  We know intuitively that our children will not build vast libraries of LPs, or even vast libraries of locally stored MP3s, but instead will stream all of their music on demand.  But as of today I still can't get rid of my laptop. 

In Larry Ellison's famous rant, when asked if Oracle was concerned about Cloud Computing hurting his business, he said, "Sure, if cloud computing doesn't need the internet, databases, or software, we're really in trouble."  He then mused that Cloud Computing is the technology media's buzzword of the day, used to explain what we've already been doing for 15 years.  I'm paraphrasing, but I believe he said it's our version of the Fashion Industry's "mauve" which last year was "dusty rose."  Yes, we have been doing this for years.  Most of it.  But I still can't get rid of my laptop.

In 1998 we had some real technology issues.  Storage was not cheap.  Processing power was not plentiful.  Computing in the cloud could probably be done, but it hadn't been commercialized yet.  Connectivity needed to get faster, Starbucks and Motel 6 needed to add Wi-Fi to every location, and it would be nice to have it on the plane.  You also needed an internet connection over the cell network.  This was already possible, but not broadly commercialized.  Last month I saw the Youtube ad for United Airlines promising connectivity on international flights, even over the ocean.  It seems to me that all this work has been done, but I still can't get rid of my laptop.

In 2005, Friedman wrote the book, "The World is Flat," talking about the impact of globalization and ubiquitous computing.  Freidman even made the profound assertion that the next Einstein might already be living in a rural setting in a third-world country, waiting for a free mobile terminal (courtesy of the UN) so they could log into the Internet and changing the world.  It seemed so obvious then, and it seemed like we were already there, on the cusp, about to be living the dream.

That was 9 years ago.

Every year we've predicted this ASP-Desktop-as-a-Service world, where my computing lives somewhere else and I connect to it through some something simple, like my TV or my wristwatch, and every year we take more baby steps toward the vision.  I'm reminded of the quote from the Groucho Marx movie where the female star says, "Closer, closer, hold me closer..." to which Marx replies, "If I hold you any closer I'll be behind you."  How much closer do we need to get before it's here?  I can use a wireless keyboard with my TV in my living room, and connect to my PC at work, or a cloud desktop at a DaaS MSP, but we're still just starting down this road.  People have to understand far too much of the underlying technology for this to become widespread, so we can move into the next phase, and see the real advantages in the world around us.  Remember that Einstein is waiting, possibly a few of them.

I can't think of something that's been declared come and gone before it's even gotten here more times than DaaS has, but in 2013 DaaS and ASP hit some cool new milestones.  VMware acquired Desktone, the premier DaaS provider with the name that reminds us that computing should be like dial tone, automatic, and everywhere (although a trouble thought is that the next generation of IT might have grown up without dial tone).  Amazon launched their cloud based desktop service.  Let me say that again, "Amazon launched their cloud based desktop service."  Amazon is like the Henry Ford of technology, taking complex, one-off products and putting them on an assembly line so they can get out to the everyman.  Should this be one of those milestones when we just realize, "Ok, it's here now."  Even Brian Madden has predicted 2014 the Year of DaaS, but is it?

Perception and our own lagging bias are partly to blame.  Of course the only thing really stopping DaaS is us.  Perhaps a soft economy will push us into this new model, or the lowered forecast of PC sales will drive the need to leverage DaaS and reuse and recycle more of the stuff we already bought?  I predict that whenever it finally happens, it will be quick.  It will be like the final leg of the transition from Beta, to VHS, to DVD, to Blu-Ray, to streaming.  Netflix was added to Blu-Ray players and seemingly overnight the brick and mortar video rental industry just vaporized.  I predict that one day I will wake up and realize that I haven't installed any software locally in a long time, and that my desktop service is a part of my phone bill.  Will it be this year?

Over a peppermint spiced latte last week I talked about DaaS with a friend who voiced concern over information security and how DaaS would force the move of their critical data to the cloud.  As we talked it became clear that their CRM data has already been in the cloud for years, payroll is cloud based, email is externally hosted, this year HR is moving to a cloud app, along with expense reporting.  For at least 5 years they've had a lot of their code written at an offshore facility using Amazon EC3, the same hosted service where most of their customer facing production servers run.

"So what data do you even still have on premise?"  I asked.  After an uncomfortable silence we refilled our cups, and the discussion turned to the prospect of the Braves in the World Series.  "This is the year," I said, and we both nodded in agreement.


About the Author

A veteran in the software industry for over twenty years, Goodman has had successful management roles in a number of private and publicly held high-tech companies including RTO Software, VMware and DCA.

Goodman is the author of two books published by M&T Publishing – Windows NT: A Developer’s Guide, and Building Windows 95 Applications, and has been a frequent contributor to several computer industry magazines. Goodman has also been awarded four patents.

Published Thursday, December 26, 2013 9:30 AM by David Marshall
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