Nicholas D. Evans

3 CIO considerations from IDC’s 3rd platform

February 05, 2013 6:00 AM EST

The 3rd platform is IDC’s term for the convergence of disruptive trends in the IT industry which is “built on mobile devices and apps, cloud services, mobile broadband networks, big data analytics, and social technologies”, representing a new technology platform for growth and innovation. According to IDC, “By 2020, when worldwide ICT spending reaches $5 trillion ($1.7 trillion larger than it is today), at least 80% of ICT industry's growth will be driven by these 3rd platform technologies”.

When we talk about the third platform in an enterprise setting, we’re really talking about the convergence of these forces and their powerful combination to serve as a foundational architecture for IT organizations. Beyond the individual trends, the seamless “combination” of these trends is becoming critical since it collectively represents an agile new IT fabric for applications, data centers and, most importantly, the user experience.

Here are three areas I believe the 3rd platform, and hence the combination of cloud, mobile, social and big data, will be critical for CIOs in 2013:

  • Transforming the User Experience – In recent years, the consumerization of IT has firmly established end user expectations for applications that are easy to use, mobile- and social-enabled, and where information can be easily stored, accessed and synchronized via the cloud. These technologies have all matured and been adopted to an extent where their use is now the expected “norm” rather than the “exception”. CIOs are therefore embracing employee-centric workplace strategies that provide these capabilities – “bring your own device” and “bring your own application” policies are all enabling employees to “bring your own experience”.

    In addition, the user experience is a constantly evolving target where today’s focus on mobility and touch-screens is sure to move further into areas such as gesture computing, natural language and voice command capabilities as well. As an example of this, Gartner predicts that by 2016, some 70% of analytics vendors will add voice command capabilities to their products. Transforming the user experience with the combination of foundational 3rd platform technologies, such as mobile and social features, is no longer a nice-to-have.  It’s a necessity -- not just now, but to prepare for the further changes to come.
  • Transforming Application Architectures - In 2013, to ensure newly developed enterprise-class applications meet the bar for end user expectations, an underlying application architecture that is designed and built upon the 3rd platform will be vital. End users clearly expect to be able to access information and applications from any device and any location and are increasingly looking to many applications to be social-enabled and contextually-ware.

    CIOs are therefore ensuring cloud, mobile and social capabilities are part of the enterprise architecture and part of the application development paradigm in terms of development tools and methodology. You can think of these as new layers required in the application architecture to deal with the evolving nature of “applications” and the services they provide. This paradigm shift in application development also requires a host of new programming standards, with a recent example being F# which facilitates data-oriented problem solving and manipulation.

    IDC now views applications as needing to be systems of transaction, systems of decision, and systems of relationship. Therefore, big data analytics are often needed for the decision elements and social business features are often needed for the relationship elements of these new applications. Whether a new application, or a recently-modernized application, the power of social-enablement is that it helps to further automate and streamline business processes that have a high dependence upon decision making and problem resolution as part of the overall transactions.
  • Transforming Data Centers – The shift to the 3rd platform has to occur not just at the user experience level and the application level, but also designed in to the data center of the future. The future data center needs to be seamlessly managed across all application deployment options from public cloud, to hosted- and internal-private cloud, to traditional and outsourced environments. Smart computing and intelligent analytics will be increasingly used to optimize data center resources including placement of applications and workloads (e.g. public cloud vs. private cloud), policy-based optimization (e.g. business rules for decisions related to virtual machines and cloud service brokering), and management of physical variables such as space, power and cooling.

    The key 3rd platform technologies converging in the data center will clearly be cloud and big data analytics with mobile- and social-enabled applications either hosted in the data center or delivered via the cloud. Cloud-based software development will become increasingly important to free developers from tedious infrastructure procurement and set-up, thus reducing cycle times and allowing them more time for creative development related to compelling new business models and user experiences. Cybersecurity will also be increasingly important in the data center due to its continued virtualization (e.g. software defined data centers) and highly-distributed nature as discussed in the cybersecurity needs of the borderless enterprise.

These are three areas I believe the combination of 3rd platform technologies will be most visible and most critical for IT departments and will help to prepare the foundation for this 3rd evolution of computing which is expected to span the next decade or more. As I mentioned in 10 CIO considerations for disruptive trends in 2013, the scope of this transformation is vast since it cuts across the entire IT stack. CIOs and their teams clearly have a huge task ahead with plenty of opportunity to harness their vision and leadership.