Where will IT be in 2015?

The first indium antimonide transistors will be available in 2015, using a tenth of the power of transistors in 2008, but they won't have changed the power equation yet. A CPU will still use around 100W of power but with each core only getting a few watts. More cores won't speed up existing applications the way faster processors have done for years so software development will have to shift from single threaded applications and memory locks to speculative multithreading and message passing.

The CPU will do some of the work of parallelizing applications using its own microkernel, as will the operating system and the hypervisor virtualization manager, but programming has to change too. Microsoft has been trying to enable parallel programming for some time and by 2015 Soma Somasegar, vice president of Microsoft's developer division, predicts that we'll have "the whole stack, up and down, to enable the average developer to take advantage of parallel hardware", from language extensions to C# to parallel data access using the latest generation of LINQ for in-memory queries and concurrency support built into the .NET runtime.

What IT department?

While developers are coping with parallel programming for sophisticated programming, the IT team is going to have to support users who develop their own tools and tools that don't need the IT team. Software as a service is a trend that's not going away. Mark Quirk, Web Developer & Tools Product Manager at Microsoft, believes that "mostly connected application software, available on smart mobile devices that invisibly combine the services of multiple applications over the Internet is in the obvious technical future for the web".

But we'll still have on-premise software as well, predicts Tom Kucharvy of Ovum. "SOA will be deployed for projects for which it is well suited, it will be done incrementally and there will be no massive transformation to SOA."

But he also believes the same principles will be used elsewhere in the business. "Service-oriented architectures are just one instantiation of service automation and other services are going to be increasingly transformed into industrialized assets. It's the same thing we have seen in manufacturing industry where jobs are increasingly segmented. You define the role in terms of processes and rules and implement then in software, reducing the discretionary work of individuals. Clearly this is happening in application development, clearly it's happening in IT management but I think going to happen increasingly with SOA in terms of business processes as well as IT processes. "

The implication, says Carl Bate, chief technology officer of Capgemini UK, is that "we are going to see an increasing amount of businesses carrying out traditional IT tasks without the help of their IT department. We are not just talking about Shadow IT, a handful of users doing something for themselves in the shadows of the main IT services; but the use of Web 2.0 type technologies as mainstream services. IT departments are subsequently going to have to adapt to their changing role; CIOs will be faced with sink or swim decisions."

One of the roles for IT will be to provide services for business users to use as building blocks for creating their own apps, says Google's Matt Glotzbach. "Our traditional notions today of the applications you need to run a business will really be fundamentally altered. There will still be some key structures I don't imagine the users will build the ERP system. But users will have the very simple tools to pull data and app functionality from all different places from inside the company and outside be able to assemble together what they need; it will be the equivalent of a fairly advanced users writing a macro. This will replace things that were done completely manually or accomplished over a very long cycle because of the complexity of development. If I want to do a review on my quality processes I may build it in a morning, use it over a week and throw it away at the end of the week."

"Applications have a shelf life of 42 months in the enterprise, but composite applications have a lifespan of nine months and that's headed down," says Steven Martin, director of product management for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division. His team is working on a new modelling tool that he calls a universal editor for writing rules, tracking, policy, identity management, workflow, deployment and anything else you can model. By 2015, it will be in products from Visual Studio to BizTalk.

User-built apps will draw on self-organising information repositories. Search will be less important because information will be better organized. Documents will be stored in easy-to-index XML formats rather than binary files, printed documents will have 2D barcodes so you can transfer the original file to a colleague by handing them a paper copy and systems like IBM's Omnifind Discovery will classify semi-structured documents and data automatically, coping with spelling mistakes, acronyms and poorly written sentences. Customer support requests by email will be routed automatically and often answered automatically.

Put it all together, says BT's Ian Neilds and the job of the IT department will be to deliver technology that's both powerful and seamless. "IT will bend around me. IT is going to be a commodity, it will be seen like a light switch, like a sealed off box you can't get into it."

Mary Branscombe

Mary is a freelance business technology journalist who has written for the likes of ITPro, CIO, ZDNet, TechRepublic, The New Stack, The Register, and many other online titles, as well as national publications like the Guardian and Financial Times. She has also held editor positions at AOL’s online technology channel, PC Plus, IT Expert, and Program Now. In her career spanning more than three decades, the Oxford University-educated journalist has seen and covered the development of the technology industry through many of its most significant stages.

Mary has experience in almost all areas of technology but specialises in all things Microsoft and has written two books on Windows 8. She also has extensive expertise in consumer hardware and cloud services - mobile phones to mainframes. Aside from reporting on the latest technology news and trends, and developing whitepapers for a range of industry clients, Mary also writes short technology mysteries and publishes them through Amazon.