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Migration towards "third IT platform" and move into the cloud will dominate 2016

IDC, one of the biggest such research firms, was early in identifying the shift to what it calls the "third platform". The first platform for IT was the mainframe computer—a big, centralised processor with lots of dumb terminals connected to it.

2016-01-25 11:32:13

The second platform, which became dominant in the early 1990s, was the client-server model, in which processing power was divided between more slimline central "servers" and the PCs on workers' desktops. The third platform is based on the online computing "cloud" and its interaction with all manner of devices, including wirelessly connected ones such as smartphones, machinery and sensors (known collectively as the "internet of things"). These devices will suck up unprecedented amounts of "big data", which will need artificial-intelligence, or "machine learning" software, to pluck the useful insights out of it, writes The Economist.

All these buzz-phrases are becoming increasingly familiar even among non-tech types. IDC's main prediction for 2016 and 2017 is that in this period, the move into the cloud will become mainstream among businesses. By the end of it, IDC reckons that two-thirds of firms' software applications will be hosted somewhere else, along with most of their data. Increasing numbers of businesses will rent their processing power and data storage from a cloud-computing provider—in the jargon, they will migrate to the "public cloud". Some will keep things in-house, but build their own "private cloud" in which much processing and storage is once again centralised, as in the mainframe era, but with lots of data transmitted through wireless-internet connections.

By the end of 2017, says Frank Gens, IDC's chief analyst, the majority of the world's 2,000 largest companies will be moving towards a business model in which data collection and processing is no longer a peripheral activity but the thing that their competitive edge is built on: think of power utilities earning revenues from helping clients manage their buildings' energy use, or banks retaining customers by helping them to ward off online fraudsters. Forrester, another big tech-research firm, makes a similar prediction for the coming year: that as online-security breaches and identity-theft scams intensify, the protection of personal data will become an important selling-point for many services.

This intensifying focus on data usage and analysis means, first of all, that there should be jobs galore for software coders: IDC says that as big firms leap on to the third platform, they more than double their programming staff. Firms that provide streams of online data, on everything from weather to traffic to pork-belly prices, will also do well: IDC says that firms making the third-platform leap in the coming two years will typically treble, at least, the number of such data providers they use.


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