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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

That Was the Year That Was: Major BI Events of 2016 (and Predictions for 2017)

Industry analyst Michael Schiff shares the results of last year's predictions and what he foresees in the coming year.

As 2016 draws to a close, it's time to once again review some of the major events of the year and speculate on what might occur in 2017. First, let's review my predictions from last year.

Results of Last Year's Predictions

In December 2015, I predicted that the following would occur in 2016:

Industry consolidation will continue: My prediction about additional consolidations proved correct. Companies large and small continued to acquire other companies to increase market share and gain complementary technology (in particular cloud, big data analytics, and cybersecurity) and provide additional pieces of a total data warehousing solution platform. See the "Major Data Warehousing Events of 2016" section (below) for examples.

Cloud computing will limit the growth of on-premises data centers: This prediction was on target as cloud computing and associated services such as cloud storage continued their explosive growth and permeated all aspects of operational, social, and analytics computing. On-premises computing has certainly not disappeared, but as organizations seek additional computing power, the cloud is increasingly winning out over on-premises expansion.

Artificial intelligence (AI) applications will include virtual analysts in addition to their current role as virtual assistants: This, too, has come to fruition as AI platforms such as IBM's Watson are now combing through data and performing analyses that only a few years ago seemed nearly impossible. For example, consider how AI has been harnessed to recommend custom treatment for cancer patients and as sophisticated (rather than "canned") individualized financial planning robo-advisors.

The November political campaigns will enhance user awareness of big data: This prediction was also on the mark although users were made aware of big data from numerous other events as well. For example, the cover story of the October 31, 2016, edition of Bloomberg Businessweek featured an article about Trump's "big-league" data operation, and numerous media sources also wrote about big data in 2016. Pre-election and election- night news coverage further reinforced user awareness as voter polls and preliminary voter results were analyzed across many demographic dimensions to predict the winners.

Major cloud security breaches will occur: Reports of security breaches became an almost-daily occurrence whether initiated from Web-connected devices, phishing emails, or website malware downloads. Although private individuals have been slower to react (perhaps due to a lack of knowledge of their own vulnerability), most organizations now consider ease of connection to be a secondary concern with security and vulnerability being primary.

HP's "the Machine" will continue to advance but will not be commercialized for several years: For a while, I thought that "the Machine" had been dropped from HPE's (spun off from HP in November 2015) vocabulary, and perhaps even its laboratories, but in June the company announced an effort to bring it to open source code developers. HPE also launched an advertising campaign linking it to Star Trek Beyond and how it would change the basic architecture of computing to become the "future of technology for the next 250 years." Although it may have advanced from HPE's laboratories to the open source world, I still don't expect to see it commercialized for several years.

IBM's commitment will help spark enterprise interest in Spark: Although it certainly has not led to an avalanche of enterprise interest, the development and data scientist communities showed increased interest in Spark in 2016. According to a mid-2016 survey by Databricks, Spark Meetup members have increased by 240 percent while code contributors have increased by 67 percent.

Security versus privacy will become a major source of contention: This also proved to be true as, for the most part, federal and local law officials failed in their efforts to persuade vendors to build "back doors" into their encryption technology, as evidenced by the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, when Apple fought the FBI's request for help in hacking into an iPhone owned by one of the shooters. Consequently, my comment that national security concerns would override individual privacy was somewhat premature.

Major Data Warehouse Events of 2016

Continuing industry consolidations: IBM's acquisitions include Resilient Systems for its cybersecurity technology and Truven Health Analytics to enhance Watson's healthcare portfolio. Among Microsoft's acquisitions were Solair to enhance its IoT capabilities and a definitive agreement to acquire LinkedIn to augment its social media presence.

Oracle acquired Opower for its energy use data tracking capabilities and NetSuite to extend its cloud capabilities. Enterprise software vendor Workday signed a definitive agreement to acquire Platfora for its data analysis technology. Teradata acquired Big Data Partnership to augment its analytics consulting services. At the end of November, data integration software vendor Syncsort announced a definitive agreement to acquire data quality vendor Trillium Software.

The battle for cloud leadership: Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft engaged in a battle for cloud-hosting leadership with Amazon appearing to be the current leader. However, other vendors announced plans to aggressively compete, including Oracle with its own infrastructure-as-a-service, Bare Metal Cloud Services.

IBM takes a small quantum leap: IBM's cloud-based IBM Quantum Experience was made available to the public for experimental use in May. Not to be left out, in November Microsoft announced that it was ready to move quantum computing "from research to engineering." Although quantum computing is still in its infancy, these efforts could further spark interest and allow researchers and developers to better understand quantum computing's potential and future applicability.

Russia declares war on Microsoft: Citing his plan to eliminate U.S. products in government offices, Putin ordered the removal of Microsoft software from government computers due to "concerns over security and reliability" and also blocked some social media sites including LinkedIn. This is likely a reaction to the U.S. claim that Russia was behind computer hacking activities that attempted to influence the presidential election and foreshadows a deeper cyberwar between the U.S. and Russia.

Election results -- OLAP wins, data mining loses: The slicing and dicing of voters across dimensions such as gender, education, ethnicity, urban versus rural, etc. on election night served to demonstrate the power and credibility of OLAP and its ability to analyze what occurred. However, the almost universal prediction that Clinton would defeat Trump demonstrated that data mining and predictive analytics don't always work, especially when a "black swan" event occurs. The announcement by the FBI director that he was reviewing the Clinton probe just 11 days before the election followed eight days later with an announcement that nothing incriminating had been found was such an event. Furthermore, the larger than expected rural voter turnout also demonstrated that past assumptions and algorithms should not be blindly accepted.

SAP and Microsoft broaden their partnership: Announced at SAP's Sapphire Now conference in May, this partnership will enhance the ability of Microsoft Azure cloud services to better support the SAP HANA platform and integrate Microsoft Office 365 with SAP's cloud solutions. Although some considered this to be a marketing announcement aimed at Oracle (their common enemy), later events including an October announcement that SAP's SuccessFactors Human Capital Management (HCM) Suite would be offered on Azure served to provide additional substance to the alliance.

My Predictions for 2017

Industry consolidation will continue: Once again I expect major platform vendors to target smaller, more focused product and service companies in order to obtain additional big data analysis capabilities, augment their cloud capabilities, and enhance their cybersecurity and privacy technology.

The United States/Russia cyberwar will escalate: Russia's banning of Microsoft products from government offices and its supposed hacking role in the U.S. presidential campaign will escalate as the U.S. returns the favor. Hopefully it won't reach the point where each side attempts to scare off the other by proving the vulnerability of crucial control devices (e.g., traffic systems, power plants, hospital equipment) linked to the Internet of Things.

Windows 10 market share will show renewed growth: According to market research vendor NetMarketShare, in October 2016 Windows 10 now runs almost 25 percent of PC platforms, twice the market share of Windows 8x but only about half the market share of Windows 7. Although Windows 10 growth slowed down because Microsoft's free upgrade offer expired in July, I expect it to accelerate in 2017 since Microsoft disallowed OEMs from selling new PCs with Windows 7 or 8x after October 31, 2016.

Net neutrality will be repealed: I was off the mark in my 2014 prediction that the battle over net neutrality would not be quickly decided (it was in February 2015). When I reported on my incorrect prediction last year, I commented that "this may change depending on the results of the 2016 elections and/or how successful various opponents of the decision are in their efforts to have the FCC decision overturned." Consequently, I predict that the Trump administration, in the name of reduced federal regulations, will seek to overturn net neutrality in 2017.

Voice analytics will become more prevalent: Although most call centers now utilize both voice and keyed-in responses (e.g., "say or press 1 to ..."), organizations will now analyze voice responses. This will enable them to ascertain user emotions such as stress and frustration and determine, for example, if an angry caller should be moved to the head of the queue or if a wavering prospect needs to be provided with extra incentives to complete a sale.

Blockchain data will feed big data analytics: Although blockchain is perhaps best known for facilitating Bitcoin, its role in the decentralized collection and securing of ledger transactions will continue to expand to other business processes and application areas including healthcare, finance, and supply-chain logistics. This will provide an additional huge source for data analytics.

I'll report on the accuracy of these predictions next year, when I make new ones for 2018.

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