When asked about what my predictions will be for 2003, I have yet to step out of the whirlwind that is 2002. I feel that I will be stuck in this year as some of our relatives and friends may have been stuck in the 70's! I will go out on a limb with this prediction because all predictions are positive by nature... and although I am highly optimistic and positive about things, I can't be overly happy about what I predict will happen in 2003. Since I think that my co-writers on the site may preach that wireless will blow up, or security will be hot, I am going to write about the state of the IT pro (us and you) in 2003.
As an industry player in the corporate arena, I have seen the last year bring about the liquidation of the IT professional. I have seen gross exploitation of the IT pro skill set. This has been the year of "wear another hat please" and the over-consolidation of the much needed IT workforce. I see utter dismay in 2003 as a result of this watering down of the workforce. Too few do too much this year, and they will burn out in 2003. People will be leaving IT to work a job that they can go home from (we all know that 2002 was the year of living at work). I predict more of this in 2003 and I see the possibility of people leaving in droves because they can't work like this anymore, or they don't want to. Many will stick it out, but I see more consolidation, which will eventually affect the company's ability to perform and compete with their competitors.
I predict massive network and security problems because of companies' reluctance to hire full-time network and security support. I have seen companies simply add the "security" credential to their top systems administrator and say "you do this now, too." The administrator -- happy to just keep his/her job -- gladly accepts. I see this year as being the year of the IT burnout. I also see many administrators doing too much with no budget, cutting corners, not implementing scalability or redundancy and going against every grain of what they learned about good network design solely to keep their jobs. This will in hurt the networks they work on. Greed will play a massive role in destroying good network design.
I also predict 2003 will be the year of outsource and collocation. Too many companies are trying to make stockholders happy, so instead of doing what Cisco's CEO has done (taken a massive pay cut), they will continue to take their piece of the pie and make up the lost cash with the chopping of heads and the massive sell off of IT services from in-house support. I see a massive shift of IT pros from working in-house (with their companies) to taking a job with a service provider that will host their systems. I consider that a mistake, but because Gartner says, "You must do it," then it will be so! Next year will be filled with this activity and the IT pro will suffer the burden. When layoffs come, it's normal to want to chop IT because they probably make 40 grand a year, while a secretary may make 25. This is O.K. to do when the systems are up and online, but when they go down and 500 people can't work, management realizes that wasn't a very wise strategy.
I see the IT landscape in America changing as well. I see more jobs shipped overseas as we become more like the garment industry -- just substitute shoes and sneakers with "IT support." I see New York City and other highly populated and expensive areas to live become devoid of IT jobs because it's easier to host an outsourced data center in the middle of India, China or even Denver. In 2003, the IT pro will start to become scarce in high population areas and in America in general. I also see the quality of support going down the tube because you can't get better support than the on-site help desk tech who is willing to come down to your desk and work until 8 PM to fix your problem. When the help desk is 5000 miles away, there is a good probability that you will not get the same level of support.
On a technology note, I will say that next year is the year of IP services. IP VPN (private) will replace Frame Relay. Although I am a fan of Frame, I think the "VPN bug" has bitten every management team in the world. Because cost savings are so dramatic in the international arena, I see massive amounts of companies adopting this technology consistently.
I see the budget (or what remains of it) tightening even more. Until we go back to an over-bloated stock market and the stockholders willing to drop money in the market, your million-dollar projects will be few and far between. IT departments will put off Windows .NET server until about 2004, when most people will finally realize that the only way to upgrade Active Directory is to upgrade the system itself. In 2005, when management finds they HAVE to upgrade to .NET, they will learn that they should have rethought that process in 2003. I see Cisco bouncing back in a big way as more ISPs upgrade their Frame switches in the cloud to IP-enabled systems (for IP VPN/MPLS), and I also predict that Cisco will take massive market share with their new 10 Gigabit Ethernet cards for metropolitan area networks and other segments that need high speed for low cost. More companies will be looking at this now that the IEEE has standardized it.
My prediction is not meant to be gloom and doom, but an honest view of what may happen in 2003, focusing on the most important part of IT -- the people. Humans running machines is the key here, not machines running people. I think too many management teams have taken the true complexity out of our jobs and they are dead wrong. Any good IT pro knows that the more you know, the more you realize you need to learn, and technology changes every day. 2003 may in fact open more eyes to the fact that the people are the most important part of this equation. The technology will grow no matter what, but you need people to fuel it.