It is time once again for me to make my predictions about the hot new technologies for 2004. Dominating this years list are items related to web services and alternative programming styles. Perhaps this is a prediction list - or maybe it is just my personal wish list...
1. Programming Model Convergence - The convergence and interlacing of the various programming models will likely surface to the top spot in 2004. As software vendors and enterprise customers consider their service oriented architectures, object oriented systems, aspects, model-driven architectures, integrated development environments and the other programmer facing technologies, they will find an inconsistent mess of technologies. 2004 will be a year of cleaning up the mess, both for ISV's as well as for the enterprise architects.
2. RFID - Already a hot topic, RFID is quickly becoming the "Y2K" of 2004. With the US-DOD and Walmart mandating the use of the technology, we will see the price of the tags and equipment tumble, opening up opportunities for new cost-sensitive applications.
3. Service Fabric - 2003 saw the introduction and early adoption of this enterprise enabling technology. In 2004 we can expect to see the infrastructure of web service networks continue to unfold. Look for less emphasis on "web service management" (reactive software) and more emphasis on intelligent service fabrics that proactively resolve quality related issues. Also look for the ESB to continue to gain ground, but eventually to be rolled into a small handful of services that the fabric handles. Lastly, it is likely that the protocol vendors and the fabric-via-service vendors collide, with the winner being the group that manages to pull protocols and services into a single product line.
4. SIP-based Enterprise Messaging - Many advanced organizations currently use instant messaging as a core communication vehicle. However, mainstream business has not yet adopted the technology. I believe that 2004 will be a chasm-crossing year for IM in the enterprise. Corporations will likely bring IM servers in house for security reasons - eventually, it will be granted a similar role as email.
5. WS-* Rosetta Intermediary - As web services continue to be adopted, a new breed of protocol translation service will emerge. This service will act as an intermediary that resolves differences between protocols introduced by vendor one-offs, competing standards and versioning. This technology will have a similar role that the 'gateway' or 'bridge' had in early LAN environments, only it will focus on the web service protocols. (Note: this topic is not related to Rosetta-Net)
6. IP telephony - Although this is far from being a new technology, I am predicting that 2004 is an adoption year. The number of vendors offering the service has increased as well as the functionality of the implementations. We are also starting to see a market emerge for VOIP add-on products.
7. Independent Invocation Models - Most invocation models are platform / language specific. 2004 will be a breakthrough year where the invocation model is viewed as a platform independent artifact. Just as WSDL created a platform independent entity for describing the server side interface, we will see new entities created for describing the client side invocation scheme. Concepts from WSIF will be leveraged, but the mechanisms will be ages ahead of what are currently available.
8. Presentation Offerings - For the last several years, the browser has dominated as the primary presentation (UI) vehicle for applications. In 2003, a handful of startups and established players built early versions of alternative user interfaces. Look to 2004 to see a real fight for adoption of these next-gen user interfaces.
9. Advanced SOAP Foundations - Much of the work that has been accomplished in the SOAP space has laid a foundation for the normal use cases. 2004 will usher in more advanced uses of SOAP including multicast SOAP, in-proc soap, async soap, etc. In addition, we will see the ws-* specifications enter into the mainstream. In many cases, SOAP will start to be viewed as a semi-static, standalone document with editable fields that can be routed to a destination specified by its header.
10. Disconnected PM's - The Internet and the web has most programmers thinking in a 'connected-only' manner. However, with the release of SDO many Java programmers (in addition to their .Net ADO counterparts), will begin designing systems with disconnected programming models. This will eventually lead to XML encoded formats that leave a time based change history that will be leveraged by both the .Net and the J2EE platforms. This technology will re-introduce batch style off-loading of non-time sensitive data and force synchronization vendors to become compatible with the newer technologies, thus creating some level of interoperability in data synchronization.
One underlying theme that may be noted is that many of the 'hot technologies' are still at the conceptual level and many of them are buried deep in the technology stack. As packaged applications like SAP have matured, we are finding that completely new paradigms are needed to bring a new level of functionality. The technologies that were nurtured over the last couple of years and are slated for release in 2004 will offer new programming shifts and ultimately will lead to a whole new generation of applications.