2013: A Look Back and a Look Forward on the Technology Stories That Matter to IT

2013: A Look Back and a Look Forward on the Technology Stories That Matter to IT

As 2013 draws to a close and I, surprisingly, have more vacation days left to take than days left in the year, I'm rushed a bit to bring together a year-end retrospect. I've been pulling many of the topics together for a few weeks and can finally lay them out.

The following represents some of the biggest technology stories in 2013. I'm not going to cover all the technology stories from 2013, but instead talk about the ones that actually mattered to IT Pros. I mean, who cares about Google Glass? Really? The Scroogled campaign? It's a fun distraction, but at the end of the day, meaningless. HP versus Microsoft? The "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mantra gets old real quick.

I think it's good value to look back to see where we've come as it’s a good starting point to see where we might go in the new year ahead. Some technologies improved. Some failed. Some topics are ongoing and some may have hit a dead end, waiting to be revived in a new form.

As I traverse through the topics, I'll also add some predictions for 2014.

Here we go…

Microsoft versus IT Pros

One of the underlying stories of 2013 was the sense IT Pros felt that Microsoft simply did not care about them anymore. In In the New World Order, Microsoft's Biggest Competition is IT, I spoke out against this.

Simply said, Microsoft wants, or needs, companies to migrate all of their on-premise IT services and apps to the Cloud. Without any technology left inside the corporate walls, there's really no need for IT staff.

I said,

For Microsoft to truly achieve its vision, and to be able to compete directly with Google, Amazon, Apple, and others, its largest competitor must be eliminated. In truth, Microsoft's largest competitor is IT.

Has this changed?


A strong revenue model for a company pushing into a devices and services organization means that company needs to have complete control over the revenue stream. While this topic has quieted over the past couple months, it's still very present. One big reason for the silence is the NSA. Companies are now more wary of a Cloud-infested future than ever before and the NSA's illegal invasions into public-hosted technologies has put a halt on Microsoft's vision. It'll take a couple years, at least, before any company can repair customer assurances that a secure Cloud can actually exist.

My prediction for 2014 is that IT Pros can take a much deserved breather and just focus on normal operations. Microsoft will continue building Windows Azure into a top-notch replacement for on-premise apps and services, but it'll be 2016 before the NSA's damage can be repaired.

One Microsoft, One Conference

Another reason that IT Pros felt as if they had targets on their backs in 2013 is because Microsoft eliminated so many of their technology treasures. Earlier this year, Microsoft made the decision to kill off one of the best conferences. In The Microsoft Management Summit: Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend, I wrote a tearful goodbye. Since that time, Microsoft made the official announcement that MMS would be consumed by TechEd. Microsoft is working steadily to make this first year a successful one, but so far, MMS alumni are not impressed. If you read through the litter of TechEd communications over the past few months (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) there's very little that shows any love for the MMS alumni. It's almost as if MMS never existed.

I love TechEd. And, I loved MMS. But, they are two very different events. I've said my peace about this already and I'll leave it there. I'm hopeful that Microsoft can make a successful transition.

Ironically, while Microsoft merged MMS with TechEd, because it made sense to have a single event, they also unveiled separate conferences for SharePoint, Project, and Exchange (and others). TechEd has always been an IT generalist's show. If Microsoft is to hold true to offering one, ultimate marketing and training event, than having separate events for single products makes very little sense.

My prediction is that TechEd 2014 will be successful, but only in the way TechEd has always been successful. Feel free to read into that any way you like.

The Death of TechNet Subscriptions

Another piece of the "Microsoft hates me" puzzle came with the announcement that Microsoft was ending a very successful, 15 year program, TechNet Subscriptions. Looking back, it still makes no sense at all. Microsoft has done nothing to mend the broken hearts of IT. They simply stopped talking about it in a hope that the topic would die on the vine. And, while it doesn’t get the same fanfare as it did in the beginning, there are many, many IT Pros out there who still hold a grudge. TechNet Subscriptions was an important part of IT Pros lives.

An entire grass roots effort was created to try to get Microsoft to listen to the needs of IT Pros. Microsoft promised IT Pros an alternative, but has never complied.

In TechNet Subscriptions Demise, Community Update, I wrote…

Initially, many considered the closing of TechNet subscriptions as a means to help curb piracy of Microsoft software products. But, as time has progressed, and realizing that the free alternatives are all "cloud" solutions, the tin foil hats have come out and a common belief is that Microsoft shut down TechNet subscriptions in a highly calculated and nefarious plot to dislodge the IT profession and force companies to Windows Azure where profits actually exist.

I predict that you'll never hear Microsoft utter TechNet Subscriptions again, nor will they focus on developing a replacement. In fact, I predict that Microsoft will kill off a few more treasured services in 2014 in an effort to streamline and change course. Nothing is sacred.

Accelerated Releases

2013 saw Microsoft release major product updates in what they called "waves." In truth, it was a tsunami. This new, accelerated release schedule caused many organizations to come to the realization that if Microsoft kept it up, they would have to make it policy to just ignore it. No IT group can keep up with such a steady release of software. Microsoft wants customers to accept and implement their latest and greatest technologies, but as we've seen in stats, products like Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 just aren't gaining the acceptance Microsoft was hoping for.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Cloud. In Truth in IT: Accelerated Release Cycles will Nudge Companies to the Microsoft Cloud, I talked about how overwhelming companies with releases could be a secret plan to make the Cloud more palatable. If companies subscribed to Microsoft Cloud services, updates would happen automagically, and customers would always be running the most current, trendy software. But, in 2013, IT started getting smarter and began fighting back.

We're already seeing hints of Microsoft backing off quick and furious updates and getting back to a more methodical approach to software releases. There are reports that even Windows 8.2 will be separated into consumer and business versions, and each will have a different development cycle.

In 2014, expect to see a slowdown in major product releases. Sure, we'll see new features and updates provided, but unless dollars and adoption increases, Microsoft will be forced back to a more normalized approach to releases.

Patch, Re-Patch, and Patch Again…Oops!

At the birth of Patch Tuesday, Microsoft had worked very hard to build a structure that could produce and release updates that were valuable and usable. October 1, 2013 was the 10 year anniversary of Patch Tuesday and the decade of patches went by too fast, but became a standard IT practice that made sense. Securing and updating the company's PCs became a masterful skill and kept many employed just for those reasons.

Microsoft has released botched updates before. 10 years is too long a time to be perfect. But, 2013 saw more botched update releases than ever before. Microsoft has had to take to blogs, email lists, forums, and other community outreach vehicles to apologize many times in the past year for updates that would never have passed the QC check in years past. 

What happened? It's hard to be sure, but Microsoft needs to fix this ASAP. Throw in accelerated releases, dead IT-related services (ex., TechNet), and now even more reason to hate Patch Tuesday and IT has more and more to complain about and frankly, more reason to stop trusting Microsoft. The third pillar of Trustworthy Computing, which Microsoft is a proponent of, is Reliability. Reliability contains six key attributes:

  1. Resilient. The system will continue to provide the user a service in the face of internal or external disruption.
  2. Recoverable. Following a user- or system-induced disruption, the system can be easily restored, through instrumentation and diagnosis, to a previously known state with no data loss.
  3. Controlled. Provides accurate and timely service whenever needed.
  4. Undisruptable. Required changes and upgrades do not disrupt the service being provided by the system.
  5. Production-ready. On release, the system contains minimal software bugs, requiring a limited number of predictable updates.
  6. Predictable. It works as expected or promised, and what worked before works now.

In 2014, Microsoft needs to go back to their 2002 whitepaper, authored by then CTO, Craig Mundie, and readdress each of the six attributes.

Will things gets better in 2014? My prediction is that it's going to take a massive effort because the process is seriously broken. I started reporting the degradation of the patching and update process way back in 2012 and the problem has steadily gotten worse.

Bring Your Own Disaster

BYOD. Bwahahahahaha.

I could leave this section at that and you'd all appreciate it. 2013 was supposed to be the year of personal device proliferation throughout the business. Employees could go out, purchase their favorite pink tablet and IT would swing the corporate doors wide open.

That didn't happen. And, it's not going to happen anytime soon. In fact, we may not see even a 60% uptake on BYOD until 2018. Just like the Public Cloud, something that sounds nice is, in reality, more a pain and cost than marketed. Many companies tried to implement BYOD in 2013, but many stalled or failed. This is just another instance where the industry has taken a good idea and ran with it before proper technology was available.

Everything has to be managed. With System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has made significant improvements to managing devices. But, so has every other company. BYOD has become the me-too technology, with almost every major software company investing in some aspect of BYOD management. BlackBerry, Oracle, Dell, HP, Symantec, Google, others, have all dabbled in BYOD technologies in 2013. Some have done it through acquisition, some through in-house development, but all have failed so far.

Maybe I binge-watch White Collar too much, but I see BYOD as just a big con.

Will 2014 finally be the year of BYOD? No. There's just too many other things going on in IT to worry about which iPhone version to support or how best to separate company data from personal data or how to appease end-users. I long for the days when it was enough for an employee to be happy and grateful just to have a job without IT having to worry about which device color makes them the happiest. Our world is off the rails. Put down the mobile device, Nancy, and spend time with your family.

A Cloudless Society?

The Cloud is impossible to avoid. However, it really depends on which Cloud you talk about.

Whatever reason you cite, Security, Stability, Privacy, Redundancy, Availability, or NSA, the Public Cloud is proving to be an unviable solution for businesses.

In reality, the Cloud is a set of processes for virtualization, automation, scale, elasticity, and self-service. While Microsoft has been steadily building Windows Azure into a mirrored model of an on-premise environment, most companies have been ignoring it. Instead of yearning for a publicly hosted and managed environment, IT has been taking the attributes of the public Cloud and modeling their walled datacenters to match. So, while the public Cloud is a wash, the Private Cloud is surviving and kicking off an industry all its own.

Think what you will, but in this respect, Microsoft has been visionary. Read through the news over the last year and you'll see it littered with companies that are keen to follow Microsoft's model of providing a Cloud for all needs. While the majority of the industry was promoting Public Cloud, Microsoft was developing and promoting the Hybrid Cloud, which is a mixture of Public and Private that leaves it up to customers to decide which model makes the most sense. In this way, Microsoft was way ahead of everyone else, in fact, they are currently about 3 years in the lead. You won't hear this anywhere else because the media loves its darlings (ex. Google), but Microsoft beat everyone on this one.

In 2014, Microsoft will continue to expand its lead in Private and Hybrid Cloud. And, if Satya Nadella gets the new CEO nod, Microsoft will make its competitors completely obsolete.

Windows XP

April 8, 2014 is approaching fast. And, if recent numbers are correct, Windows XP will still be in use long after the deadline. One of the most notable stats I saw recently in a survey was that, for those surveyed, 36% still had no clue that Windows XP's loss of life happens in 2014. It's one thing to live under a rock, but it's quite another not to have peered out, even briefly, for the last 13 years.

Windows XP is dying. The actual death has been scheduled and Microsoft is constructing the gallows. Many organizations are rushing to migrate to a newer version of Windows, with the majority choosing Windows 7 for obvious reasons. But, it's going to be close. There are a myriad of reasons to migrate with the primary reason being security. Once April 8, 2014 hits, you might as well stick all of those Windows XP users and their PCs into a closet. That could be the only way to secure the company.

I predict we'll go past the April 8, 2014 deadline with about 20% Windows XP usage still in play, and about 12% of those being home users. In It's Going to Take an Army to Eliminate Windows XP Completely, I talk about how IT needs to band together, fan out like they do in search and rescue movies, and canvass every nook and cranny until Windows XP is found and eliminated. Like the scene from Office Space, where the old HP laser printer finally gets its due, give those Windows XP PCs the desired send-off.



Of course, I'm positive I've not captured every topic that matters to you. It's inevitable. So, please, drop a comment or a tweet (@rodtrent) and let me know the areas where you were most affected.


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