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Five key foundational forces support the success of this year's trends. Without them, these technological advances would not take off the way they have.

The end and beginning of the year are generally full of lists – top 10 tech trends, hottest skills for the New Year and best jobs, etc. I enjoy reading these lists and comparing predictions across them. Reading the lists for this year highlighted some continuing tech trends, some new ones and the shifting of existing technology into more nuanced and specific uses. What it also highlighted for me are some key foundational forces that support the success of all of these trends. Without them, these advances would not take off the way they have.

Trend Favorites that Continue on the List

So let’s begin with the ongoing trend favorites. These include Cloud, IoT, and Mobile Computing, Wearables, Big Data and 3D printing in Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic IT Trends for 2015 List and in IDC’s Predicts paper.

Cloud – With growing cloud deployment there are genuine concerns on privacy, and as a result an increase in the implementation of more private clouds. It is not such an abstract concept anymore, with the CIO of Goldman Sachs describing clouds in more familiar terms as back to the mainframe era but not needing to know where your mainframe is.

Big Data – Big data was a trendy and very broad term and is coming into focus in 2015 with clear maturity of technology and application. It is not just the collection of data but the smart analysis of the structured and unstructured data to answer “big questions”. It is context rich, predictive and smart analytics. There is also some stack consolidation and the emergence of a few Hadoop distributions.

Mobile – We are seeing real examples of mobile growth, reach and real use in business, life and monetization. Mobile has become a powerful force extending internet access to billions of people who would otherwise not have access to it. Further, it has become a key conduit for entertainment to millennials who watch more content on mobile devices than on TV.

Wearables – Fitness wearables have made the concept of wearables very real and meaningful and I think there is a consensus that they will only grow in use and new applications. It is also heralding meaningful partnerships between technology and fashion, medical industry etc. in an attempt to better blend into our lives and to be ergonomic.

Internet of Things (IoT) – Gartner calls this the foundation of digital business, where operational, industrial and business products are infused with computing to allow for a smarter user experience. The rise of these smart machines will lead to more autonomous and learning applications.

3D Printing – I personally can’t wait for 3D printing to be more affordable and easy to use. I can get one for home use and be able to make spare parts, components for jewelry making and other useful things. I am seeing these in maker labs in Silicon Valley already for innovators to use.

Forces Underlying the Trends

The real takeaway for me upon reading these lists especially Gartner’s is how there are common forces supporting all of the key trends for 2015. These act as the glue and the substance that makes these trends possible and relevant.

1. Software Drives IT Forward

Besides the fact that Software is completely altering many industries, software-defined everything is a key driver in multiple areas of the datacenter. Software fuels the scalable, orchestrated and agile data center which supports internal and external facing applications and services. Software is also the intelligence in devices and embedded systems.

2. Open Source Development and Collaboration Models:

Because of the growing software presence in many industries and applications alongside the need for broad based collaboration, Open Source has become a central way of development. Many of the underlying software stacks in Mobile, Cloud and Big data are all open source based. Whether through neutral bodies such as foundations or investment in key projects, business is coming together to tackle common problems and to ensure inter-operability. Companies are able to leverage free and more complete open source stacks and focus their development on value added differentiation. It is evolving to become the way standards are created in technology and how broad based adoption happens.

3. Storage Hits Scale and Performance:

1.8 billion Photos alone are uploaded and shared through various mobile apps – snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram and other social channels, needing storage at every step of the data journey – device to cloud. But storage is no longer just a discussion of capacity and speed. In 2015 storage demands technology that is energy efficient, scales effortlessly, performs on demand and is cost-effective and secure. The ability to deliver the form factor needed in IOT, mobile, wearables and the performance and footprint needed in data center, cloud and webscale is paramount and flash and non-volatile memory emerge as a media of choice.

4. Security Infused into Everything:

An area that is and will always be a perennial favorite is security. Today, with personal data being housed in devices, services, and apps and being dispersed among clouds, privacy is now an essential element of security as a whole. Encryption of data in the cloud and biometric security in devices becoming more of a new normal. Application specific security as a part of a layered security strategy will also provide for a more context-aware security that reacts to its surroundings.

5. New Skills and New Players

The shortage of skilled developers, data scientists, and usability experts continues and has the industry working together in creating a stronger pipeline. Whether through lobbying for immigration reform or through STEM education investment, a skilled workforce is vital to new technology success. Another key industry focus is investment in new entrants and underrepresented groups such as women and minorities in technology. This increases the pool by tapping into an untapped resource and infuses the industry with new thinking. Initiatives such as university hackathons, coding camps, tech culture reform all work to create an inclusive culture for new entrants. Open source collaboration has also made it easy for universities and industries to work together and to create relevant skills in students needed by companies. GitHub is often the new resume for developers.

Along with new skills, a new style of leadership is emerging to manage a distributed and new workforce. Skills where communication, collaboration, change management, curiosity, continuous learning, emotional IQ, ability to synthesize data and make meaningful decisions are all valued.

Driving Forward

These underlying forces are creating powerful foundations for innovation and an industry that is moving faster, collaboratively. While many may see technology as invading our lives, I see it as enabling us to focus on higher value contributions in solving the world’s hard problems.

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