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Clouds gathering on horizon for software devs, say wise men

'There are things to be done. I don’t know what they are'

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The software industry will dissolve into a soup of micro-detailed web services delivered over the cloud by 2022, with IT departments reduced to “guiding” users to prevent them from leaking their companies’ crown jewels onto the net.

That was the extremist version of the vision sketched out by a panel considering “The Software Industry Ten Years from Now” at the Cloud Computing World Forum yesterday, which considered how the cloud will affect the development and management of software.

Eriks Dobelis, former information SVP at Air Baltic and professor at the Riga Business School, said that services delivered by SaaS “will get smaller and smaller, focusing on a single task.”

This has obvious, and potentially unpleasant implications for people who make their living developing and/or selling massive bespoke applications.

John Harris, chief architect & VP global IT strategy, innovation and learning at GlaxoSmithKline, and chairman of the Corporate IT Forum, said:

“The accessibility of platforms means that software development is no longer such a specialist activity.”

As the “internet of things” generated oceans of data, the traditional software great and the good would no longer be in a position to dictate terms, Harris said. He cited the example of Google Maps, where it was crowdsourcing - for want of a better word - that had created many of the most interesting applications.

“There are things that can be done. I don’t know what they are,” he said, “but software will be created by the world.”

As for the IT department, he said: “We won’t be controlling. I think our job will be to guide.”

Dobelis said that it would become increasingly difficult to protect intellectual property in the form of software, with the costs of protection increasingly simply uneconomic compared to the benefit.

However, Harris pointed out that for a company like GlaxoSmithKline, protecting its core IP was an existential challenge. So, he argued, the challenge for IT departments became educating users about what to keep well away from the cloud. When it came to the “crown jewels” they had to be in “the most secure environment".

CohesiveFT CTO and Borland veteran Patrick Kerpan said that as companies give up hands-on control of their data it will have to be encrypted, so that as the hardware and the data pipes get faster, the potential loss does not represent the penalty it does today.

But Kerpan said that while companies and individuals might feel they are no longer spending a fortune on software, they will find they are handing over a fortune for their data services – from broadband, to cellular and cable.

As for the possibility of making money from the software industry, Fort Technologies' sales and marketing director Noel O’Grady quipped:

“If nobody’s buying software, I’ve got just a few years to sell my company,” before pointing out that his business was providing the tools for developers and providers to tie the myriad services together. ®

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