The rise and expansion of the third platform has reached a tipping point according to IDC, and with the growth of investments in the Internet of Things, big data, data centers, mobile and social computing, there is, in effect, no way of avoiding it.

The Third Platform

To find out what it entails, we asked Frank Gens, who compiled the recent IDC report Predictions 2015: Accelerating Innovation and Growth on the Third Platform, what exactly he -- and more to the point, IDC --means by the third platform. We also asked him to outline the Top 10 from his report.

The first thing to note is that IDC identified what It describes as the third platform as early as IDC 2007. Since then, it has been analyzing and chronicling its development up until now, which Gens identifies as a key period in its development. So what exactly is the third platform?

There have been three waves of computing in the past. The first was the early computing era of mainframes, terminals and customized platforms. The second wave, starting around 25 years ago, encompassed the development of the PC, networking, relational databases and client services apps.

The third wave -- what IDC calls the third platform -- is our current era, built around cloud computing, social applications, big data and mobile computing.  Gens believes this third platform will form the basis for the development of new solutions for the next 20 years.

Add into the mix another six innovation accelerators and you have a wave of computing that will take us forward into the next era, whatever that may be. Those accelerators include:

  • The Internet of Things
  • Cognitive systems
  • Pervasive robotics
  • 3-D printing of all kinds
  • Natural interfaces
  • Optimized security technologies and solutions

Pulling all of this together, IDC predicts that a rapidly expanding community of developers will build on this third platform to create a tenfold increase in the number of solutions that will be available over the next four to five years.  What's more, two-thirds of those solutions will likely be industry-specific in their design.

The industry is now entering the most critical period yet in the Third Platform era: the 'Innovation Stage.' Over the next several years, we expect to see an explosion of innovation and value creation on top of the third platform's foundation. This stage will be driven by a new wave of core technologies -- Innovation Accelerators -- that radically extend the third platform's capabilities and applications across all industries," Gen said.

Here then, in the order that they were presented, are IDC's Top 10 predictions:

1. ICT Spending

According to Gens, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) spending will grow by 3.8 percent to more than $3.8 trillion, most of which will be spent on third platform technologies, with spending on second platform technology receding over the next year.

A combination of uninspiring growth and even shrinkage in some developed markets explains this relatively poor growth over the year. We are beginning to see moderation of long-term mobile device growth rates simply because there has been so much growth in recent years that the laws of gravity are beginning to have an impact,” Gens said.

The US is looking relatively “good” with growth rates of about 2.7 percent given the size of the market.

2. Wireless Data

Telecommunications services will see wireless data emerge as the largest ($536 billion) and fastest growing (13 percent) segment of telecom spending.

According to Gens, this has already been the biggest sector of growth in the US and some of the developed markets like South Korea. However, the growth mentioned here is global growth and includes markets like China.

Wireless data, or mobile data, is continuing to soar out of sight in terms of demand. Telecom carriers are still trying to work out how to make improve profits in the face of competition. But the telecom operators have been pretty slow to develop new technologies that large cloud developers and mobile developers can use and work on. One of the challenges they will face next year and in the coming years is how to add intelligence to their networks and how to make them more cloud friendly."

3. Mobile Development

Mobile devices and apps will continue to grow in 2015, but not at the frenzied pace seen in recent years. Sales of smartphones and tablets will reach $484 billion, accounting for 40 percent of all IT spending growth (excluding telecom services). Wearables will see an explosion of innovation, although unit sales will underwhelm. And mobile app downloads will start to slow in 2015, but enterprise mobile app development will double.

4. Cloud Services

Cloud services will remain a hotbed of activity in 2015 with $118 billion in spending within the greater cloud ecosystem. Adoption of cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will grow briskly (36 percent), as market leader Amazon comes under attack from all directions.

"Looking around, everyone is now using the cloud and using it with success. Even the CIA said it is using it,” Gens said.

We are at a tipping point in the use of the corporate cloud, with two different things happening. The first is that cloud IaaS vendors are starting to consolidate. We are heading to a situation where probably at least two thirds of the market is in the hands of 10 providers.

Secondly, there will be an explosion of cloud apps. It will be hard to find apps that are not SaaS. Security is still a big problem. But cloud users realize that the big hacks in recent years were hacks of the large enterprise data centers and not of the cloud itself.

Gens also feels that many enterprises are starting to weigh the commercial value of cloud use and apps against the security risks and that, to a large extent, the commercial considerations are winning out.

5. Data And Analytics

Big data and analytics will see important developments in 2015 as worldwide spending on big data-related software, hardware and services grows to $125 billion. Rich media analytics (video, audio and image) will emerge as an important driver of big data projects.

I look at big data and analytics as the killer apps of the cloud, and they are growing at a tremendous rate,” Gens said. “Eighty percent of the interesting apps that we are finding on the cloud are about big data analytics. One of the big things in the coming years will be cognitive and machine learning in the cloud and we are going to see a lot more of this next year."

Providing Data as a Service (DaaS) and securing strong data supply chains for those services will also become a high priority for most of the big analytics vendors offering it. Internet of Things (IoT) analytics are also going to be hot, too.

6. Internet of Things (IoT)

The development and invention of more and more connected devices will drive the development of thousands of Third Platform solutions. However, at least one-third of IoT spending in 2015 will be focused on intelligent embedded devices outside the IT and telecom industries, helped by partnerships among leading IT companies seeking to kickstart the market for industry solutions.

About a third of the solutions for the IoT will be from the automotive, health and energy verticals. The investments and business potential here are still enormous and that’s where the really interesting part of this is going to be. We’ll be watching for other industries expanding in this area," Gens said.

7. Data Centers

Data centers are undergoing a fundamental transformation in the third platform era as most of the raw computing capacity and raw storage capacity move to the cloud. This shift will spark a burst of "cloud first" hardware innovations and drive greater consolidation among server, storage, software and networking vendors.

In the next two years about 50 percent of the raw computing capability and 70 percent of the storage capacity will be in large cloud data centers run by the big global cloud providers. This represents a dramatic shift from enterprise data centers. There will also be an element of compliance and regulation as data sovereignty becomes an issue. This will result in the big providers looking to place data centers in more geographies," he said.

8. Industry Disruption

The third platform is transforming not just the technology industry, but every industry on the planet. IDC believes a number of industry disruptions, driven by third platform developments, will emerge in 2015. This includes alternative payment networks in financial services, expansion of IoT technologies into city safety, public works and transportation systems among others.

9. IoT Security

As the IoT develops, so too will the need for IoT security. One of the technology drivers in the coming months will be the development of security solutions to secure the cloud. This includes things like biometric security on mobile devices, as well as the development of encryption in the cloud. Gen said:

In the first wave of data and cloud encryption, biometric security will be available for 15% of all mobile devices. This will grow to over 50 percent by 2020. Running parallel to this will be encryption as a service which will cover about 80 percent of regulated data in three to four years."

10. The Rise Of China

China will experience skyrocketing influence on the global ICT market in 2015, with spending that will account for 43 percent of all industry growth, one third of all smartphone purchases and about one third of all online shoppers.

China has a number of huge domestic markets, but only a few of them will become truly global. Even still, to become big China doesn't need to become global to become a major factor, given the size of its domestic markets. Even still, vendors like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, Lenovo and Xiaomi will keep developing internationally and will take a bigger and bigger slices of the growing ICT market," Gens said.

On top of that, the Chinese government has made massive investment commitments in its 13th five-year plan for government which will include massive investments in technology. This is only the start of it for China and its relationship with the rest of the world.

For more on IDC's predictions, the full report is available from IDC.

Title image by vonderauvisuals (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC 2.0 license