The 2011 Cynic Measures His Predictions

Originally posted at www.TonyGreenberg.com

A friend of mine in the research industry used to give out little post-it-notes to trainee analysts that said “be wrong boldly.” Her reasoning – if you are bold and right, you will be hailed as a prophet. If you’re wrong, most likely the crowd will have moved on by the time your prediction fizzles. But accountability for our past advice is a core value here at RampRate, so we have to see how we did on our 2011 predictions – and see just how well our crystal ball was working. By our count, we have 4 hits, 2 partial hits, 1 miss, and 3 TBDs that won’t be known until later. What do you think?

  1. Everything that’s old will be new again – we predicted that the main technology splashes 2011 will be retreads. The year was a bit short on new fads compared to 2010, with most of the top tech gifts like new tablet PCs and phones being evolutionary rather than revolutionary developments. The one true innovation that we got to participate in — the purely electric car — is, however, a classic reprise. The first electric cars held speed records and went head to head with internal combustion (and steam) in early days of the industry only to be trounced by cheap gas. With several major manufacturers mass-producing all electric cars, the old electric car new again, making this prediction a hit
  2. Markets will stay irrational longer than companies stay solvent – although the year was a busy one for data center and telecom M&A activity, most of the acquisitions were hardly fire sales. And while there were 9 telecom bankruptcies for the year, the only ones that made it into the top 20 were in satellite communications. That said, bets on rapidly rising data center prices have continued to not pay off as RampRate customers typically saw material per-kilowatt cost decreases in their renewals and greenfield projects, leaving the prospect of further shakeout down the road and a partial hit for the prediction.
  3. A large firm will overpay to jump on a bandwagon – while most of this prediction covers 2012-2013, there are several examples of cloud / data center acquisitions that start off on the hype path, such as Verizon’s purchase of Terremark at 5.4x annual revenue and a 35% premium vs. market  and CenturyLink’s Savvis purchase at 3.2x revenue and an 11% premium vs. market prices (which would have been a 53% premium had it been bought at the same time as Terremark). Time Warner’s purchase of NaviSite (albeit at a smaller 1.9x revenue multiplier) completes the trio. We wish these folks all the best, but the prediction still stands as TBD.
  4. More CDNs will be built and fail – Dan Rayburn’s list of current and former CDNs keeps growing. However, 2 of the main exits of 2011 and the first week of 2012 – Cotendo and Voxel – could be considered successes, and Tata’s pickup of BitGravity at least a salvaging of a mediocre situation. So this one will be a miss… for now. Some catastrophes like Amazon web Services failed it customers, but not financially for Amazon..
  5. More peering disputes will be recast as net neutrality – As predicted, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings elevated this issue to headline levels by publicly lobbying Congress for a better deal for its provider. Others such as Global Crossing and Voxel followed suit, leaving a harried AT&T and a cable providers’ industry group pleading with the FCC to decide on the issue. Regardless of the outcome, the prediction is a hit.
  6. The media industry will step into another content rights PR nightmare – Ah, where to start? Should it be the inability to sell Hulu – the one digital property that the media industry nurtured to prominence due to content rights issues? My favorite suitor was Amazon. Or with getting half the Internet to mobilize against the SOPA and PIPA legislation? Or yet another single-player game rendered inoperable by remote server failure – but only for legitimate users? A clear hit. 
  7. A top exec or politician will demonstrate technology cluelessness matched only by his / her influence on the industry. This year’s Ted Stevens memorial award goes to the many sponsors of SOPA and PIPA, with special mention for Mel Watt (D – NC) and Maxine Waters (D – CA).
  8. Security restrictions will cripple productivity without actually improving security. Without another scandal to stir the pot, the pace of silly security measure adoption has been slow. With the UK government actually moving to more, rather than less sanity on allowing open source software, we were about to label the prediction a big miss. But between proposals to build a whole separate secure internet and contributing to LA’s inability to migrate to Google apps, the FBI salvaged a partial hit for us on crippling government productivity for the sake of security aspirations destined to fail due to simple social engineering.
  9. Analysts will invent a new acronym destined to melt away by 2013. It’s altogether too easy to say that an acronym or buzzword will fade away. A bit harder to say which one will. Will “gamification” join “protail” (forecast to be a $1.5B industry by 2012 as of 2008 and nonexistent by 2011) in the dustbin? Or will it be underperformance of a hyped segment like PaaS joining data loss prevention’s failure to deliver ($2B in 2012 as forecast in 2008; $832M in 2015 as forecast more recently)? We’ll rate this one as incomplete for now. I  certainly hope this stuid world cloud gets contained or it will be the greenwash term of the decade.
  10. Something big will be lost in waves of hype. This one won’t be final until 2018, but Gartner has some guesses. Then again, most of their guesses from 2009 either stayed in the same place on the curve or disappeared, as predicted by number 9. Incomplete.

So, all told, we didn’t do badly, certainly not compared with other prognosticators of more wobbly consistency and clarity. Only one outright miss, and three others that will take a while more to fully determine. That leaves us batting, more or less, .600 with prospects for further improvement. That’s enough to get into the Pundit Hall of Fame, presuming of course than any other pundit actually bothered to look back at what they used to predict would happen before things actually did happen.

Up next, predictions for 2012.