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As IDC sees it, tech's 'Third Platform' disrupts everyone

Bernard Golden | March 28, 2014
What IDC deems the third platform of computing -- social, mobile, cloud and big data -- is transforming IT much faster than the first (mainframe) or second (client/server) platforms ever did. This has tremendous implications for the IT industry, yes, but also for anyone doing business in today's world.

It's easy to dismiss analyst firms and their output. There's a widespread belief that many of them "play for pay" and that much of their work is superficial and reflective of conventional wisdom and not the deep incisiveness that, presumably, clients pay for. I don't subscribe to the former perspective, but the latter has more merit and is often quite justified.

In the past, I've criticized IDC (perhaps the largest of all analyst firms) because I felt its quantitative orientation often overemphasizes existing markets and vendors and, because the survey samples used are too legacy-focused, tends to miss new, innovative offerings. For example, I feel IDC missed the rise of Linux because many of its original use cases escaped notice of traditional infrastructure and operations groups.

However, a recent IDC report, IDC Predictions 2014: Battles for Dominance - and Survival - on the 3rd Platform, puts to rest these kinds of reservations. While understated, its analysis and predictions provide as much drama as any novel, and its denouement is the kind of cliffhanger that makes it, as the saying goes, unputdownable.

Simply stated: You must read this report and think about what it means for your company's future. This is true whether you're an IT user a vendor or, for that matter, a company that thinks of itself as in another business altogether.

IT Is All About Cloud, Mobile, Social and Big Data

The theme of the report is that what IDC calls the third platform will disrupt information technology profoundly.

What, you might ask, is the third platform? It's the next-generation IT software foundation:

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile
  • Big data
  • Social (systems of engagement that integrate company stakeholder communities to more tightly communicate and drive mutual value)

From IDC's perspective, what we call IT is rapidly shifting to the third platform. This succeeds the first two platforms - mainframe and client/server/Internet technology, respectively. Its capabilities will transform who provides IT solutions, who applies them and how they're used.

The report identifies 10 trends for 2014; all, from my perspective, ring true. I want to discuss several in some detail, since they represent such a disruptive impact on business-as-usual as it has been practiced over the lifetime of what we call the Information Age.

Put another way, the trends represent the true emergence of the information age - what went before was really just nascent information technology tacked onto a relatively undisturbed Industrial Age.

All IT Growth Will Come From Third Platform

According to IDC, the 5 percent IT growth it sees for 2014 is comprised of two elements: Stagnant legacy infrastructure growth (0.7 percent) and a high third-platform infrastructure growth (15 percent). Just to bring the point home, IDC asserts that a full 29 percent of 2014 IT spending and 89 percent of all IT growth spending will be in the third platform; of the latter, a full 50 percent represents cannibalization of traditional markets.


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