I believe 2012 will be a year of infrastructure simplification and greater visibility. Here I give my top 5 predictions for 2012.

1. OpenFlow networking technology

Vendors will need to have a believable OpenFlow story otherwise Enterprises will look elsewhere in 2012. OpenFlow is an open standard that allows the separation of the data switching path and the software that controls the routing of that packet flow (control path). It is now being added as a feature to commercial Ethernet switches, routers and wireless access points.

At the moment there is a lack of end to end flow visibility and the ability to easily segment and define an end to end path. OpenFlow allows the logical separation of networks thus enhancing security and allows the complete end to end visibility needed to effectively monitor and manage a large IT estate. Network architects will be looking to vendors to have a cohesive, believable story and roadmap in 2012. If they don’t, customers will look elsewhere to vendors that do.

2. Rise of Merchant Silicon

In 2012, these ’good enough’ devices will begin to be used in non-critical network points. Merchant silicon is a marketing term used to describe the use of ‘off the shelf’ chip components to create a networking product. It is changing the rules around who makes what. There will be a real shift towards start-ups and even component makers using merchant silicon to create generic ‘good enough’ switches and routers, which will also be OpenFlow enabled.

As the economic situation worsens, companies will be looking to save more money on purchases and reduce costs. These ‘good enough’ devices will move to general acceptance as the cost benefit becomes apparent. Although these devices are not as fast and feature rich as the top end big vendor routers and switches, most companies do not need either the top end speed or feature bloat that exists in most current networking products.

3. Simplified applications

Companies will stop paying for bloated enterprise applications and go back to basics. A large percentage of enterprise applications feature sets are simply not being used. According to client feedback, only about 10% of application features are being used in any meaningful way.

The revolution enabled by Apple with its easy to use, simple user interface will be carried in to the enterprise as people will demand the ease of use and practicality that Apple and other similar products enable. Users will get rid of larger applications in 2012 and move to simpler applications that do one or very few things simply and easily.

4.  Gamification

This will be big in 2012 as more start-ups use game theory to manipulate enterprise users into following procedure and complete repetitive tasks. Gamification is the integration of game mechanics and game-thinking in non-game environments to boost engagement, loyalty and fun. There will be a real trend towards using ‘compulsion loops’, a form of instant gratification with a move towards more ‘enterprise face’. Help desk staff will be the first ones to see and use this software.

5. Cloud monitoring

Cloud monitoring to allow production to finally move to the cloud. As increasingly more organisations move to the cloud, there will be many new players in cloud monitoring and the management of space. Application to Application data flow is increasingly being looked at to ensure good response times to customers and this trend will increase in 2012.

Simplification and visibility will be the over-arching theme in 2012. Too many companies have complicated IT infrastructures that are under-utilised, with a clear lack of IT visibility. CTOs are often making decisions without hard facts and millions of pounds are lost because IT operating and planning judgments are often taken without understanding the business impact or risk.