Column Gardener is a strange fish. A very large strange fish, which earns about 4 billion dollars a year from its 16,000 souls that tremble in the shining belly. It acts as a plaintiff for the troubled monarchs in the industry and which of their courtiers can afford a subscription to the reports.
The company has an admirable sustainable business model that comes close to the fantastic circular supply chain. It gets the raw material from confidential conversations with its paying customers, mixes the data up in its giant cauldron of proprietary analysis, and then sells it back to them and their peers. Rinse and repeat. It has significant influence in the market with its Magic Quadrants about who is out and who is out, and since these people tend to be these clients again, we have to take it for granted that no unnecessary influence is attached to large checks. Which, of course, we do.
But what if skeptical types want to check? Gartner has branched out from its original IT focus to provide research and advice to all aspects of the business ̵
Well, remember that – you can not sell it no one buys. If our analyzes do not work, let’s take the second leaf out of Gartner’s book and do some research. Gartner is known for its Hype cycles, where it takes specific technologies and places them on an emotion curve that reflects how exciting an idea is versus the actual adoption in Clan Useful.
This year in networking, we find that AIOps, where computers look at their own bits, are in, while network observability, where humans do, is out. Proof that everything is hyper with AI in the name. And then there is zero trust in network access, which “enhances the user experience” and is a “youth” technology. ZTNA certainly has many of the mumbling, whining, repetitive annoyances of adolescence, but as parents will attest, “improving the user experience” is not on the list. Gardener is comfortable with opposites.
But the real test comes from history, so let’s repair this list of all Gartner’s Emerging Technology Hype Cycles from 2000 to 2015, and see if Madame Garty says soothingly. It’s not really fair to go back to 2000 and its Webtops, Jini and micropayments – even if Java is “fully mature” is guilty. Skulking in the corner – quantum computing. Bless.
So let’s sip 2016, just five years ago. Virtual Reality thinks it’s the bees’ knees, but honestly any chart that starts with Smart Dust is 4G printing (what?), And General Purpose Machine Intelligence is an Iain M Banks outline rather than a clear analysis. It looked bonkers five years ago, it looks double now. But then we have 802.11ax, which is a good conversation, but just as insightful as saying that Apple will sell some phones, and, yes yes, quantum computing. Bless.
When you scan up and down, you realize that it is mostly a lottery. 2002 is bizarre in money, with “personal digital assistant phones”, VPNs, location sensing and the like that are bigger than nanotechnology and fuel cells. There are patterns: previous Hype cycles love “Activity Streams”, whatever they were, and quantum computing seems to be popping up for about a year or two. Bless. Oh, if search engines or ARM chips or OLEDs are anywhere, I missed them. What happened to that Google thing, anyway?
Hype cycles are science fiction, in the sense that they reflect the biases and hopes and uncertainties of the present, as stories about the future always do. Like science fiction, they are not as good at actual prediction – as real science fiction rarely pretends.
What does Hype Cycles tell us about Gartner and its true nature? The clue is in the name; Gartner absorbs the report and opinions about how well company portals are doing this year, hits them or not, and the result is reported in the press with more or less reaction. Which is duly noted, and fed back to the next time, constantly carries the name of Gartner through the media with a strong scent of broad, deep technical mastery. Once you find out what Activity Flows are, we might try to get them into the 2022 edition.
Here’s a prediction for you: Hype cycles will be very interesting as historical documents, not about the actual state and adoption of technology, but as a marker for the stories told about it, the rise and fall of faith somewhat disconnected from reality. Gartner would do well to appoint a proper historian, and perhaps a proper ethicist, in recognition of some of the truths about himself that never appear in a PowerPoint deck. The world is ready for a little less flannel. ®