VC activity in 2008

[Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed piece by Drew Clark, Director of Strategy and co-founder of IBM's Venture Capital Group. Over the past few weeks, we've posted 2008 predictions from entrepreneur Bernard Moon and VCs Baris Karadogan and Jeremy Liew (you can find those stories here, here and here, respectively). We want to finish out the picture with a view from a big corporate investor.]

Throughout the course of the year, IBM’s Venture Capital Group meets with hundreds of VCs and portfolio companies here in the United States and around the world. Our ongoing conversations with all of these groups has given us quite a bit of insight into what the VCs see as attracting more attention in 2008. This time of year, there are as many predictions lists as there are VCs, nevertheless, here are the top technology trends (not in any particular order) we believe you’ll be hearing more about in 2008.

Green Datacenter. The “greening” of the datacenter will continue to be a top priority for corporations as the cost of simply powering the center begins to exceed the cost of the servers and devices in it. Key drivers to help reduce the overall carbon footprint and run more efficient centers will include intelligent sensors and advanced analytics to monitor and improve equipment utilization to reduce downtime and provide comprehensive operational visibility. Green datacenters are also increasingly becoming part of corporate social responsibility campaigns, so expect increased focus here.

Alternative Energy/Cleantech. In 2008, global interest in cleantech will continue to grow as competitive players emerge in unexpected geographies outside the United States. Beyond investment in alternative energy, there will be a great demand for technologies that allow energy consumers (businesses and homeowners) and producers (utilities) to monitor, manage, distribute and use energy more efficiently. Look for more investment in companies in the areas of energy efficiency, advanced water management, intelligent utility networks, energy caching and storage, and demand-side conservation and smart metering tools.

Digital Convergence/Communications. Expect to see more investment in wireless services that exploit emerging 4G capabilities such as smartphones with broadband data coupled with embedded GPS, as well as technologies like VoIP, WiMAX, and SIP. The next three years will be the tipping point at which a large number of enterprises move beyond proof-of-concept and begin to deploy these kinds of technologies.

The Mobile, Wireless (and Social) Web. Industry analysts are predicting that by 2010 there will be 1 billion people (almost a third of the world’s population) accessing the Web via a mobile screen. This is obviously game-changing. The social-community-based approach of Web 2.0 will increasingly become part of this mobile landscape in 2008. Ultimately, mobile communities can be connected with location-based services. You’ll not only be able to access a person’s MySpace or Facebook entry, but you’ll also be able to find out where they are–if they want to be found.

SaaS, Web as Platform & Cloud Computing. Software as a service (SaaS) is fast becoming a viable option in more markets, and larger enterprises are now evaluating where service-based delivery may provide value. Meanwhile, leading-edge companies are evaluating Web-based platforms that provide service-based access to a range of infrastructure services, information, applications, and business processes. As these Google-like “clouds” evolve and mature over the next 2-3 years, we’ll begin to see them strongly influence the next phase in enterprise datacenter architecture.

Web 2.0 Mashups & Composite Apps. Web mashups are fast becoming the dominant model for the creation not just of so-called “situational apps” but of full-blown composite enterprise applications built on leading-edge SOA (service-oriented architecture) foundations. Small and medium businesses, as well as enterprise customers are now formulating enterprise mashups. Widgets, small reusable programs based on Web 2.0 techniques, are rapidly emerging as the reusable, loosely-coupled components of the programmable Web. 2008 will be the year when we begin to see SOA join forces with increasingly popular Web 2.0 standards and technologies in the enterprise. Combining Web 2.0 for the agility and ease-of-use it brings to applications and services, and SOA for the rigor and governance it instills across the enterprise, is surely the best of all worlds.