2014/2015: A look back and forward - part two

In part two, MicroScope asks industry experts what 2014 meant to them and finds out what they believe 2015 has in store for the channel

In part one, industry experts gave their thoughts on some of the mega-trends and what they mean for the year ahead. In part two, thought leaders discuss the security implications of this rapidly evolving landscape, as well as the data deluge; and finally, what all of it means for the channel.

Security - things are only going to get harder

Following directly on from the diverse ecosystem of devices and the hybrid infrastructures  supporting them is, of course, the increasingly complex security landscape. With the Sony fiasco continuing to unfold at the time of writing, it serves as a stark reminder just how crippling cyber-threats can be.

Kevin Linsell, head of service development for Adapt, believes that threats to security aren’t going to ease up. “In 2013 and 2014 security breaches, vulnerabilities and revelations around security were not only common headlines but also serious issues for many businesses.  “

“I don’t see that changing in 2015, but what may change is ever increasing regulation and controls to mitigate the impact and return some control to the EU. Some of these changes, such as the revised EU Data Protection Regulation are fast becoming law and the impacts, such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’, can be assessed by an organisation.”

In 2015 all storage resellers will also need to be security experts able to advise their customers

Russell Poole

VMware's UK strategic partner team manager, Harvey Smith, believes that organisations will need to get a better grip on shadow IT.

“While there is no doubt that the uptake of cloud spending over the last few years has helped deliver the services employees need as quickly as possible, it raises concerns around data and security management.”

From a channel perspective, EMC's Russell Poole says that resellers will not only need to be specialists of their own domain, but authorities in security too.

“Businesses today are well aware of the threats posed by our greater reliance on digital technology and barely a month goes by without some sort of data breach being reported in the press,” Poole says. “Indeed, we saw in June 2014 that entire businesses can disappear if their cloud data is not adequately protected: one cloud-hosting business had to shut up shop after its customer data was maliciously deleted from its Amazon Web Services account. In 2015 all storage resellers will also need to be security experts able to advise their customers on how to ensure their hybrid infrastructures are secure as well as effective.”

The data deluge - embracing the power of analytics  

Data is the by-product of all these trends. The quantities being produced are just getting plain silly. In fact, Bob Plumridge, EMEA CTO at Hitachi Data Systems, believes that 2015 will be the year in which our data production literally becomes unquantifiable.

“In 2003, the total amount of data ever created was five exabytes,” says Plumridge. “[Currently], five exabytes of data are created every two days. The growth of IoT devices is only going to add to this and will create an explosion of new information, 400 zettabytes of data by 2018 to be exact."

"Today our largest unit of measurement is the yottabyte, or one million exabytes, but with innovations such as smart facial monitoring systems and connected cars, in 2015 we need to define a new unit of measurement.”

Of course, ‘by-product’ is far too harsh a word for it is this big data that has led to the Age of Enlightenment when it comes to analytics. Jonathan Woodward, business lead for BI, analytics, big data and data science at Microsoft, gives his take on where Big Data is heading in 2015.“Data is being generated at a faster pace than ever before, disrupting organisations and industries alike. The value gained from turning information into insight is 

Data is the currency of business and, if mined correctly, can keep organisations a step ahead

Jonathan Woodward

set to increase in 2015 as more organisations recognise that data can be a strategic asset to business, enabling growth and competitive advantage. The explosion of data generated from sensors, machines, ERP and CRM systems, and social analytics offers organisations a vast trove of intelligence and rich insight into their business, market and customer base. Data is the currency of business and, if mined correctly, can keep organisations a step ahead, drive innovation and uncover new revenue streams. For example, the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) is using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform for the first big data project of its kind to address the UK social housing sector. The initiative will see social housing providers securely transfer the data they hold into a single secure data repository, and analyse it in ways that help individual housing providers improve and predict the way they manage housing stock, drive internal efficiencies and transform the service they provide to residents, all through the power of the cloud.

It is this type of innovation that will fuel organisations to want to unlock insights from their corporate crown jewels and uncover what more data can tell them about their business. However, in order to do this successfully, a specific skills-set is required. The role of the data scientist has recently gained a lot of visibility and an increasing number of UK universities are offering it as a course which is helping to drive job creation in this field. Moreover, the continued advancements of analytics tools and machine learning technologies are democratising data and empowering the wider workforce to use data in a new way and benefit from an unprecedented level of knowledge that they may not previously have been able to tap into. In the future, intelligent computing will be ubiquitous – in the workplace, the home and beyond – and the data from this “digitised world” will power intelligent systems and services that provide information that will change the way we live and work.”

Plumridge believes that in order to survive the avalanche, data classification must improve.

“The issue for IT teams is that they are going in data blind. Often data isn’t classified at the point of creation, leaving businesses with no way of knowing whether they are looking at HR, sales or customer data. With the majority of data holding little to no value, the importance of classification is paramount to ensure businesses retain the crucial 20%.”

“Unfortunately one size does not fit all and what’s valuable to a bank isn’t necessarily useful to a hospital. Vertical solutions are crucial, especially considering the imminent growth of IoT devices. In 2015, enterprises will begin to realise the importance of understanding data at the point of creation and analysing it accordingly.”

The channel - keeping pace with the ever-changing ecosystem 

As the IT landscape evolves, so too must the channel. Delivery models have been completely transformed thanks to the cloud and resellers have found themselves being forced further up or down the chain in order to find their value add. So what does 2015 bring for the channel?

Lynn Collier, HDS chief operating officer, UK&I, believes that 2015 will see a continued convergence between systems integrators and resellers, giving rise to a new breed of service provider.

“The convergence of systems integrators and resellers will be the most prominent channel trend in 2015,” Collier says. “Expect to see service integrators establishing divisions which sell infrastructure and traditional resellers differentiating their value by adding specialist services. This will result in the creation of new kinds of service providers we haven’t seen before, particularly through mergers and acquisitions. Customers are increasingly looking to partners to provide end-to-end solutions and partners who can provide that service have enormous growth potential.”

Juniper Networks agrees that new models of channel delivery are rising from the ashes.

“As goes the service provider and enterprise business, so goes the channel. The coming year will see companies big and small take on new levels of agility thanks to virtualised networks. As a result, we expect to see channel partners transform their business models and work closely with service providers to design, build and deploy new virtualised network services.”

As if channel players didn’t have enough on their plates, EMC’s Poole believes that a successful reseller’s required knowledge will extend beyond the confines of technology. Poole explains:

Resellers must be able to raise the conversation above these concerns and be able to make the case at a workload level for which type of solution should be deployed

Russell Poole

“Channel organisations have already had to adapt wide scale change over the past decade, driven by the rapid evolution of technology. As virtualisation continues its conquest of the enterprise IT industry throughout the next year, the trend towards complexity is going to gather momentum. Complexity will not, moreover, stem only from technological considerations. The internal politics of customer organisations will also need to be understood by resellers. For instance, resellers must learn the dynamic between customers’ IT and financial departments as often the two are at variance over technology purchases, with IT preferring the job security of CAPEX projects and CFOs more attracted to the cost savings OPEX projects can deliver.”

“Resellers must be able to raise the conversation above these concerns and be able to make the case at a workload level for which type of solution should be deployed – something that will require knowledge of hybrid cloud infrastructures. In 2015, therefore, increased complexity will turn resellers into consultants.”

Gouveia believes that there are too few organisations that really understand and practice ‘agile’ integration.

“One of the biggest challenges for the channel will be keeping pace with high expectations of customers as they become more demanding than ever,” Gouveia warns. “The vast majority of the channel will need to step up and get to a position where they are able to articulate, productise and deliver the kind of agile integration that customers will demand. On the other hand, vendors will need to continue to simplify their offerings to enable channel assimilation. “

Goodbye 2014

So that’s it - 2015 through the eyes of the industry. Hybrid clouds will become the norm, virtualisation will continue to sweep the enterprise and with it, the roots of the software-defined era will truly begin to take hold. IoT will find use cases that extend beyond fridges and both mobility and security will keep CIOs on their toes.

The truth is that behind all the predictions, the mega-trends and the buzzwords, there is only one actuality in this article. In 2015 - vendors, distributors, resellers, developers, thought leaders and all the other IT professionals around the globe, will return to work and strive to find new and exciting ways to enrich the modern enterprise. And MicroScope will be there every step of the way.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ~ the MicroScope Team.

This was last published in December 2014

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