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As the new year commences, we are all reaching for the proverbial crystal ball in an attempt to foresee what lies ahead for 2016. My first prediction is that most of what we read on this topic will focus on the old chestnuts of mobile, cloud, and security. But in reality, we all know the world is going mobile, that the journey to cloud ubiquity will continue, and if we aren’t all building security into the heart of our solutions today then we have a problem.
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So let’s assume these as given, and try and look at some more fundamental shifts that are happening. There are a few underlying trends that gathered just enough momentum in 2015 to make a big splash this year. From hyperconvergence to IT automation, read on to find out what we think you should keep your eye on in 2016.
Hyperconvergence will be demystified, its benefits made clear.
If, as defined by the wonderful Dilbert, “hybrid cloud is a technology you don’t understand combined with another one”, then hyperconvergence is all of the technology you don’t understand combined into one. Hyperconvergence has certainly been a source of discussion, but it has remained a somewhat arcane subject concerned with large-scale data centers and cutting-edge storage technology. For this technology to go mainstream — and, in particular, for it to impact the small to medium site or business — it must be demystified and the business benefits expounded. Demystification may be as simple as changing our verbiage: For example, when looking at a smaller installation, a good starting point could be to change the term “data center” to “the complex jumble of servers, storage, and other equipment that your business depends on”. In very simple terms, SMB hyperconvergence could be defined as a way to deliver commodity “units of integrated IT” that you bolt together to meet your particular business needs. As your business grows you just buy more units. This brings massive cost and flexibility benefits.
In 2016, these benefits will begin to be explored and understood, giving way to hyperconvergence as the de-facto standard for SMB IT.
NFV benefits will focus less on flexibility of service and more on cost reduction.
As part of the whole journey toward hyperconvergence, network function virtualization (NFV) — the process by which networking functionality is virtualized and moved from proprietary to industry-standard hardware — will continue to gain momentum, with more trials and deployments taking place. To date, the benefits have focused on the dynamic delivery of services for subscribers, like bandwidth on-demand, enabled through network “agility” provided by NFV.
In 2016, the emphasis on flexibility will change and instead focus on reducing cost by securely running networking virtualization software on industry-standard hardware. This will drive down costs for subscribers and network providers alike.
Organizations will look to IT automation and managed services for businesses enablement.
With IT budgets predicted to remain flat and IT resources hanging on at the status quo (Spiceworks 2016 State of IT Survey), IT professionals might worry that the new year will bring them little respite in tackling their monumental list of tasks. Indeed, core functions such as provisioning, migration, monitoring, maintenance and upgrades have historically consumed IT resources and budget, leaving little left for business enablement. But this will begin to change as automation becomes more mainstream and the use of core functions delivered ‘as a Service’ continues. Automation of these core functions will become essential, enabling more IT capability to be delivered with less resource. IT automation solutions will increasingly benefit developers and IT professionals, impacting across the full-service life cycle and configuration management, monitoring, virtualization and containerization, and enabling efficient operation at scale.
This year, we will see an acceleration of the automation of core IT functions and their delivery ‘as a Service’, changing the role of the professional away from break-fix to business enablement.
The cloud and IoT will be reimagined as an integrated whole.
For quite a while now, cloud proponents have been predicting that everything will move to the public cloud and that edge devices will become nothing more than public cloud access nodes. This somewhat dogmatic view does not take into account the fact that, with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, a growing need now exists for local pre-processing and delegated actuation on the network edge. The wide range of anticipated dispersed IoT processing activities requires a distributed IT built upon hyperconverged infrastructure that can be re-sized for each scenario. This trend will cause a redefinition of the cloud to include some compute, store and network functions distributed to the edge of the cloud where they are needed, not locked away in monolithic data centers. The real future of the cloud is where local, distributed sensors and public cloud resources can be managed and delivered as an integrated whole, rather than as two disconnected and competing philosophies.
In 2016, thought leaders in our industry will reimagine the cloud and IoT, and turn each into tangible products.
Operational Excellence will accelerate IT adoption.
When we look at these trends, perhaps it’s possible to identify one super-trend which underpins them all. That is the need for IT to commoditize and productize its way out of the operational and usability black holes that the industry has allowed to develop over it’s still relatively short history. We have allowed increased capability to automatically result in increased complexity, and that needs to change. IT leadership now needs to come from building operational excellence into the core of IT solutions, so that advanced functionality can be consumed by all, without the need for advanced IT design and support skills. Whether this comes from the increased modularity of hyperconvergence, the demystifying of communications hardware that comes from NFV, the automation of IT processes, or the migration of cloud values to the edge, we need to change how companies buy, consume and support IT.
In 2016, those vendors who invest in operational excellence and easing the pain of advanced IT adoption will find a receptive audience.
There you have it: five predictions that serve as a potential roadmap as we anticipate what 2016 holds for us all. Of course, no one knows for sure what the future will bring. The only true certainty in our industry is continued and never ending change.