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Top IT predictions in APAC in 2018

A “mega cloud” that weaves together multiple private and public clouds, along with the use of AI to perform data-driven “thinking tasks”, could emerge next year

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Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain and cyber security have made the headlines for much of 2017. These mega trends are not showing any signs of abating, going by the crystal-ball gazing of technology suppliers in recent weeks. We take a look at the top IT trends that are likely to shape the industry in 2018.

Pang Yee Beng, senior vice-president for commercial business in South Asia and Korea at Dell EMC, said starting from 2018, businesses will harness AI to perform data-driven “thinking tasks”, reducing the time spent on scoping, debating and testing innovations. AI will also facilitate faster decision-making, with the knowledge that ideas will not get stuck in the mire.

Pang also expects more examples of AI performing thinking tasks in healthcare, agriculture and financial services across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. But the challenge will be for organisations to prove the business value of AI and to make sure they have the right infrastructure and talent in place.

Pang, who is also managing director of Dell Malaysia, said AI will also create new job opportunities. “For example, we’ll see a new type of IT professional focused on AI training and fine-tuning,” he said. “This region will become the home of these skills, with AI dominating the skillsets of future talent.”

In the networking space, machine learning will be used to complement automation and enable networking to move beyond traditional device-by-device command line interface (CLI) configuration, towards intent-driven service orchestration, according to David Hughes, founder and CEO of Silver Peak. “We will see this in new application classification techniques, learning and adaptive networking functions and powerful data analytics that turn terabytes of data into actionable insights and actions for network operators,” he said.

Led by organisations in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, more businesses across the region are expected to adopt a multi-cloud strategy that harnesses public, private, hosted, managed and cloud application services, said Dell EMC’s Pang.

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But as more applications and workloads get hosted on different cloud services, Pang said cloud silos will emerge, inhibiting an organisation’s ability to fully exploit data analytics and AI initiatives.

To address this, Pang sees the emergence of a “mega cloud” that will weave together multiple private and public clouds to behave as a coherent, holistic system. The mega cloud will offer a federated, intelligent view of an entire IT environment, he said.

“To make the mega cloud possible, we will need to create multi-cloud innovations in networking to move data between clouds, storage to place data in the right cloud, compute to process and accelerate workloads, orchestration to link networking, storage and compute together across clouds, and customers will have to incorporate AI and machine learning to bring automation and insight to a new level,” said Pang.

Today, most WAN (wide area network) traffic, to and from branch and remote sites, is destined for the cloud, either to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings or applications hosted in an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environment, according to Silver Peak’s Hughes. “The traditional WAN was architected for branch-to-datacentre traffic flows, not to efficiently support new cloud-driven traffic patterns,” he said. “Starting in 2018, most enterprises will adopt a ‘cloud-first’ software-defined WAN architecture designed to efficiently and effectively support the ongoing evolution in their application mix.”

Blockchain on the move

Blockchain has gone from strength to strength over the past year, as centralised transaction models have come under attack, according to Ettienne Reinecke, group CTO of Dimension Data. In the financial services sector, the US, Japanese and European capital markets have been moving onto blockchain platforms. “Considering how conservative and compliance-focused this sector is, that is quite remarkable,” said Reinecke.

With the price of bitcoin surging in recent months, more cyber criminals are also expected to transact in the blockchain-based cryptocurrency, which provides a safe mechanism for the payment of ransoms, underlining the security of the distributed ledger approach. In fact, Reinecke believes blockchain has the potential to re-engineer cyber security, though the industry has yet to come to terms with the technology.

Dell EMC’s Pang said the growing number of connected devices, coupled with the ready availability of processing power and AI, will help machines orchestrate physical and human resources better. “We will evolve into ‘digital conductors’ of the technology and environments surrounding us,” he said. “Technology will function as an extension of us. Every object will become smart and enable us to live smarter lives.”

Noting that the APAC region is ground zero for internet-of-things (IoT) innovation and implementation, Pang is expecting IoT investments to increase, fuelled by government initiatives and 5G developments, particularly in markets such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Incumbents fight back

With their business models being threatened by more nimble born-digital startups, established enterprises have been taking action to transform themselves into digital businesses. Dimension Data’s Reinecke said incumbent bigwigs that have modernised their architectures and embedded high levels of automation into their operations will have an opportunity to claw back market share in 2018.

“I predict that a number of digitally transformed incumbents will successfully start reclaiming their markets because they have more credibility, longer histories, an established customer base, and assets that can stand the test of time,” said Reinecke.

After 2017 was marked by ransomware attacks, the new year will see declining profitability of traditional ransomware campaigns as cyber defences, user education and security strategies improve. Consequently, attackers will eye more lucrative targets, including high net-worth individuals, connected devices and businesses, according to Raj Samani, chief scientist and head of McAfee advanced threat research.

The modus operandi of ransomware attacks will also go beyond extortion to include cyber sabotage and disruption of organisations. The drive to inflict greater damage and the threat of greater financial impact will not only spawn new cyber crime business models, but will also drive demand for cyber insurance.

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