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Cloud tops the menu in 2020, with helpings of HCI, security and 5G

We ask the channel what technologies and trends they see dominating in 2020 – cloud tops the list, with hyper-convergence, security and 5G also featuring

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When it comes to trying to make predictions for the IT industry in 2020, people often highlight a number of technologies and trends, but in nearly all instances they can only see them by looking through the cloud.

That might sound strange when our natural instinct is to believe that cloud obscures our vision, but, in the case of the IT industry, it’s an intrinsic part of what people see happening in 2020.

Atul Damani, chief technology strategist at Westcon-Comstor, believes there will be a big surge in hybrid/mixed model clouds.

“We’re currently seeing a massive push from the most successful cloud companies to increase adoption,” he says. “To do this, IaaS [infrastructure-as-a-service] cloud computing providers are recognising the need to get into the datacentre or branch office and are pushing several paths, including hardware and connectivity, to get there. These will start becoming more mainstream in 2020, fuelling faster cloud adoption.”

Neil Blecherman, director of global marketing at Supermicro, predicts cloud infrastructure will become mainstream in 2020.

“Faced with the challenge of an explosion of data from mobile devices using 5G, IoT [internet of things], IIoT [industrial internet of things] and other SaaS [software-as-a-service] applications, enterprises will feel the need for speed and scale intensifying in 2020, at the same time as the resurgence of private cloud with containers and Kubernetes we’ve witnessed over the past year will become mainstream,” he says.

Scott Murphy, director of cloud and advanced solutions at Ingram Micro UK & Ireland, concurs. “Irrespective of company size, the tech industry will embrace the acceleration of cloud services moving into 2020,” he argues.

This view is echoed by Paul Routledge, D-Link country manager. “The continuing move to the cloud for our everyday services will pick up further pace in 2020 as we see more and more devices connect to the internet,” he says. “Management services of these devices will gain in popularity to control our devices through the same online portals.”

“Companies that went all-in on cloud-first are now realising that certain types of workload are much better suited to on-premise or managed hosted”
Leigh Schvartz, Fujitsu UK

David Cummins, vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Tenable, thinks cloud technologies, “particularly integrations with some of the most popular public cloud providers, will dominate 2020”.

He says adoption of cloud services has exploded in recent years, and this will continue as organisations look for more flexibility and functionality for day-to-day work.

“Alongside this,” he says, “will be security technologies that are designed for cloud environments, rather than adapted from existing solutions, to make sure organisations can make the migration securely.”

Leigh Schvartz, head of product innovation strategy at Fujitsu UK, notes that enterprises are likely to continue to move workloads out of the public cloud. “Companies that went all-in on cloud-first are now realising that certain types of workload are much better suited to on-premise or managed hosted.”

Continued growth of hyper-converged infrastructure

He adds that hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) will be a dominant trend for enterprises “looking for a landing zone coming out of the public cloud or taking a hybrid approach to their digital transformation to get away from legacy equipment”.

He predicts continued growth on HCI which will come alongside the battle for dominance between VMware and Nutanix. “IoT will gain further traction in 2020, while edge computing will remain a key technology for vendors,” he adds.

Matthieu Brignone, Pure Storage’s EMEA area vice-president for partners, says customers will want to store more data and applications on-premise, or at the very least have greater control where it resides. “Concerns around privacy and security mean organisations dont want to put all their eggs in one basket and, for instance, store everything with a large public cloud provider,” he says.

Abby Strong, vice-president of product marketing at Extreme Networks, says there will be a shift to third-generation cloud-based infrastructure management solutions in 2020.

“The introduction of third-generation cloud technologies opens up the possibility of restructuring how organisations manage their networks through new capabilities that go far beyond basic network management,” she states.

“Third-generation cloud solutions grant IT staff real-time insights into network availability, while also increasing flexibility and reducing the operational complexity. For IT decision-makers looking to empower their networks, cloud services that leverage ML [machine learning] and AI [artificial intelligence] are the next logical step.”

The importance of security

For many, security is a very important area in 2020. Mark McHale, vice-president north-west for Arrow’s EMEA enterprise computing solutions business, says that as security evolves, its dominance, risk to an organisation and importance at board level continues.

“As an organisation of any size grows, so does its threat surface,” he says. “Business-wide security becomes a combination of technology and education. But enterprise budgets are limited, so a risk scoring system needs to be applied to invest where the largest reputational, operational or financial risks reside.”

Phil Brown, sales and commercial director for business at Exertis, agrees that security will continue to be a concern, but says it’s not just an issue for large companies.

“SMEs are equally vulnerable,” he says. “Indeed, those companies often lack the resources to ensure their security is up to the challenge, but data protection and privacy is something for all companies to address if they are to avoid not only a fine, but reputational damage and consequential losses.”

Ed Williams, EMEA director at Trustwave SpiderLabs, says the race to the cloud isn’t going to slow down in 2020, but “if not done properly there’s going to be significant security issues there due to everything needing to be done within a compressed timeframe, and enterprises not fully understanding the security implications of putting things in the cloud”.

“We’re going to see data breaches, services that should not be published to the internet being published, and a whole raft of other cyber security issues,” he adds.

Chris Ross, senior vice-president of international sales at Barracuda, argues that security is going to get harder, not easier, in the coming year because customer technology environments are more complex.

“Some of the biggest security threats will be created by the network’s continuing proliferation, movement to the cloud and extension to critical infrastructure and industrial control systems,” says Ross. “To make matters worse, the advent of 5G will allow attackers to siphon data out of compromised devices at a speed not imaginable before.”

Ian Ashworth, EMEA and Asia-Pacific channels director at Netwrix, says technologies that enable organisations “to maintain data security and automate routine processes will become mainstream” this year. There will also be “a rising need for technologies which allow business to organise and clean up unnecessary data”.

Ed Baker, EMEA partner lead at McAfee, has a different angle, arguing that “the mammoth task of managing security vendor sprawl will lead many organisations to consolidate in 2020”. With a lot of change in the security market last year, such as initial public offerings and major vendors going private and changing strategy, it can be difficult for customers to manage a fragmented security environment with a number of different solutions in place. 

“Customers want simplicity through setting up a single open platform that’s not only more effective but also easier to manage,” he says. “This year, we can expect to see more customers consolidate to better meet their security requirements.”

IoT and AI on the periphery

Among other predictions, the usual suspects of IoT and AI crop up, but it feels as if opinion isn’t as clear cut as it may have been in the past.

For example, Murphy at Ingram Micro believes that these technologies “will remain relevant, but they will be identified as peripheral solutions that enhance other technologies, rather than build up noise by themselves”.

Phil Jones, managing director of Brother UK, says the reality for AI is that “we are still at the beginning of a long journey”, adding that “the days of buying AI just because it’s the hottest ticket in town are dwindling”.

Ashworth at Netwrix agrees. “We will see organisations implementing AI-based solutions, but they will not be as plentiful as one might think, given that AI dominates the headlines today,” he states.

To illustrate his point, Ashworth cites the company’s own survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals worldwide which revealed “that only 10% of organisations plan to deploy AI-based solutions in 2020, with this trend being most relevant for enterprises”.

But Supermicro’s Blecherman is more bullish, predicting AI “will conquer new markets in 2020”, such as agriculture, retail, aviation and security. As a consequence, he says, AI computing usage will double every 3.5 months as bigger data models will require bigger computing solutions, and responsible use through energy-saving management will become essential. “Companies will need to overcome storage, network and computing challenges coming with implementing such powerful training systems.”

Pure Storage’s Brignone believes “more businesses will become ‘AI-first’ in 2020 and beyond”, with the onus on vendors and partners to supply solutions that “allow for end-to-end rapid AI deployment”.

Fujitsu’s Schvartz claims AI “is already a mainstream technology” and as its growth accelerates, “new offerings will be explored, such as AI-as-a-service”.

5G will bring great change

5G also has its proponents. Nick Offin, head of sales, marketing and operations at Dynabook Northern Europe, claims that while most of the forecasts around the technology to date have been in relation to investment and launches, that will change this year. He expects 5G to change just about everything across multiple industries.

“Telecoms experts are going so far as to herald 5G’s arrival as the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. With its enhanced capacity, connectivity, speeds and minimal latencies, 5G will be the catalyst for IoT adoption,” says Offin.

He predicts cloud and edge computing, wearables and 8K technology will benefit from 5G.

“More businesses will become ‘AI-first’ in 2020 and beyond”, with the onus on vendors and partners to supply solutions that “allow for end-to-end rapid AI deployment”
Matthieu Brignone, Pure Storage

Jeremy Payne, vice-president of alliances at Enghouse Interactive, says 5G will allow app developers to build further sophistication and functionality into their apps and enable organisations to better integrate social service into their mix.

“Giving customers a platform and voice to be able to help each other can be a great way to solve problems quickly and cheaply, while building greater customer engagement and loyalty,” he says.

Westcon-Comstor’s Damani predicts the advent of 5G will introduce a new slew of applications, especially around low latency and/or high bandwidth. “Off the back of this,” says Damani, “augmented reality, virtual reality, video endpoints and robotics will also see a massive boost, and this will start to bring new areas in security, networking and unified communications to keep up with the innovation that is being offered via 5G. 

Security will be a big issue here too. Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave SpiderLabs, remarks: “While 5G has many built-in protections against direct attacks, as the protocol begins to develop more widespread adoption, we will likely see a further degrading of the traditional network perimeter. With that will come more challenges for security professionals trying to ensure the security of the data and systems in their charge.”

Sustainability of growing significance

One other area which could come to the forefront this year, particularly in light of Microsoft’s recent publicly stated commitment to become carbon negative by 2030, is sustainability.

Sustainability is becoming an important consideration for companies as consumers look to purchase eco-friendly products from green organisations that produce products that reduce the environmental footprint of customers,” says Brown at Exertis.

Brother’s Jones claims there has been a shift in how sustainability ranks in buying decisions. “The days of box-ticking are over. Now you need to demonstrate real evidence and it will make up a sizeable chunk of your tender score,” he says.

Jones warns that we are at a tipping point going into 2020. “If a reseller wants to work in the public sector, then proving its commitment, through things like adhering to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, is becoming mandatory,” he says.

Supermicro’s Blecherman reveals that a recent survey of IT experts by the company, ranging from SMEs to large enterprises, found 86% of businesses don’t consider the environmental impact of their facilities as an important factor.

“Over a fifth (22%) claimed environmental considerations were too expensive for them to be considered a priority for their company, indicating a significant lack of understanding of the return on investment of green computing solutions,” he says. “For example, datacentre operators that don’t consider factors such as optimal power effectiveness could also be wasting more than £1m every year.”

When it comes to quantifying the importance of sustainability in 2020, Blecherman doesn’t mince his words. “All dominant technology trends will be challenged by green considerations in 2020,” he states. Enterprises planning to deploy AI, 5G, datacentre and cloud infrastructure will inevitably encounter stricter public and government scrutiny as the power surge will continue.

“Companies should focus on optimising their resources, reduce their power and cooling costs, while aiming for effective TCO [total cost of ownership] and green efficiency.”

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