What's to come? Plenty of cloud and security

The year is still young enough for the great and the good to be making predictions about just what technologies will make a difference in the months ahead

What’s in store in for the rest of 2018? With just a matter of hours left in January we asked a number of people in the industry for their views on the dominant technology trends across the year in 2018 for SMEs and enterprises and to outline which new technologies would start to move into the mainstream.

When it comes to dominant technologies in 2018, there’s a near unanimous consensus that two will lead the pack: cloud and security. “The dominant technology trend in 2018 continues to be cloud,” says Diego Segre, vice president, business partners, IBM Europe, articulating the views of many. “But we will see it evolving from an efficiency cost-saving, CAPEX to OPEX shift into a competitive differentiator, by enabling capabilities through high value APIs.”

“The cloud will continue to be the biggest driver of change in 2018,” agrees Justin Sutton-Parker, partner director, Northern Europe, Citrix. “IT teams are well aware that shifting to the cloud is the next big move to make, and I am certain we will see even greater cloud adoption in 2018.”

Nick Miles, Okta EMEA director for field alliances, agrees that cloud adoption will be a dominant trend for businesses this year “but SMEs and enterprises will make this transition to varying degrees. You will continue to see SMEs drive towards being cloud-first. You can expect a more hybrid approach for enterprises, which are more entrenched in on-premise technologies. Understanding how best to integrate them with the cloud will be essential to their success”.

Meanwhile, Kevin Linsell, CTO at Timico, believes that many organisations “have only really scratched the surface of their cloud transformation which will continue at pace this year increasingly with a shift to Software as a Service (SaaS) being made wherever possible”.

“Security was a hot topic in 2017. 2018 will be no different, as organisations of all sizes continue to battle a cyber threat landscape that is constantly evolving,” remarks Tariq Saied, CTO, Jigsaw24.

Phil Jones, Brother UK managing director, agrees that security will be a high priority for organisations in 2018. “Not only will the IT industry look to protect itself, but customers will choose partners and solutions that have business security at their core. Resellers will be expected to detail the levels of security offered by all the product portfolios and, in some cases, warrant them,” he adds..

Antony Byford, Westcon UK & Ireland managing director, concurs that security “remains at the top of the agenda, with the focus on a multi cloud hybrid strategy addressing the emerging digital needs of business today. Maintaining a consistent security posture, pervasive visibility, and ease of security management across all clouds will drive security teams to extend their strategy beyond security considerations for public and private clouds and also focus on securely enabling SaaS applications".

Ian Kilpatrick, EVP for cyber security at Nuvias Group, combines the two to speak of “cloud insecurity”, an issue which he predicts will “continue to grow in 2018 as users put more and more data on the cloud, without, in many cases, properly working out how to secure it. It is not the cloud providers’ responsibility to secure the information – it is down to the user”.

Dana Epp, CTO at managed service provider Kaseya, takes a very different view. “2018 will be the year organisations finally realise the cloud is actually more secure than storing critical apps on-premises. 2018 will be the year that IT leaders will stop asking if the cloud is safer than on-prem, the question will become obsolete as cloud security permeates the enterprise.”

And then there’s GDPR. With less than five months to go before it takes effect, “chaos still seems to reign”, says Tracy Pound, managing director of Maximity and a member of the board of directors at CompTIA. “Confusion exists around what level of investment is needed to ensure and maintain compliance, what the impact on the business will be when in force, whether to hire a Data Protection Officer, what really constitutes consent; in fact most areas of the GDPR”.

Peter Groucutt, managing director at Databarracks agrees, to a certain extent. “The well-prepared large enterprises have been planning for GDPR for years, but there are masses of organisations (particularly SMEs) that aren’t prepared.” He believes there is “a lot to do in a relatively small space of time. Data management, security, CRM, consulting and anything else that can be tied to the regulation will continue to do well up to, and after 25 May”.

In terms of technology trends that will start to move into the mainstream, the four most cited are AI and machine learning; IOT, Edge computing and SD-WAN. “Machine learning and AI tools and platforms are getting easier to use and are thus becoming more pervasive,” says Sutton-Parker. And Kilpatrick observes that AI is driving a transformational change in 2018. “We will see lots more AI projects and initiatives in 2018; it will be the cornerstone of change in automation of ICT. Proactive, automated, non-human decisions are now a necessity,” he argues. “Are the robots coming? Yes, they are – but we still need to develop the Intellectual Property (IP) to drive them.”

Phil Brown, Exertis commercial and sales director, agrees that AI is being used in many areas but “he challenge with AI, as with many new technologies, will be how to deploy its many uses across the enterprise and bring it to life in such a way that it can be sold as a commercial solution”. Jones at Brother  believes the industry will “move away from thinking of AI as a sci-fi concept and instead as a tool to help our businesses operate more efficiently and productively”.

Richard Roberts, vice president channels EMEA at Mitel, suggests that IOT “will take another step closer to becoming mainstream” in 2018 as “the cost of connectivity across all devices comes down and the trust in devices and the ability to secure them rises”.

Fujitsu VP EMEA channel and sales operations, Dave Hazard, predicts that IOT “will drive the need for higher computing power and storage space, as businesses seek to gather data from more and more devices”. This will require channel partners to  “offer edge computing solutions to process and upload the information. Bringing all of this data together and managing it will be the biggest challenge”. Graeme Watt, Tech Data senior vice president, advanced and specialised solutions Europe, believes that IOT and BYOD will lead to “an increase in intelligent devices and applications that can process data, and make critical, business decisions at the edge of the network”.  This will require edge computing to analyse the data collected in real-time.

Scott Brothers, group EVP corporate development at ONVU Technologies, agrees: “The Internet of Things will grow much smarter at the edge. We need solutions able to make their own decisions, or aid those on the ground in getting deeper insights faster.”

Read more on Hybrid Cloud Architecture