Research firm Gartner has highlighted the top 10 technology trends for 2015 most likely to have a significant impact on enterprises in the next three years.
Among the top technologies are cloud computing, software-defined architectures, 3D printing, internet of things (IoT), web-scale IT and advanced data analytics.
These technologies will be strategic for most organisations in 2015 as it will affect their long-term plans, programmes and initiatives, according to Gartner.
The impact could be in the form of disruption to users, IT or the business. Alternatively, it could call for a major investment or even threaten the survival of the business in the case of late adoption.
Vice-president and Gartner fellow David Cearley said organisations cannot afford to ignore the top technology trends when planning their IT or business strategies.
"This does not necessarily mean adoption and investment in all of the trends at the same rate, but companies should look to make deliberate decisions about them during the next two years," he said.
The Gartner-identified top technologies include:
According to the research firm, the convergence of cloud and mobile computing will lead to centrally co-ordinated applications that can be delivered to any device.
"Cloud is the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style," said Cearley. "While network and bandwidth costs may continue to favour apps that use the intelligence and storage of the client device effectively, co-ordination and management will be based in the cloud."
More on Gartner's top technologies
The focus for cloud will be on synchronising content and application state across multiple devices, as well as addressing application portability across devices, he added.
Software-defined networking, storage, datacentres and security are maturing, said Gartner. Agile programming of applications and infrastructure will make organisations flexible.
To deal with the rapidly changing demands of digital business and to scale systems up, IT has to move away from static to dynamic models, Cearley advised.
According to Gartner, web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers in an enterprise IT setting.
More organisations will begin building apps and infrastructure like web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, the research firm predicted. Web-scale IT will evolve as cloud-optimised and software-defined approaches reach the mainstream, and commercial hardware platforms embrace the new models.
The first step towards the web-scale IT future for many organisations should be DevOps – bringing development and operations together to drive holistic development of applications and services, advised Cearley.
Gartner also predicted an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on devices alone.
"Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space," said Cearley.
"It is the overall environment that will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organisations as they lose control of user endpoint devices. It will also require increased attention to user experience design," he added.
The internet of things
Billing the IoT as a trend that can significantly impact enterprises, Cearley warned IT should not limit itself to thinking only the IoT (assets and machines) has the potential to leverage the four basic usage models — manage, monetise, operate and extend.
For example, the pay-per-use model can be applied to assets (such as industrial equipment), services (such as pay-as-you-drive insurance), people (such as movers), places (such as parking spots) and systems (such as cloud services), he said.
Gartner predicted worldwide shipments of 3D printers could grow by 98% in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016.
3D printing will reach a tipping point over the next three years as the market for low-cost 3D printing devices grows. New industrial, biomedical and consumer applications will demonstrate 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs.
Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics
Analytics will take centre stage as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the organisation are analysed, the research company said.
"Organisations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT, social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere," said Cearley.
Big data is an important enabler for this trend but the focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions first and big data second – the value is in the answers, not the data, he added.
Future systems will be alert to their surroundings and able to respond appropriately, according to Gartner. Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge.
In the future, systems can understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously, said the research firm. Prototype self-driving cars, advanced robots, and virtual personal assistants already exist and will evolve rapidly to become the most disruptive in the history of IT.
Risk-based security and self-protection
According to Gartner, in a digital business world, security cannot be a roadblock that stops all progress. Organisations will recognise it is not possible to provide a fully secured environment.
“Once organisations acknowledge that, they can begin to apply more sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools,” said Cearley.
Gartner also warned security-aware application design, and dynamic and static application security testing are necessary to survive in the digital world.
“This will lead to new models of building security directly in applications. Perimeters and firewalls are no longer enough – every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting,” Cearley concluded.