At this time of year I’m always asked to look into my crystal ball and predict the IT trends that will make the most impact in the next 12 months. Here are my four top tips.
- We will see the continued adoption and implementation of Software Defined Networking (SDN), particularly SD-WAN overlays across existing networks to reduce complexity and increase security and organisational control. This will lead to the eventual replacement of MPLS networks for general WAN connectivity, and longer term will see proprietary, name brand networking hardware being replaced by lower function, lower cost ‘white box’ devices.
- Although I’m a strong believer in the benefits of cloud for many applications, it’s worth stating that SaaS was the slowest growing area of public cloud this year. In 2019 I expect to see a move back to decentralisation (a.k.a. client/server) due to the ‘Internet of Things’, i.e. intelligent devices such as robotics in manufacturing – what you might term ‘intelligent client mark 2’. These devices are in effect small scale datacentres in their own right and need to process information in real time. For them the latency of cloud is becoming a major issue and the need to have intelligence at the edge will increase.
Organisations will still use cloud for what it's good at i.e. scale, training and developing AI and automation algorithms from large-scale data stores, and then upload the intelligence to make real time decisions to these edge devices to enable them to act autonomously. However, in sectors such as insurance, where actuaries have traditionally analysed massive amounts of data to enable underwriters to make policy decisions, the economies of scale provided by cloud processing offer significant advantages.
- I also expect to see an increase in serverless computing, where organisations develop applications and then rent cloud capacity by the transaction rather than by the instance. There will be continued adoption of containers, which make it easier to move applications between cloud providers – although this doesn’t work for legacy applications, which will need to be fundamentally redeveloped. As all the major cloud providers now support Kubernetes container management, organisations who have (re)developed their applications to containers will be able to take advantage of cloud broking between providers. This could either be an in-house role if an organisation has the capability, or be provided by a third party.
- Blockchain will continue to make headlines, but it’s really a technology in search of a problem and its technical limitations are becoming apparent. Its key role is to provide disintermediation, taking away the need for banks, insurance companies and other trusted third parties to act as intermediaries between two parties. However, I don’t think it’s going to take over that role any time soon. To put things in perspective, the current Bitcoin network can process around 5 transactions per second, whereas the VISA network alone can process upwards of 5,000 transactions per second. What I believe will happen is that we will start to see ‘blockchain like’ capabilities engineered into file systems and potentially databases.