​2016 Predictions: Information Technology

Matt Oostveen, CTO (APJ), VCE

It seems that every year, Christmas decorations begin to appear in stores a little earlier. As sure as the days get shorter – or longer if you’re based in the southern hemisphere like me – the feeling that the year is coming to an end is on our minds. In the technology world, this means it’s predictions season, and like Christmas decorations appearing in stores a little earlier than the preceding year, so too do predictions .

Given the volume of predictions starting to find their way to IT news websites and blogs, I thought I would take some time to provide insight into how to take advantage of predictions, and share my perspective on what this means for our customers, and my job as VCE’s CTO for Asia Pacific and Japan.

There are three questions I like to pose to myself and to customers when reading through a predictions list:

  • What is the level of criticality for the given prediction? Is there an urgency that will require immediate action, or does the prediction take a longer term view?
  • What is the consequence for the prediction? Does the prediction relate to the reader, and if so, what weighting should be applied to how relevant it is for your organisation? What are the risks of ignoring versus taking action? For a strategic minded CIO, this will mean positioning the prediction against the current business and ICT strategy for the organisation.
  • What is the cost of action? Depending on the characteristics of the prediction, there will be a range of responses that your organisation can take. Of course the greater the response, the more resources are required and therefore the more it will cost your organisation.

Over the last few weeks, IDC has been releasing its predictions for 2016 covering everything from social networking to datacentres. Within the datacentre predictions paper was a call-out that organisations would begin to move to a network architecture that placed far more emphasis on the edge, and required processing capability to extend from the cloud and datacentre to remote and regional locations. Here is the prediction:

Edge IT — By 2018, Cloud, Mobile, and IoT Services Providers Will Own/Operate 30% of IT Assets in Edge Locations and Micro-Datacenters, Posing Major Asset and Governance Challenges.*

For many in the industry, this will come as something of a surprise, and for the consumers of enterprise IT, it must have you rolling your eyes. If this just a more sophisticated way of saying the industry is returning to a client / server model?

Let’s apply the three questions to the IDC prediction to see how this will impact your organisation:

  • Criticality: while the proliferation of devices may take 3 to 5 years to reach a level that will impact your organisation, the lifecycle of infrastructure necessitates that decisions on future architectures must be decided upon, years in advance. Consider the platform strategy you have in place today, and whether that will meet the needs of tomorrow. If it doesn’t, what changes will need to be implemented to meet those needs.
  • Consequence: The consequence to your organisation will depend on a near limitless amount of variables defined by your industry, geography, organisational size and future business plans. For industries like retail, where retail presence can sprawl geographically, and the amount of data each store produces is estimated to grow significantly, then the consequence is high.
  • Cost of action: in the context of this prediction, the cost to your organisation will be dependent on multiple variables centred on your current levels of investment.

VCE’s take on this prediction:

Centralisation of infrastructure has been a byproduct of the move to cloud computing – whether owned and operated by a third party, or run in house. The world of technology is continuing to evolve, and today we are moving into the next phase of disruption brought about by the Internet of things. In this world, we have billions of devices that will connect to our networks generating zettabytes of data from sensors and software. Organisations are planning to make sense of this data, analysing it for patterns to extract value. We will need to invest in technology that allows us to manage the flow of this information as we push it through nodes on our networks.

The vast amount of information will require an architecture that allows the processing of data to occur on the edge, not just in central locations. This creates new challenges for enterprises, as they must extend their network control, security and management to remote and regional locations. Branch office locations will become regional hubs with increasing amounts of complex technology that will need to be remotely operated and managed.

Part of IDC’s guidance for organisations seeking to mitigate risk aligned to this prediction is;

“Hyperconverged infrastructure and cloud-based applications are ideal for edge environments. The potential bottleneck will be the network.”*

Whilst I agree with IDC’s recommendation that hyperconverged infrastructure on the edge can be ideal, organisations should be aware of the potential problems this can cause with security, management and the network. For the last few years, VCE has been building out its solutions portfolio to address the challenges of this future, with Vscale architecture, Vision 3.0 software, and a complete converged infrastructure portfolio stretching from blocks, to racks, and to appliances. This complete portfolio gives customers the building blocks to architect a solution from the core to the edge, then manage and control it as a unified pool of resources.

Some organisations offer a piecemeal approach to solving problems in either the edge or the core, however in real-world scenarios a piecemeal approach results in the phenomenon of problem shifting. For example, due to the design limitation of some hyperconverged technologies, they can’t scale beyond a small amount of nodes, and can also cause network bottlenecks. Additionally, these piecemeal approaches aren’t integrated into a larger infrastructure strategy to allow for total management control and automation at scale. Solving a problem in one part of your infrastructure can shift the burden elsewhere.

It’s an exciting time to be in technology and with so many large changes on the horizon; we have the ability to shape the future of our organisations. Take the time to consider what changes will impact you most and start planning today for how you will solve future challenges.

*IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Datacenter 2016 predictions, November 2015, IDC #259808

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