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The Future Is Bright, The Future Is Cloudy


December 16, 2015  


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We live in interesting times. Keeping up with the trends in technology and elsewhere is becoming more and more difficult, as the pace of change increases. But that doesn’t mean we still won’t try to figure out what’s going to happen, not because we enjoy fortune telling, but because correctly anticipating a trend can give a competitive advantage to companies who can hop in ahead of the crowd.

So let’s peer into our crystal balls and see what the industry may hold for us in the next 12 months.

The future is cloudy, according to our experts. Michael Argast, director at Telus Security Solutions, says “cloud adoption is going to accelerate. The ability for business units rather than IT departments to go out and procure solutions directly to solve their problems is probably the most seismic shift in IT in the last 20 years.”

Technology analyst Carmi Levy agrees. “The cloud is no longer something that hangs out somewhere in the future with vague promises of someday reshaping the business and technology landscape,” he says.  “This year, it arrived in spades as technology spending crossed over the tipping point and cloud became the eminent infrastructure choice of our time. In 2015, cloud became real to most of us. We’re finally at the inflection point where cloud is moving from theoretical to very real, and 2016 promises to be the year when cloud becomes the fundamental basis of IT planning for most businesses.”

However, notes Walter Andri, president and managing director, Avaya Canada, it won’t be the cloud of yore. He believes that hybrid and private clouds will become more prevalent, not the much-touted public cloud. In fact, he sees the term “cloud” disappearing entirely, as businesses simply assume a cloud delivery model for certain services.

That model won’t have as much special sauce as vendors claim it has today, according to Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and GM of Cisco’s IoT and collaboration technology group, who thinks that the world is turning into a place where cloud is simply a commodity. “We’re moving to a place where people are moving to containers (for their apps), rather than pick your own platform,” he says.

And, says Paul Lewis, CTO of Hitachi Canada and head of analytics for Hitachi Americas, it will not be about “cloud first” or “cloud only” either, as is often suggested today, but “cloud when it makes sense.

“Most CIOs manage hundreds if not thousands of applications that are on individual lifecycles,” he explains. “New apps might be SaaS or built and deployed in public clouds or upgraded in existing data centre schemes.  Exiting applications may be rationalized or simplified or modernized into a new deployment model like Cloud, or not.”

“Cloud is becoming over-hyped,” adds Andri, “not because we aren’t adopting it, but because we have already been doing it for a while (depending on definition). Private, public and hybrid models are in place today in every level of government and enterprise.”

Even companies with compliance and data sovereignty requirements are looking at the cloud, says Neil Bhattacharya, mobile delivery lead at Accenture Digital. “It’s been here for a while, and most companies are adopting it,” he notes, adding that companies don’t necessarily use the public cloud for their most sensitive data, even if they use cloud technology.

Mobility is intimately tied to the cloud. But, says Lewis, it won’t be the same mobility that we’re used to, where devices are king. “The definition of mobility will broaden dramatically, moving from user/client centricity (mobile apps and mobile devices) to data centricity as the CIO elevates the value of data in the organization,” he says. “Data centric mobility would identify investment around mobilizing data from places, mobilizing data to places, mobilizing data for places.”

Why? Because, he says, “for the most part, data created by an application is the side effect or by product of the application’s functionality, not an asset in and of itself.  Abstracting the data from the application makes that data accessible to other applications, and allows it to be consolidated with other sources of data.”

This, he says, leads to new ways of using the data. “Investments would be in integration with many application and cloud storage vendors,” he explains. “Open APIs to build new, potentially complex custom integrations; automated data movement and policy enforcement; and scalable destination infrastructure.”

Up to now, Levy notes, mobile has been a lot of same old same old. “Barely seven years after Apple first decided to open up its mobile infrastructure to third-party developers and create the basis for the app economy we know today, most smartphones and tablets continue to run evolved versions of those initial apps,” he says. “Namely, single-purpose offerings that do little to change the basic model of mobile use.”

But that is about to change. “2016 stands to be the year where mobile apps emerge from the shadows of their full-blown ancestors and define new mobile-first and mobile-only services in their own right,” he predicts. “As more powerful devices combine with more capable and robust networks, the capacity of apps to deliver outside-the-traditional-mobile-box capability will expand over the next year.”

Andri agrees. He sees increased movement to mobile and tablet, with clientless applications becoming a more common way to integrate into the backend. “Context and continuity – any service, on any device regardless of location, that’s what’s coming,” he says. “There will be continuity of session over device, location and modality.”

“We can’t just run on phone or computer,” Trollope adds. “My world – my aggregation points – is any place where an app or agent can express itself to the world or a user.”

In fact, Argast says, “In mobility and networking, the big story will be around the Internet of Things (IoT) – adoption continues to accelerate, and the technology problems, outside of security, have been largely solved. This means more applications and solutions.

“Every new Web site, business, or app starts on mobile. In many cases, they aren’t even developing traditional Web sites. At Telus, wireless is a key growth driver – more and more traffic at faster and faster speeds.”

Which brings us to the future of networking. And that future is tied to IoT and the traffic it will generate.

“Whether we like it or not, the Internet of Things is coming,” Levy says. “Fast. And networks of all types, terrestrial and wireless, need to be prepared for the expected onslaught of devices that will be clamoring for connectivity before long.

“Unlike the multifunction computers, mobile and network devices that currently dominate network traffic, IoT will introduce legions of single- or otherwise-limited-function hardware to our day-to-day personal and professional lives. And the networks that currently underpin connectivity will need to adapt not only by fattening their capacity, but in also ensuring end-to-end security no matter what classes of devices happen to be connected at either end.”

Part of the change has to be simplification, says Andri. Currently, the sensors and other Things on the IoT all use different communications protocols, and that, he thinks, will change.

Regardless, he says that networks have some growing to do. “Networking will accelerate across the board to support a mobile first world,” he says. “Much of this will be based on Wi-Fi, however, every Wi-Fi access point and cellular tower is connected with wires of some type. Corporate infrastructure will have to catch up to make connecting over wireless and wired transparent from both a security and performance perspective.”

All this needs an ecosystem, Bhattacharya says. He predicts large mesh networks with localized aggregators to cope with the volume of data from the IoT. He also predicts that there will be different camps forming around standards – no surprise, given the squabbling that ensues among interest groups every time a new technology needs standards.

And, says Lewis, depending on the industry (for example, energy, manufacturing, or oil and gas), the Internet of Things will be the reason for many investments.  “IoT bridges Information Technology (HR, ERP, and Financial) and Operational Technology such as mining equipment, oil rigs, and robotics to create new business value such as predictive maintenance, autonomous machinery, and lights out operations,” he notes.

But there’s still a lot of work to do, and Trollope thinks that these changes will take time to complete. “What worked for the first billion devices won’t work for the next trillion,” he says. “We have to ask ourselves, how much would we pay to build this thing, given the amount of value. The experience we have now is not enough for the next wave – we have to think about the next 15 years, about embedding the Internet into everyday life.”

Meanwhile, Levy says that beyond making the “firehose bigger and faster, network engineers will have to build to a level of robustness and redundancy that past generations could only dream of, “With major and minor vendors alike rushing new solutions to market, 2016 is already shaping up as a massive year of transition where IoT rapidly evolves from infrastructure of the future to everyday reality. But only if the networks that make it possible are able to keep pace.”         C+

Lynn Greiner is a freelance writer based in Newmarket, Ont. She can be reached at lynn@itwriter.com.


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