What's in store for enterprise IT in the coming year? Everything from IoT and microservices to wearables and virtual reality.
At the beginning of every new year, technology analysts and pundits love to speculate about the new advances the next twelve months might bring. Countless organizations publish their forecasts of what will happen in the technology industry.
At Network Computing, we've combed through a lot of the expert opinions and generated our own list of trends that will be important this year to people involved in IT infrastructure. Some of these trends --like the Internet of Things and cloud computing -- are household words in tech. In fact, these are so ubiquitous they even have their own topic sections on our website. Still, they merit close attention, since both are poised to achieve new levels of mainstream prominence this year.
Other technologies on our list, like blockchain and containerization, are fairly young. Both are worth watching because they look likely to skyrocket in importance in the coming years.
This list also highlights development trends, like microservices architecture and machine learning, and end-user computing trends, like wearables and virtual reality. In these cases, IT needs to make sure that it has the appropriate infrastructure in place to support the rapidly developing technology.
No one knows for sure which technologies will be most important for IT professionals in 2016, but the 10 that follow are well worth watching.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, could be one of the most sweeping technological changes of our lifetime, and it's getting a lot of attention from analysts and the press. In a nutshell, IoT involves installing chips, sensors, and software in a wide variety of objects and then connecting those objects to the Internet. The connected objects might include home appliances, wearable devices, vehicles, thermostats, locks or even small adhesive tags that could be used to track anything.
Manufacturers have already begun rolling out smartwatches, fitness trackers and smart home devices, but this is just the first wave. Analysts suggest that by 2018, there will be 22 billion IoT devices installed. For enterprises, the IoT could represent new ways to communicate with customers, new ways to track employees, and a host of other opportunities. The challenge for IT will be finding ways to store and analyze all the data generated by these new smart devices.
(Image: Mikko Lemola/iStockphoto)
Machine learning and cognitive computing
Since the dawn of the computing era, scientists have been fascinated by the idea of artificial intelligence, and today that idea is becoming reality. Several companies, including IBM, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are investing in machine learning and or cognitive computing research. These systems function more like the human brain than traditional computer systems. They are able to understand natural language, to identify and categorize the content of images and video, and to make educated guesses and hypotheses in response to questions.
IBM demonstrated the capabilities of cognitive computing when its Watson system participated in -- and won -- the television game show Jeopardy. Today, only 1% of developers are embedding cognitive capabilities into their apps, but by 2018, more than half of developers will likely do so.
Developers are beginning to embrace a new approach to developing applications and web apps. In microservices architecture, applications are comprised of many small pieces that communicate with each other via APIs. With this approach, it becomes much easier to roll out frequent updates, which helps enable continuous delivery and agile development methodologies.
As Forrester analyst Randy Heffner wrote in a report, "With increasing frequency, microservices are appearing in enterprises' efforts to achieve better software architectures, especially among those operating at scale, such as eBay, Google, Netflix, and Wal-Mart."
As cyberattacks against large companies continue to succeed with alarming regularity, it is becoming apparent that the existing security measures at most enterprises are inadequate to keep up with the rapidly evolving nature of attacks. Gartner recommends that organizations move to an "adaptive security" model that uses predictive analytics to anticipate where attackers will strike next.
According to Gartner, "Relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems." The research firm said that adaptive security will be one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2016 and added, "Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture."
(Image: Danil Melekhin/iStockphoto)
Several firms, notably Facebook's Oculus Rift and Microsoft, will release virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) headsets this year. Some analysts suggest sales of these devices could top 12 million units this year.
VR and AR offer unique opportunities for consumer entertainment, particularly in regards to gaming, but some industry watchers think that VR and AR will have an even bigger impact on enterprises. Companies could use the headsets for design work, engineering, construction, training and communications. Microsoft, in particular, seems to be targeting its HoloLens augmented reality device at this market.
At this point, cloud computing is hardly new, but this is one trend that isn't going away any time soon. IDC predicts that by 2018, half of IT spending will be cloud-based. Many organizations are overcoming their security and compliance concerns and embracing the cloud wholeheartedly.
This year, analysts and vendors suggest that hybrid cloud computing models will come to the fore. Look for software makers to release a new crop of tools designed to improve cloud interoperability and automate management of the hybrid cloud.
Smart personal assistants
Consumers have grown accustomed to using voice-activated assistants like Siri or Google Now on their mobile devices, but personal assistants are moving into the enterprise. With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft put its Cortana assistant onto desktops and laptops, and other companies are likely to follow suit.
In the coming year, analysts expect these personal assistants to get much smarter, thanks to developments in machine learning and cognitive computing. Researchers at MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, and making strides with this technology, which could find its way into enterprise products this year.
IDC predicts that manufacturers will ship 111.1 million wearable devices in 2016, a 44.4% ,increase from the 80 million units shipped in 2015. In the past, the most common types of wearables have been smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, or fitness trackers like those from Fitbit. That could change this year as rumors suggest Google will launch an enterprise version of its Glass wearable this year.
For businesses, wearables represent a new opportunity for interacting with consumers, as well as new ways to provide information to employees. If the technology takes off, organizations may soon be at work creating a new generation of mobile apps designed for wearables.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Containerization first burst onto the scene with the launch of the Docker open source project in 2013. Since then, it has become one of the most frequently discussed new data center technologies, and several other organizations have launched containerization initiatives.
In simple terms, containerization offers an alternative to traditional virtualization. The technology packages together everything an application needs to run in a container. These containers are completely separate from each other, which provides security and portability. In addition, because they don't require a hypervisor, containers are more lightweight and efficient than traditional virtualization, and they eliminate problems caused by having different test and production environments.
Of all the technologies on our list, Blockchain may be the least well known, but it is definitely poised to impact data centers in the coming year. Blockchain is the technology underlying Bitcoin, and some analysts suggest its potential enterprise uses could far exceed its helpfulness in tracking digital currency.
Blockchain is a distributed database that is used to record an ever-growing list of transactions. It doesn't require any permission to access it, but it's nearly impossible to tamper with the data it holds. In other words, everyone can see what is written there, but no one can erase or change it.
In the future, Blockchain could be used to track many different kinds of data, to speed and secure financial transactions, or even to prevent voter fraud.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)