Emerging technologies like AI and automation will continue to reshape IT infrastructure.
The start of a new year always brings a flood of forecasts from technology pundits for what might happen in the next 12 months. For some reason, 2018 triggered even more prognostications from tech experts than usual. We received dozens of predictions for networking, storage, and data center trends that IT pros should expect to see this year.
After sorting through them, we noticed a pattern: many experts predict more of the same. The trends and hot technologies from 2017 such as machine learning and automation will continue to influence IT infrastructure into 2018, but the pace and intensity of innovation and adoption seems likely to increase.
"It's no secret that AI and machine learning are driving a lot of the innovation across the various ecosystems and technology domains that IT cares about," Rohit Mehra, program VP of network infrastructure at IDC, said in a webcast on the firm's 2018 predictions for worldwide enterprise infrastructure.
In fact, the rapid incorporation of AI into the workplace will mean that by 2021, more than half of enterprise infrastructure will use some form of cognitive and artificial intelligence to improve productivity, manage risk, and reduce costs, according to IDC.
To be sure, 2018 will another year of rapid change for IT infrastructure. Read ahead for six key tech trends that infrastructure pros should keep an eye on in the months ahead.
AI and machine learning
In its Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions 2018, Deloitte Global predicts, "In 2018, large and medium-sized enterprises will intensify their use of machine learning. The number of implementations and pilot projects using the technology will double compared with 2017, and they will have doubled again by 2020."
Infrastructure pros will need to deploy and manage the hardware to support this expanded use of AI and machine learning, and they may also find that machine learning tools could help them do their jobs better. For example, much of the latest security software incorporates machine learning, and some log analytics tools use machine learning to improve trouble-shooting or even prevent IT problems before they occur.
Software-defined technologies like SDN have been on the rise for a number of years, but many experts say they see broader adoption ahead. According to IDC, enterprises aggressively pursuing digital transformation will have transferred more than half of their IT infrastructure in their data center and edge locations to a software-defined model by the end of 2019.
Software-defined WAN is expected to be particularly hot growth area, with many experts predicting it will continue to make quick inroads into the enterprise this year. IDC forecasts that it will be mainstream by mid-2020.
Software-defined networks could also intersect with the machine learning trend in interesting ways. According to John Zannos, general manager and CRO of networking vendor Inocybe Technologies, "The convergence of cloud, 5G and IoT will demand the implementation of intelligent (ML) and automated networks (SDN). These software-smart networks will be the foundation for improving the experience of everything from consumer interaction with voice and visual web products, to the expansion of B2B services."
As they increasingly adopt DevOps, many organizations are relying more heavily than ever on automation.
Bob Landstrom, director of product management at data-center services provide Interxion, said "Emerging technologies are forcing data center operators to adopt new methods to increase efficiency, scalability and redundancy. However, if you think about how changes are made the technologies that enable this, like changes to the network for example, it’s not something that happens very quickly. Because of this, in 2018 automation will need to be leveraged in the data center for increased effectiveness."
For infrastructure pros, automation adoption will likely mean learning new tools and new processes and procedures. The plus side could be that the automation helps them reduce the amount of boring, manual work they do on a daily basis, freeing them up for more interesting and mission-critical tasks. According to IDC, more than 25% of infrastructure services will have autonomous, self-managing capabilities by 2021 to speed business outcomes and mitigate risk of human error.
Many IT operations pros have become accustomed to DevOps approaches, but now they may have to adapt again and add security into their thinking.
In a blog post, Manish Gupta, CEO and founder of ShiftLeft wrote, "2018 will be the year of DevSecOps as security teams increasingly rely on automated insertion of security in the development lifecycle with next-generation security tools. The philosophy involves building security into CI/CD so that it's baked in, and is built on the idea that 'everyone is responsible for security.'"
Expect this new way of thinking to become increasingly important if the flood of high-profile data breaches continues in the coming year.
(Image: Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock)
Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that's the foundation for cryptocurrency, is another trend that has been talked about for a while and is now poised to take off.
"In 2018, the industry will begin to organize around the shared goal of putting a regulatory body in place to really drive wider adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. This is the first step towards both of these payments innovations going mainstream, and we’re going to see it next year," said Tim Thurman, chief digital officer at Paysafe.
Forrester took a more pessimistic view. In its Predictions 2018, the firm said, "In 2018, the combination of rhetoric and enthusiasm will continue to limit blockchain gains. However, 30% of proofs of concept will accelerate blockchain for those companies able to consider its operational impact."
Whether new blockchain initiatives pan out long term or not, infrastructure pros should understand the technology and be prepared to support the new applications.
As cameras and smartphones become more powerful, expect augmented reality (AR) to become part of everyday life. In its report, Deloitte Global wrote, "Over a billion smartphone users will create augmented reality (AR) content at least once in 2018, with three hundred million being monthly creators and tens of millions making and sharing content weekly. We further predict that tens of thousands of apps incorporating AR capability will become available during the year."
Many experts believe AR will find its way into the workplace. For example, infrastructure pros may gain access to AR tutorials that can help them deploy and maintain the hardware in their data centers.