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Top IT trends in 2018: digital infrastructure

The following digital infrastructure trends are insightful predictions provided by Kevin Leahy, Group SVP, Data Centre Business Unit.

Trend 1: Speed trumps cost

In today’s world of digital disruption, every business perceives itself as being under threat, and, as a result, most are making a conscious decision to choose speed over cost.

Organisations will enable acceleration in the following ways:

  • IT leaders will intensify their efforts to identify and eliminate the inhibitors of speed.
  • We’ll see enterprise IT leaders moving away from lengthy, in-depth total cost of ownership analyses and instead choosing the technology or platform that they can leverage the fastest.
  • Organisations will identify the technologies and platforms that will deliver the business outcome they need at the required speed.

We’ll also see more businesses exploiting software-defined networking and network virtualisation across the network in the data centre, hybrid WAN, and the campus as part of their efforts to transform their networks.

Balancing act

These choices have to be made while taking into account the constraints of the organisation, like their own corporate policies, industry rules, and data privacy laws. They’ll also need to factor in the location of their users.

Ultimately, the challenge for organisations in 2018 will be to strike a balance between investment, technology, and governance rules, and their ability to execute at speed.

Trend 2: Leveraging tools that support innovation and differentiation is critical

In 2018, businesses need to embrace innovation by leveraging new tools that enable their developers to create new sources of competitive differentiation.

Developers need access to new tools and the flexibility to create business models. They have to be able to support new application types, using modern development and deployment tools, particularly in the area of containerisation.

Considering the pace of innovation in containers, I predict organisations that aggressively embrace these tools and make it available to their development teams will be winners. And those that fail to act will see their competitive edge being eroded.

Exploit the SaaS evolution – so you can focus on what differentiates you

Increasingly, we’ll see businesses that are successfully accelerating their digital transformation focusing on using SaaS for non-differentiating processes. This will allow them to reap the benefit of the continuous SaaS industry revolution, and the economies of scale and standardisation that these products afford them.

Using SaaS to ensure that their non-core focus areas are running optimally will enable organisations to focus their resources on creating and evolving their differentiation capability elsewhere – for example, in their manufacturing or CRM environments, or in the development of custom customer-facing applications.

Trend 3: The rise of the API economy

Increasingly, businesses are recognising the importance of APIs as an enabler to develop revenue-generating applications and services. This evolution has been dubbed ‘the rise of the API economy’.

In 2018, I predict that organisations will start to see the wisdom in standardising on a set of APIs. We’ll see IT decision-makers move away from evaluating tools, technologies, and services purely on the basis of their features and capabilities.

The API’s maturity and availability, and how easily it allows the implementation of processes, rather than performance will become more important. Increasingly, businesses are looking to exploit the software-driven nature of these environments.

It’s all about abstraction

In the year ahead, businesses will be challenged to keep up with the pace of change of APIs. They’ll need to ensure that they can invest in relevant programming to drive their business objectives.

The type and number of APIs that organisations select will depend on several factors, including the extent to which they want or need to abstract away the underlying technologies.

Trend 4: Shifting focus from technologies to services architectures

In 2018, in addition to investing in the appropriate APIs to enable abstraction, businesses will need to revisit their architectures and ensure that they’re fit-for-purpose and future-proof.

There’s a clear acceptance in the industry that hybrid IT is the model of the future. However, hybrid IT has significant architectural implications which organisations will need to address.

Over the last decade, IT teams have focused much of their energies on technology integration. The advent of hybrid IT has changed the paradigm: mastering hybrid IT requires you to instead focus on services integration. Most organisations’ existing architectures were not built with this theme in mind.

Composition of services

It’s important to determine which services must co-ordinate with others and how they all need work together to deliver the business outcome and a positive user experience.

If you attempt to bring together different services components without first implementing the appropriate architecture, you run the risk of delivering a poor, inconsistent user experience. As the services start to become more complex, your ability to scale it and deliver with quality, will be limited.

Trend 5: Push to manage the business value of data

In 2018, there’ll be an intensified focus on exploiting the value of data, and ensuring that it’s provided to those who need it, when they need it – this a truly data-centric view of IT.

The advent of all-flash storage means that there’s less need for organisations to be concerned about different storage types and tiers. In addition, today you can architect so that cost is not an issue, by moving to an all-flash option to make your business faster.

What’s more important is the fact that as organisations transform into digital business, the role of data is taking on greater significance. Now, the emphasis is on finding new value in your data – and being able to leverage the value of that data faster.

At the 2017 Tour de France, our data analytics platform incorporated machine learning and complex algorithms to combine live and historical race data. This provided deeper levels of insight during the 23-day event. It also provided cycling fans with a better understanding about the environments and circumstances in which riders perform best.

This is a good example of how the Internet of Things is enabling organisations to find new sources of data and to extract new value from it.

Trend 6: Programmable infrastructure everywhere

In recent years, developers’ focus has been on the level of computing requirements they anticipated they’d need, rather than networking and security considerations. Thanks to the advent of programmable data centre infrastructure, this will change in 2018.

We’ll see more businesses considering network and security requirements in the development phase. We’ll also see them programming their applications to take advantage of software-defined infrastructure.

Network and security services that enable you to move and protect your data can be provisioned to provide on-demand connectivity and security as applications flex, based on changes in business requirements. Infrastructure becomes a ‘living and breathing’ entity that enables the notion of digital business to become a reality.

The technology will allow organisations to challenge their infrastructure status-quo and rethink basic principles using flexibility, programmability and software-defined as cornerstones. This technology transformation could be used as a lever to unlock operational transformation, and in some cases, financial transformation through emerging IT consumption models.

Read more about Dimension Data's 2018 predictions below:

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