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The Top Enterprise Tech Trends to Watch in 2017

As businesses of all sizes prepare for the new year, they need to stay on top of these developments in AI, IoT, SDN, hyperconvergence and security to make sure they are not left behind.

If the business IT market in 2016 was defined by an increased focus on cybersecurity vulnerabilities (including from the Internet of Things), cloud adoption and a shift to hyperconverged infrastructure, what does that augur for 2017?

Often, predictions about the year ahead are untethered from the year that was, and do not have much of a connection to underlying trends. The world of enterprise technology likely will not be radically different next year than it was in 2016. However, trends that have been ongoing may accelerate or evolve, as technologies mature and businesses get more acclimated to them. For example, Hardware as a Service may start to take off.

It is in that spirit that BizTech is looking ahead to some of the key enterprise technology trends of 2017. This list is by no means exhaustive (and please let us know in the comments if you think we missed one), but it offers a guide for what to watch in the new year.

Artificial Intelligence Keeps Advancing

Artificial intelligence garnered a great deal of attention in 2016. It became more pervasive, and not only in intelligent assistants like Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and others. The market for AI in the business world is going to heat up, according to IDC, which predicts that the market for cognitively enabled applications and software is going to be worth $40 billion in 2020.

How is AI already being used by businesses? IBM Watson’s Engagement Advisor tool is designed specifically to enhance customer service. Saffron Technology, which Intel acquired in October 2015, claims that it used its AI to help a leading insurer save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent auto insurance claims. Machine learning, a subset of AI, can understand and learn by using algorithms to detect patterns, and then predict outcomes and potentially operate autonomously, as Gartner analyst David Cearley notes in Forbes. Google is using machine learning to cut energy costs at its data centers.

Next year, AI is likely going to seep into more mobile applications, Cearley predicts. AI may also start to predict what customers want and need with greater accuracy, according to the Harvard Business Review. And, as InfoWorld reports, major cloud providers like Google, Microsoft and IBM are making deep learning tools — a branch of machine learning — open source and available via their cloud platforms. That trend is likely to continue.

IoT Comes to the Workplace, and Is More Interoperable

Gartner predicted last year that there would be 6.4 billion connected things in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and that the number would reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, the research firm forecasted, 5.5 million new things would get connected every day.

Many of these gadgets are household items — connected thermostats and appliances — but in 2017 IoT could be coming to the workplace in a major way. Jeff Reed, Cisco Systems’ senior vice president of the enterprise infrastructure and solutions group, predicted in a blog post earlier this month that the Internet of Things (IoT) will come to the “carpeted world,” (i.e., the workplace) and that IoT is becoming widely used in the operational technology part of organizations.

“This can be via intelligent lighting, location services in the workplace or connected AC systems,” he says. “Expect to see companies bringing together the myriad of ‘things’ within their carpeted space and driving more consolidation — all enabled by better security mechanisms like segmentation and profiling.”

What may make this is easier is that, as InfoWorld reports, there is a growing push for interoperable IoT connectivity standards, especially given that “in October, the AllSeen Alliance merged with the Open Connectivity Foundation, which effectively unified the IoT software frameworks AllJoyn and IoTivity into a single open source project.” In February, the AllSeen Alliance and the Intel-backed Open Interconnect Consortium decided to come together as the OCF, and the October agreement cemented the push toward interoperability. Greater interoperability will reduce IoT fragmentation and make it easier for connected devices to talk to each other.

SDN Goes Beyond the Data Center

Software-defined networking creates an abstraction layer that effectively separates network intelligence and configuration from physical connections and hardware, and enables dynamic control over network resources. Software-defined data centers help businesses jettison legacy hardware, gain efficiency in operations and energy usage, and make it easier to manage and dynamically control network resources.

Yet SDN may now be moving beyond data centers, according to Cisco’s Reed. He writes that the seeds of SDN “are already taking root” in the data center and now the Wide Area Network.

“Expect the SDN seeds to start sprouting in campus fabrics for both wired and wireless environments,” he says. “The vision of end-to-end programmability and automation across all network domains will start becoming a reality in 2017.”

Hyperconvergence Adoption Increases

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) — in which computing, storage, networking and virtualization capabilities are all preintegrated and controlled by a single management layer — is being widely adopted. According to research firm 451 Research’s “Voice of the Enterprise” survey of IT buyers, hyperconverged infrastructure is currently in use at 40 percent of organizations, and analysts at 451 expect that number to rise substantially over the next two years.

HCI can help organizations deploy and run their cloud operations faster, especially private cloud. According to CIO, Forrester Research recommends organizations use HCI for private cloud deployments, especially if they have workloads that will need to scale quickly. “HCI is quickly becoming the default infrastructure platform upon which to build the private portion of a hybrid cloud,” Forrester analyst Dave Bartoletti told CIO.

Lee Caswell, VMware’s vice president of products, storage and availability, expects HCI to lead to more IT generalists who can procure and manage a company’s storage needs without being a storage specialist. Additionally, it allows businesses to scale up storage and computing resources as organizations expand.

“As this trend continues, traditional enterprise storage and storage professionals will increasingly focus on targeted use cases and applications where storage performance is critical,” he says. “More important, because HCI allows staff and resources to be allocated more efficiently, we expect the conversation around IT in 2017 to begin to shift away from the day-to-day maintenance of infrastructure, toward how IT can become an actual driver of business value.”

The IoT Becomes a Major Security Concern

As firms bring more IoT devices into the workplace, concerns about their security will grow. Malware like Mirai, which can infect poorly secured connected devices and then turn them into botnets, can carry out distributed denial of service attacks, as happened in October with the domain name system provider Dyn. That attack temporarily cut off access to a whole host of internet services Dyn routed traffic to.

Sean Ginevan, senior director of strategy at MobileIron, told PC Magazine that it is imperative that CIOs take action to defend against security threats posed by connected devices.

Security experts at BeyondTrust, a privileged identity management and vulnerability management vendor, predict that “ongoing threats related to IoT devices will force manufacturers to tighten security layers, including patchable firmware/software, secured authentication, and controlled privilege access.”

In November, the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued wide-ranging but voluntary guidance designed to enhance security in IoT devices by building security safeguards into them at a systems-engineering level before they reach the market.

Raxpixel/ThinkStock
Dec 22 2016

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