2018 was a year where technology headlines dominated the news – from high profile data breaches from household names, to the implementation of a new piece of legislation that brought data and its usage into the public eye. To get the inside track on what the industry thinks is coming next in 2019, we spoke to a range of IT experts to find the trends that will shape the year to come in technology.
One of the primary themes underlying all the technology challenges is the need to provide seamless customer experiences. Rupert Spiegelberg, CEO at IDNow commented: “The ‘Now Economy‘ companies face the challenge of providing their digital customers with a convenient, seamless service, from onboarding to checkout, while remaining cost-effective and in-line with industry and national legislation. In 2019, we will see how both startups and established companies leverage the power of AI technology to develop new digital business models.”
Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud
Another supporting technology in driving this customer experience will be the cloud. It seems like predictions about the growth in cloud computing have appeared every year for the last decade, and this year remains no exception, with Gartner predicting that the market will grow 17.3 per cent in 2019 to total $206.2 billion. James Henigan, Cloud and Managed Services Director, Six Degrees stated that “Multi-cloud is one of the most pervasive trends in technology today. Historically, this started in some cases by accident rather than through strategic direction, and many companies encountered the pain of dealing with multiple suppliers, technologies, commercial, contractual and support models that only enterprises could truly deal with the management overheads for.”
Gary Watson, CTO of StorCentric and Founder of Nexsan agreed, adding “this year we have seen people gravitate towards high capacity storage, which is being fuelled by the growing volume and complexity of data. 2018 was full of the challenges that having a massive media library comes with, but with the upcoming implementation of high density and scalable storage in 2019, these challenges will be significantly reduced. One of the main struggles we have seen is the difficulty of storing data in different locations, but with automation tools improving and becoming more accessible, users will be able to make decisions about where their data is stored and for how long. In 2019, we are most likely to see organisations taking advantage of this in a hybrid cloud model, creating the perfect IT balance.”
However, embracing this hybrid cloud model and multi-cloud environments is not without its challenges. “Protecting workloads once they’re in a public or multi cloud environment can often be a big challenge that people just don’t think about,” commented Ziv Kedem, CEO, Zerto. “It’s easy to assume that once your data is out there, it’s already safe, and the platform won’t go down. However, this simply isn’t the case. Businesses need to be actively looking to protect and monitor data wherever it is, and understand what role mobility can play in this. As workloads needs change, businesses will need to make sure they have a way to move data to, from and between different infrastructures without interruption, to ensure the organisation is able to seamlessly adapt and protect itself.”
However, as a whole, the industry remains positive. Jake Madders, Director at Hyve Managed Hosting was optimistic about the future of the UK cloud industry in particular, calling it “a vibrant and ambitious sector.” He added that “2019 will see more great examples of domestic and international growth. Some UK cloud businesses are taking their ambition directly to the home markets of the biggest global players by expanding to the US. And, whatever the uncertainties around Brexit, the domestic cloud and hosting markets will continue to show strong levels on innovation, and those providers who can excel at customer service will be in the best position to succeed.”
Software design and application lifecycle management
Part of the appeal of cloud platforms, particularly those providing AI services, has been the ability to build apps that are “smarter, more intuitive and responsive.” This is according to Gregg Mearing, Head of Managed Services at Node4, who continued that: “Businesses utilising the cloud will do well to leverage the mantra that ‘knowledge is power’, and applying predictive analytics to data that helps drive AI can mean companies can act on it and get ahead of the game. Working with a tech partner that has the technical capability to gather this data as well as provide consultancy of how it is used will be highly influential in helping organisations drive the benefit of AI in their businesses.”
This is feeding a growing trend in software development around AI, which Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora calls “the big story” of software development in 2019. He added: “as we further integrate and take advantage of machine learning and AI, however, we’ll realise that improving value requires predictive analytics. Predictive analytics allow simulations of the delivery pipeline based on parameters and options available so you don’t have to thrash the organisation to find the path to improvement. You’ll be able to improve virtually, learn lessons through simulations and, when ready, implement new releases that you can be convinced will work.”
At the same time, the move to the cloud is throwing up challenges in migrating traditional apps – something that Mat Clothier, CEO at Founder at Cloudhouse recognised, saying: “As more and more enterprises move away from legacy systems and towards a cloud-based future, they will realise that migrating traditional apps is challenging; there is a growing need for the tools that offer portability that may not be possible otherwise. 2019 will inevitably see more enterprise workloads move to Azure, AWS and Citrix, but what remains to be seen is how many businesses will realise the importance of tools that manage the delivery of these applications across a global network of data centres.”
The move to cloud and hyper-converged is also creating new security challenges that experts expect to emerge in 2019. Garry McCracken, VP Technology at WinMagic commented that “I predict that 2019 will be the year when we see the first serious hypervisor attack. Hypervisors and other cloud service provider-controlled infrastructure needs to be hardened to give security conscious enterprises the confidence that they remain in control of their data. One problem technically for Full Drive Encryption is that when running on a virtual machine with keys in the virtual memory, it’s possible that a hypervisor could take a snap shot of the memory of the virtual machine, and make a copy of the disk encryption keys. The solution is to use the hardware based memory encryption that not even a compromised hypervisor could access in plain text.”
Additionally, Naaman Hart, Managed Services Security Engineer at Digital Guardian noted that security challenges increasing extend past the remit of the security team. He suggested that 2019 is the year that businesses began “applying security to their business practices as IT security tools are not infallible against human behaviour. As an example, train your staff to require third party validation for any financial transaction or introduce payment procedures requiring multiple sets of independent eyes. Malicious individuals are abusing the fact that junior staff implicitly trust their seniors and that they fear for their jobs if they do not act quickly as instructed. You must put in place processes and beliefs that when unordinary requests come through they should be questioned."
Digital privacy and trust
Another human issue that other IT experts highlighted as the biggest challenge for the IT industry in 2019 will be trust, and addressing data privacy regulations in emerging environments.
“In 2018, we saw several data privacy regulations be either proposed or enacted, including GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act,” Jacob Serpa, Product Marketing Manager, Bitglass noted. “In 2019, we will see a number of similar regulations begin to take effect around the world. Many companies have proven to be poor stewards of consumer data, necessitating that they be held accountable and given cybersecurity guidelines for collecting, storing, managing and protecting customer information.”
Serpa continued: “Effective data privacy regulations must include rules for ensuring that only authorised parties can access data; preventing unauthorised viewing and sharing of sensitive information is critical for cybersecurity. Additionally, these laws should contain measures related to securing data on employees’ personal devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets. Finally, data privacy regulations should mandate that companies maintain clear visibility over how and where their data is stored, viewed, used and shared.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Nigel Tozer, Solutions Marketing Director, Commvault, who stated: “In 2019, trust is going to be at a premium. People are fed up of data breaches – no-one likes to think of their personal data in the hands of cyber-criminals, let alone financial details such as payment card information. Businesses really need to win trust on two fronts with their customers; they need to feel reassured that their data is available when they need it but still kept securely, and they also need to trust companies not to abuse their data. Achieving this will require organisations to take a hard look at how they manage and protect their customer’s data, and ensure they have the right policies and processes in place to earn and maintain this trust.”
Finally, Stephen Gailey, Solutions Architect at Exabeam had a bold prediction for the year ahead: “2019 will be the year we see the first sign of government control over large internet service companies. Organisations such as Google and Facebook still don’t seem to understand what privacy means. And it seems likely that some pretty big fines will be handed out, but I think we will actually see some form of legislative control being put forward or even break-ups considered. At the very least, I predict that at least one prominent CEO will have to step aside some time in the next year. Controversial I know, and I may be a year too early with this prediction but let’s see."
Whether it’s continuing the evolution of cloud migration, rethinking application design and lifecycle, or navigating the murky waters of digital privacy and trust, 2019 is shaping up to be a busy year for IT professionals across the board.
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