Technological innovation drives every business, industry and sector - mostly positively, but not always. 2016 was no exception – from the first long-haul driverless cargo delivery to automated retail locations to the stiffening competition among ‘smart assistants’ we’re seeing big technological leaps at a breakneck pace.
At the same time, many of the enterprise trends of the last few years are continuing, such as traditional businesses leading big digital transformation and the move to public clouds, with the continued market dominance of Amazon’s $13B AWS business.
As 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to once again consider how the IT industry will grow, adapt, evolve and transform in the coming year, and to consider what lies in store for 2017. Here, I set out my top five predictions for what we can expect to see over the next 12 months and beyond.
DevOps is here to stay
In March 2015, Gartner predicted that the DevOps movement - a culture where building, testing and releasing software happens rapidly, frequently and reliably thanks to developers working collaboratively together across companies, industries and geographies - would evolve from niche to mainstream by 2016.
They were right. What started as a neat, social idea to get developers and operations working together has rapidly become a vital aspect of software development. Whether you work with a startup or a global enterprise, DevOps and the Agile ethos is an integral practice for project planning and for businesses looking to rapidly build, release and scale high-quality applications.
The fifth annual State of DevOps Report, including findings from more than 4,600 technical professionals, showed that DevOps work methods link to tangible business performance improvements. Software deployments for companies using DevOps are now 200 times more frequent. DevOps results in greater efficiency. The report found that 22 per cent less time was spent by teams on unplanned work and reworking projects and 50 per cent less time was spent remediating security issues.
As such, businesses everywhere are turning to DevOps as a means of evolving their digital businesses. Moving into 2017, this trend will continue apace, and as a result, the demand for DevOps employees will also continue to grow and hiring and managing practitioners will continue to be a big priority for businesses moving forwards.
The advent of dynamic infrastructure
Today, there is still an (admittedly diminishing) pool of people who view the cloud as a way to simply add incremental capacity to their business, or are focused on cost reduction. However, savvy organisations understand that in fact, the cloud can be used to build a highly dynamic and adaptive infrastructure for their applications, enabling them to respond quickly to both new business requirements and additional customer capacity needs.
2017 will see expanded focus on using the cloud dynamically to build highly adaptive applications, providing significant business value. Examples of dynamic infrastructure include extensive use of nano and micro servers and serverless computing technologies.
Additionally, non-compute resources, like queues, DNS domains, and traffic routing, will also be used. Businesses concerned with rapid development and scaling will find that re-evaluating the cloud to make best use of dynamic infrastructures will help enable their ultimate end-goals – growth and success.
Right sized services – the Goldilocks theory
Service-oriented architectures are nothing new. Service-based applications allow large, complex applications to be owned and managed by a distributed development and operations teams, often used hand-in-hand with DevOps organisational models.
However, two questions that have long plagued service oriented architectures are: how large should your services be, and how many should your application use? If you make your services too large, you miss out on many of the advantages of these scalable distributed architectures. Too small, and your inter-service architecture becomes unwieldy.
What this means is that, in recent years, there has been a trend to build applications using microservices. The idea being the smaller the service, the easier it is to maintain, and the more distributed development teams can be. While this trend has gained popularity, it comes with some pretty significant downsides too.
The biggest of these is that the smaller the services, the more you need, and the harder it is to manage the overall application architecture. In 2017, this trend is likely to reverse itself. Services will get bigger and move towards what might be termed ‘'Right Sized Services’. Services will be sized more appropriately for a given application.
Companies who avoided following the microservice bandwagon will find that they can soon optimise their application’s manageability and architectural simplicity by finding the perfect service size...not too big and not too small. They’ll be just right.
Enterprise-quality data analysis for everyone
Big data has been a key part of the enterprise for longer than the phrase itself has existed. Previously, it took advanced degrees and expensive tools to process and analyse this data, but this has changed as increased computing capacity, improved reporting and analysis tools have increasingly become available.
In 2017, this trend will continue to gain momentum. In addition, even easier, more sophisticated techniques to access and analyse data will become available to more people. Huge datasets will become progressively more important to our everyday lives, and the enterprises that learn how to access and utilise them will benefit.
This trend will be especially true when the data sets come from IoT sensors and other real world sources. Applications like Google maps, IMDB, Uber, financial apps, and social media are just some examples that can benefit from this trend. More and more organisations will feel pressure on using the immense amount of data they are collecting to drive business results, rather than creating endless Dashboards and presentations.
The rise of serverless
2017 will witness accelerating growth and popularity of serverless technologies and architectures. The freedom from having to maintain infrastructure, low barrier to entry, granular billing (allowing users to predict monthly costs) and rapid scaling is attractive to organisations of all sizes.
Serverless technology also allows companies to adapt quickly to changes and developments, which allows them to focus on their competitive advantage and get ahead of the game. But, as with any technology, serverless is not a one-size-fits-all approach or indeed a silver bullet.
The disparate functions, which are characteristic of serverless, introduce latency and other kinds of interesting challenges that need to be solved – such as serverless tools and logging, introspection and debugging. Thankfully, however, there are frameworks available like the Serverless Framework which go a long way in solving a lot of these issues.
As ever, 2017 will undoubtedly usher in developments at rapid pace. To keep ahead of the game and indeed ahead of their competitors, businesses will need to adapt their way of thinking when it comes to their IT resources and investments.
Whether it be moving towards dynamic infrastructure, embracing DevOps as a way of working, or getting to grips with serverless, it’s clear that rewards are there to be had for forward-thinking organisations – and those that don’t evolve fast enough will be punished. I, for one, am looking forward to what we see in the New Year!
Lee Atchison, principal cloud architect at New Relic
Image Credit: thinkpublic / Flickr