What Keeps IT Leaders Up at Night?
A sampling of responses to an IBM Systems Magazine online poll regarding technology directions companies plan to take in 2017.
By Caroline L. Vitse01/12/2017
To gauge the technology directions its readers plan to take in 2017, IBM Systems Magazine conducted an online poll last fall. Respondents answered six multiple-choice questions about their companies’ industry, location, IBM platform of choice, technologies they plan to implement in 2017, biggest IT-related challenge and their personal job roles.
Twenty-three people responded to the questionnaire, and their insight aligned with what analysts report. Kat Lind, analyst and chief systems engineer, Solitaire Interglobal (SIL), validated the magazine’s findings against data from 16,230 organizations in the SIL database.
“The drive for better service differentiation in the marketplace will force competitive organizations to create customer-facing cloud environments.”—Kat Lind, analyst and chief systems engineer, Solitaire Interglobal
For example, half of the magazine poll respondents plan to implement a hybrid cloud-computing environment. According to the SIL database, nearly 63 percent of organizations plan to implement hybrid cloud environments in 2017, which supports an SIL report prediction from 2011 that 50 percent of companies would implement new hybrid cloud deployments by 2016.
The 2011 SIL report was based on data gathered from C-level executives who may have less experience with cloud deployments than employees at the midtier or programmer level. Nearly 40 percent of the magazine’s poll respondents indicated they were system administrators, and 17 percent were C-level executives.
Cloud Deployment Ranks High
Lind says organizations will continue to deploy cloud in a variety of ways. “The drive for better service differentiation in the marketplace will force competitive organizations to create customer-facing cloud environments,” she explains. “The biggest question will be what type of platform organizations choose to deploy to answer that need.” They’re increasingly demanding cloud services, which will affect the consulting service market—skills necessary for cloud deployment (e.g., application positioning and partitioning, multitransitional databases, wide-scale performance assurance, cloud security) will be essential. “In many cases,” Lind notes, “the particular need [for these services] will not have a long latency but will instead require bursts of knowledgeable consulting services.” SIL modeling indicates that this scenario will disrupt traditional service charges and staffing profiles.
To address this growing demand, organizations will offer geographically distributed cloud models. This means they’ll consider dual cloud models, which consist of customer and inward-facing clouds with bifurcated needs. While Lind sees this as a current trend, she’s uncertain about the trends that will result from emerging technology. “The combination of emerging technologies and cognitive maturity in the cloud environment translate into new disruptors,” she explains.
Laura DiDio, principal analyst, Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, advises organizations implementing a new cloud environment to confirm their infrastructure is flexible and can automate the deployment of applications. Automating these processes will help ensure interoperability between legacy applications and the newly introduced applications. Communication between the data center IT manager and his or her counterpart at the cloud provider is essential to maintaining a secure cloud environment.
What’s Less Relevant
Middleware was at the bottom of the list of technologies respondents are likely to implement in 2017. Less than 14 percent of respondents chose it—unsurprising to Lind and DiDio.
Lind explains that middleware is no longer new and trendy, and it fills a key infrastructure niche that’s not as relevant for most organizations. The complexity of infrastructure assembly has increased so much in the last decade that decision-makers at organizations are buried in information and must choose what to leave behind to keep an effective IT environment. Middleware simply does not make the cut.
More than a quarter of respondents indicated that they plan to deploy big data and analytics (27 percent) or mobile technology (23 percent). Lind says the solutions for these technologies are complex with no tried-and-true, one-size-fits-all approach for implementation. However, three factors can determine success:
- An established plan of action on how the technology is deployed. This may reduce the risks the organization is exposed to when implementing new technology, such as unplanned downtime, data loss or breach, and the introduction of new and complex regulatory issues. “In the case of big data and analytics, an action plan translates into the ability to efficiently gather benefit realization and smoothly integrate the knowledge provided by the analytics into executive strategies,” Lind says.
- The establishment of a consistent auditing process
- Selecting the appropriate underlying technology (e.g., servers) on which to host newly implemented technology
“The basic infrastructure continues to show a strong differentiation for ongoing operations,” Lind notes.
In regard to infrastructure, DiDio says IBM is one of the top analytic centers, offering some of the most robust suites of analytic solutions. “IBM is in the analytics business—it’s well-positioned and has consistently put R and D efforts behind it,” she notes. For example, with the recent partnership between IBM and Cisco, IBM Watson* Internet of Things (IoT) business analytics technology was combined with Cisco Edge routers, which resulted in a significant increase of analytical power.
Laying the Groundwork
All of the challenges organizations strive to address—peak performance, reliability, agility, scalability—have a common denominator, DiDio says: hardware. Forty percent of the poll respondents plan to implement new hardware in 2017, leading her to believe that organizations are being pragmatic, even as more move toward cloud computing. She cautions organizations to remember that because they share their “tenancy” in the cloud on a virtualized environment with other servers, their servers must be robust, dynamic and secure. More than half of respondents use IBM Power* servers running IBM i, which DiDio calls good news. Hardware may be the easiest logical thing to move, but hardware upgrades don’t exist in a silo; organizations must consider the application infrastructure and then provision and deploy those applications on the hardware.
DiDio says POWER8* servers are laying the groundwork to align the technology with growing, increasingly complex business demands. For respondents who plan to implement effective data analytic strategies, POWER8 servers are optimized for the compute- and demand-intensive workloads involved in analytics. “IBM has taken an integrated approach to the design, so it’s going to be resilient and offer high reliability to optimize workloads and perform data analytics and cloud provisioning while offering inherent security and efficient management,” DiDio explains.
Modernization and Security
Companies must find innovative ways to serve clients, and DiDio says modernization is the most daunting challenge companies face. This is reflected in the poll results: 44 percent of respondents cite modernization issues as their biggest technology challenge (see Figure 1 below). When organizations dive into new technology, DiDio recommends they take their time because little margin for error exists. She advises them to find a good business partner and choose the appropriate product set that can grow with the business.
Lind advises organizations to educate executive and line-of-business managers to ensure they have the necessary skills to adjust to the rapidly changing market. Businesses must also collect metrics to understand if their analytics practice is providing benefit. “Without that, an organization can’t keep the big picture on how all of its increasingly complex business components are working together,” she says.
The bottom line is that infrastructure still matters, but it’s complex. Because of this, security issues are becoming more critical. Around 17 percent of the respondents indicated that security kept them up at night.
But Lind says security threats to content media (e.g., streaming services) and confidential data, along with the growing networks of vendors and suppliers, have made security a hot topic. “This is not only from the traditional security implementation perspective, but it also relates to the change in organizational culture being mandated by the sophistication and intensity of ongoing attacks,” she explains, adding that hackers now use IoT devices in staged attacks, and the threats are coming from more sources than before. “The movement of security concerns outside of the specific security area into the executive suite is an evolution and trend that must continue, or organizations will cease to be viable,” Lind says.
DiDio was surprised to see security toward the bottom of the poll. “You can never rest on your laurels with security,” she stresses. “The mantra in security is that the corporate end users must be right 100 percent of the time, but the hackers only have to be right once to get into your network.”
Though poll respondents are located worldwide—from Australia to India to the U.S.—and may have different roles within their organizations, respondents share similar concerns about their IT environments. Whether they plan to implement a hybrid cloud environment or dive into big data and analytics, all organizations strive to stay relevant as technology evolves and becomes more complex.
Caroline Vitse is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Minnesota.