Crystal Balls

crystal-ballI was having lunch last week with a CIO of a division of a large global company and we were discussing the aspect of our roles that we enjoyed the most (I plumped for the nice pickle inside my roll!…sorry i couldn’t resist that!) in both cases, the part we enjoyed most was the bit that allowed us to look at new innovation in the tech market and see how it may benefit those we do our work for.

So inspired by that little chat, I thought it was a good opportunity to take a glance through the mists of the technical crystal ball and have a look at some of the trends likely to be at the top of the average CIO’s list of priorities into 2015 and look at how these technologies are already manifesting themselves.

Purely coincidentally, of course, I came across  an article over on the Forbes website (www.forbes.com) which covered Gartner’s top 10 IT trends for 2015, on reading it, I thought what maybe quite useful was to have a look at them and over a couple of BLOG posts try and provide a little more detail in how those technologies are already working and give some examples of how they are already working in some of our customers.

So what was the top 10 things as suggested by our analyst friends over at Gartner?

Gartner 10 trends

Of course there are a couple of trends on their that are hot topics for most businesses right now (Cloud, Software defined), but there is also some fascinating stuff going on in some of those other areas that you may not feel would go anywhere near your business but you’d be surprised how close they are (Internet of things, Smart Machines, Analytics) and really the driver for most of this is the increasingly powerful capabilities of cloud computing.

Cloud-Computing

Cloud computing is of course the most popular phrase in use in any kind of IT strategic discussion right now, but if you are making those kind of plans and haven’t really thought where cloud can help, then probably time to.

If you look at the way Gartner group the cloud infrastructure trends, I think it’s a pretty accurate description

The new IT reality emerges

The more exposure I get to what the cloud infrastructure providers are doing it’s clear, regardless of the size of your IT infrastructure and business the potential for cloud services to provide transformitive solutions to your organisation is huge.

What does this IT reality look like then?

Looking through my crystal ball, the future certainly looks hybrid, does this mean people aren’t going to go cloud only, absolutely not, in some cases it is the right decision and of course if you are starting from scratch with a new business, then you have to ask why wouldn’t you join the ever growing band of “born in the cloud” businesses.

However most businesses aren’t in a position to deploy brand new infrastructure and what they are really looking for is, what’s out there that can help them deal with business challenges.

The role of IT today is to transform business

The more CIO’s I meet the more clear it is that they are looking for how technology can transform process, business models, opportunities and help bring new solutions to market for them and cloud helps to deliver that.

Let me give a couple of examples of where the use of cloud has transformed the way to solve a business problem recently;

Deliver Services Quickly

One of the huge benefits of cloud services are the immediacy of delivery, at the minute I’m doing some work with one of our major customers to deliver a virtualised application to 400 terminals.

So this is a long project, we have to build a test environment, deliver the virtualised app, carry out user testing and then we have to design and deploy the solution, then go through the whole routine again with a production build.

Costing time and money…

How does cloud help in this…how’s it transformative?

Let’s look at how our friends over at Microsoft could help – for those who don’t know, Microsoft offer two key cloud platforms, their consumer platforms made up of solutions like Office365 and Dynamics CRM along side this is Microsoft Azure, Azure is Microsoft’s Platform as a service (PaaS) infrastructure.

Unlike the more consumer products, the idea behind PaaS  is a simple one, it’s the ability to provide you with platform, made up of processors, memory, storage and infrastructure and an operating system, of course in Azure primarily these are Windows based servers. However on top of that there is a wide range of pre-defined platforms in there, databases, storage, web servers etc..so you pop to the Azure market place and order your service, minutes later your platform is there ready for you to integrate into your organisation.

How would that of helped here, well in the Azure marketplace is the remote app service, so instead of all the POC and design work we needed to do for the customer, we could drop into Azure, order up a RemoteApp platform, dropped the application on and away we go…

Our move from POC to production is really straightforward, the solution just scales up in the background to meet our requirement.

A simple but powerful example of how cloud services help us deliver our solution quickly, helping the customer to transform business practices in days rather than weeks in the more traditional model.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

One of the other areas that I’m really starting to see how cloud services are providing huge benefit is the power provided by the infrastructure as a service suppliers out there.

They differ from the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google in so much that they don’t just provide prebuilt platforms deployed on large shared infrastructures, they provide the capability for you to build your own private cloud platform, built on hardware you select and importantly for the big players like Softlayer (www.softlayer.com) you can guarantee the geographic location (you want a UK datacentre, then you can ask for a London Datacentre).

We are working on a couple of projects at the minute where customers are looking to make significant infrastructure investments – and of course the challenge with this, is getting the investment right – if you’re going to spend six figures on infrastructure (or any amount to be fair) then you can spend an awful lot of time investigating an agonising over it – that’s where the power of IaaS can help – the ability to subscribe to your own infrastructure delivered from a datacentre, automated and controlled offers some real benefit.

None more so than removing a lot of pain from the decision making process, if instead of you making decisions on an investment for the next 3-5 years, you can make a decision on something you can change next week, if you have scaled to much, or not enough – you can just turn your infrastructure up and down at will.

As organisations strive for increased flexibility and the ability to react quickly to changing business demands, this is almost the dream setup, get your costs in as an operational cost alongside your utility bills and have the ability to change it almost at will as your needs change.

Is this ideal for everyone, of course not, cloud and hosted services are not always a great fit, but today, if you are looking at changing infrastructure the flexibility to take it as a service should be considered, it can potentially transform the way you look at delivering IT service across your business.

Just with these two simple examples, I do believe Gartner called it exactly right when they said “the new reality of IT emerges” and I do believe we will be seeing this as more of the norm as we move into 2015 and beyond.

And if you’re sensibly asking what does he know, let me leave you with the wise words of someone else.

Citrix VP Krishna Subramanian says;

The CIO’s role now changes from keeping the lights on…to becoming a strategic partner to the business units.

This shift comes when IT becomes a broker of all IT and cloud services—internal and external—driving towards the ultimate goal of IT-as-a-Service. … With ITaaS, the focus of IT shifts from building and operating enterprise applications to aggregating and delivering in-house and third-party cloud services.

Hope these two simple examples show that the analysts view of trends in 2015 aren’t to pie in the sky and in fact they are there right now, if you have the right use case and the solution fits both commercially and technically, you could be down with the IT kids and getting right on trend!

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