2015 predictions: The always-on business, cloud, security, data explosion and IoT

The year 2014 will be remembered for many events, such as Facebook’s 10th birthday and its now-famous ‘A Look Back’ 60-second video clips, 40 percent of the world’s population enjoying unfettered Internet access, and history being made on November 12 when the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander successfully landed on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with the European Space Agency streaming live images to mark the occasion.  

These events illustrate how we continue to rely on technology and how IT is pivotal to the way we consume and interact with information for business and personal use. With users demanding content 24/7, from wherever they may be on the planet, the pressure being placed on today’s IT infrastructure has never been greater. However, as 2014 has shown how demand is continuing to evolve, what does 2015 have in store? What will users expect of IT in the next 12 months? How will the industry respond?

Here's my look into the crystal ball to outline the top technology trends we should be looking out for during 2015:

1)         The Always-On Business™ will become the norm across the globe: “This is not new,” one may say, and while that may be true to some degree, in 2015 the demand for immediacy will accelerate. Immediacy will be pivotal across many levels—users will continue to demand unfettered access to applications and data 24/7 from wherever they may reside, but this demand will accelerate as device innovation progresses and the roll-out and proliferation of higher speed networks (4G, LTE, 5G and so on) continues.  In 2013, the mobile app market was worth almost $27 billion, and this is set to grow to more than $76 billion by 2017. Business users will have even more aggressive requirements for ubiquitous access to applications and data than consumers, and this pressure will drive IT leaders to re-think their availability models. Network agility and reliability will come under the spotlight as virtualization continues to gather momentum, but availability will become a strategic concern to business leaders. Legacy attitudes will change—no longer will recovery time or point objectives (RTO or RPO) of hours or days be acceptable—instead, IT will be expected to deliver RTPO™ of minutes. Status quo thinking will need to evolve, and the move to the Always-On Business will gather momentum. Companies that embrace this will flourish, but I predict that some organizations will fail to recognize this trend and we may see a number of high-profile availability disasters in the next 12 months.

2)         Data explosion continues to accelerate: Data volumes will continue to explode over the next few years (some commentators think it will be as much as 400 zettabytes by 2018). This data explosion is characterized by the Internet of Things, with analysts predicting that by 2020 there will be 26 billion connected devices generating and consuming data. Regardless of where data is generated, businesses are investing heavily in data storage, analysis and retrieval. Organizations will make new investments and leverage existing modern data centers in an attempt to manage their exploding data footprint during 2015, and I see this trend gathering momentum. Having a strategy for data classification will be vital over the next 12 to 24 months. It will be up to business leaders to determine what data to keep and what to discard; what data is appropriate for cloud storage and what to keep on-premises. As data grows exponentially, keeping absolutely everything will present a real and impossible challenge.

3)         Cloud, cloud, cloud: The cloud is not new. Our industry has been discussing ‘cloud’ for what seems an eternity, but the last two years have seen adoption evolve. We have seen businesses begin to embrace the cloud as a means to increase business agility while reducing cost and complexity, yet concern remains over application and data security and availability. The introduction of cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure and VMware vCloud Air show how far cloud services have matured, with commentators predicting accelerated growth next year of on-premises services that share workload with those hosted in the cloud. Disaster recovery and availability solutions will be offered through the cloud as a service, with data being reliably streamed to hosting providers for fast and effective recoveries. This will enable businesses to increase data availability, ensure the 3-2-1 rule of data protection, and also offer additional revenue streams for service providers (fueled by innovative vendor programs that will facilitate cloud-based business strategies). 2015 will be the year when cloud continues to grow, with disaster recovery in the cloud moving from early adopters to early majority, but overall, cloud will begin to coalesce.

4)         Endpoint protection and management under the microscope: Over the past few years, there has been significant investment in overall data center infrastructure, virtualization technologies and availability solutions. Many businesses believe that the modern data center should be highly virtualized. However, few recognize that unlike servers, endpoints will always remain physical, and they need to be highly available as well. While the endpoint protection industry is growing at a steady pace—CAGR of five percent through 2018—little attention is paid to securing the lifeblood of many businesses; namely, the hardware devices that sit in the hands of users. Next year I predict that this will change. IT will wake up to the fact that after years of investing in protecting the data center, attention needs to swing to endpoint protection. Vendor innovation, both in device form factor and protection solutions, will fuel this sea change and endpoints will finally get the enterprise-grade protection the applications and data that sit on them deserve.

5)         The ‘Internet of Things’ becomes a reality… and IT will need to wake up to this fact: IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020. Such is the appetite for IoT that more than two-thirds of consumers plan to buy connected technology for their homes by 2019, and nearly half plan to buy wearable technology. While the IoT has been high on the media agenda for a while, it seems users are now beginning to accept it and vendors are delivering solutions that deliver on its promise. This will cause IT departments immense problems over the next 12-24 months. Service reliability and availability will be paramount. Users will expect always-on services and IT will be under scrutiny to deliver. Failure to do so will cost businesses dearly. With cost of downtime already into six figures per hour, downtime in the IoT era could be far costlier. 2015 will be the year where we’ll see IT step up to the plate and embrace availability, or it will be the year where we’ll see businesses fall on their swords. Only time will tell.