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Don’t ignore these enterprise megatrends

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Guy Whitcroft, CEO at Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa, examines the megatrends driving enterprise computing.
Technological change is the heartbeat of the IT industry and while it is easy to get sucked into the promise of self-driving cars, augmented reality and drones delivering coffee while in traffic jams, enterprise customers require a different view on which technologies to bet the farm on in their own organisations.
The good news is that we are sitting on the pinnacle of an industry that is about to unlock something great. In fact we are already seeing the competitive landscape change substantially with born-in-the-cloud industries such as those driven by Amazon, Uber, AirBnB, SnapScan, and many others – the list goes on.
So after analysing the industry, looking at the trends, being exposed to the product roadmaps of literally hundreds of IT products and solutions, here’s a list of the big hype trends for the enterprise.

Cloud in light of Digital Transformation
The cloud is here. You may still be resisting it in pockets of your organisation but you cannot deny that it has arrived and is being used either by IT or by your employees as covert clouds on their personal devices. But where to next? Cloud is the big driver in the next era of enterprise computing – that being digital transformation.
If we consider cloud to be the new enterprise IT architecture of choice, we should also consider that it is the backbone of all things digital. Digital services, digital applications, digital aggregation tools and digital service delivery.
The businesses of the future are not looking at the cloud as a place to just house their legacy applications, they know this will eventually follow, but they are rather leveraging it for the digital freedom it provides to promote and deliver on innovation, customer service and, in many instances, workload mobility that is further underpinned by an increasing mobile revolution.

The software-defined datacentre
The notion of software-defined is one that is changing the face of traditional hardware manufacturers. Stripping the intelligence out of hardware, that needs to be managed daily and refreshed regularly, is going to be put a lot of traditional SAN and server stalwarts out of business unless they change their approach.
The software-defined concept started in the datacentre and is now creeping into literally everything: networking, security, storage and even application development. The once ugly sibling seldom spoken about, the datacentre, is fast becoming the darling of enterprise IT and the virtualisation guys are loving it. Today when we start talking about workload mobility, business agility, web-scale scalability and cloud economics we start at the datacentre.
Software-defined-X is one mega-trend we are going to see really taking off in the next five years as hardware refresh cycles come to the fore and penny pinching budgets dictates that IT needs to find alternatives.

The Internet of Things (IoT)
Perhaps better understood by the consumer because of the notion of smart TV’s, ‘smart’ wine bottles, fridges and under-floor heating, this is a trend that enterprise customers can ill afford to gloss over. The smart factory, the smart retailer and the smart enterprise are a reality and are all being driven by IoT.
By its very nature IoT is the enabler of the “industrial Internet of Things” and brings home to roost other consumer megatrends such as robotics and even artificial intelligence. The fact that we can today have connected sensors monitoring every aspect of the business from power usage, access control, air pollutant levels right through to employee productivity is a real game changer.

Virtual networking
While the concept of virtual networking could be lumped in the same category as software-defined-X I think it is important to call it out in its own right. This is a big game changer and has seen many traditional IT vendors who were once partners, split down the middle and become “frenemies”.
The reality with virtual networking is that the intelligence is moving off of those often-costly peripheral endpoints and moving into the software layer. Here they are easier to manage, cost less, do not need to be replaced as regularly and give you the intelligence you need to start making some hard and smart decisions about your network usage and loads.
While this is a trend that is still in its infancy, it is one that is going to fly, especially as it is supported by, and is a natural extension of, the software-defined datacentre.

Location based services
This could perhaps be better called smart networking. The notion of location-based services (LBS) sends consumers running for the hills to hide in a log cabin away from the Big Brother stalking them. Smart consumers however see its power – to provide them with exactly what they want and need as and when they need it and on whatever device they are connected to.
The big winner in LBS is the data it gives you from which to better make customer-centric decisions. A very popular area of use is in retail environments to drive promotions, based on information derived from analytics, as well as to help determine customer buying patterns etc. A sibling technology of this is beacon technology that alerts you to the arrival of customers into an environment and can even push transactions through based on virtual machine handshakes.

Smarter software driven security
And you thought we weren’t going to get around to security? Well here she is and she’s even more demanding than before. All of the components of the digital economy and the digital future are futile unless this little checkbox is ticked off.
The good news is that security is rising above the firewalls and endpoint intrusion detection of old. With all the billions invested in security R&D each year we are starting to see some real innovation in microsegmentation at the virtual layer, agentless security, live and real time malware and intrusion protection, as well as a shift from device driven solutions to software driven architectures.

Pervasive mobility
Mobility continues to explode, shifting from just the phone and tablet, through to  myriad connected and handheld devices, all of which are smart devices that feed much sought-after data into the data centre. Using these devices to run smart enterprises, especially in logistics is not new, but mobility is becoming more and more pervasive. Fitness trackers providing health information for reward programmes, scanners providing better security access control, devices for RFID and QR Codes to help track deliveries, monitor logistics and give insights into every layer of the business are growing in their use.

Collaborative communication
Ten years ago the notion of the softphone was one that the industry simply couldn’t wrap its head around. However if you look at technologies such as Skype for Business we can argue that it is as pervasive in business today as popcorn is at the movies. The power of unified communications, video conferencing across multiple geographies and the collaboration tools combined in today’s communications solutions are only getting more powerful.
The ability to engage across multiple platforms, apply analytics to these interactions and draw conclusions based on the quality of service of each of these aspects provides customers a platform to start making real business decisions.

Roundup
Are there other megatrends? Without a doubt, a trend we ourselves are internalising is that of digital logistics and the digital aggregation of products and services within the distribution landscape. One trend you will see that I have mentioned above but haven’t called out on its own is analytics – the reason I have not spoken about it as a standalone is that analytics should be a given in business today – if you aren’t doing it your competitors are.
Building the enterprise of tomorrow will make the consumer tech of the future a reality. So if you are planning to deliver coffee via drones to people stuck on a highway in traffic (we can all dream), make sure that you have enterprise systems in place that can make it happen.