Ten predictions for 2015 – and five issues to keep an eye on for 2016 and beyond

It’s that time of year, the one where everybody is making a list, checking it twice, and then using it as a way of identifying the key developments anticipated for the New Year. As world leaders in deciphering the business issues shaping the use and supply of IT in business, Techaisle and InsightaaS have been receiving requests for a perspective on the most important issues for 2015. Here are ten that we believe are important, plus a bonus list of five other issues that won’t be ready for ‘prime time’ in 2015, but will begin building momentum for 2016’s list.

Anurag Agrawal, President, Techaisle
Anurag Agrawal, President, Techaisle

The Top 10 for 2015

  1. Hybrid arrives – not as a strategy but as the result of many discrete decisions. We believe – mostly from vendors with a commercial motive – that IT buyers are establishing infrastructure strategies focused on public cloud or private cloud, or hybrid cloud, or on-premise products. We don’t believe that’s the proper perspective for 2015. Buyers will make the platform decisions that make the most sense for their organizations on a workload-by-workload basis. The result will be that public, private and on-premise will all become part of the mix…and that an ability to manage hybrid infrastructure will become a key corporate IT requirement in 2015.
  2. Collaboration becomes a much bigger concept. In years past, ‘collaboration’ was a big-company issue, in which IT professionals used something called ‘presence’ to connect staff to each other. What a quaint time that was! In 2015, this concept of collaboration will be swept into the dustbin of history. Next year, it will become clear that collaboration spans files and people, staff and customers. It includes file exchange and multi-point editing; it extends beyond the corporate staff (and as a result, beyond large enterprises) to include customers; it has broken through the corporate walls, and demands support for mobility. In fact…
  3. Collabmobilicloud becomes a management reality. There is a tendency in the press and in vendor product literature to treat collaboration, mobility and cloud as separate solutions. There is a tendency from the user perspective to treat them as aspects of a single approach to accessing, working with and sharing information. The users pay the bills, and in 2015, their perspective will predominate. Collaboration initiatives are part of mobility strategies, mobility is at the core of collaboration initiatives, and both are dependent on the cloud. This will have a major impact on application development…
  4. UX, not DevOps, is the key 2015 application development trend. We keep reading about how DevOps (and PaaS) will dominate application development in 2015. We don’t believe it, at least for this coming year. User experience is going to be the most important issue in applications: delivering a user-friendly, consistent, easy-to-navigate-and-consumer experience across desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet and smartphone screens with different screen sizes and dimensions, and based on different operating systems.
  5. Connected security becomes ‘security’. At one point, there was a debate in the security world - What was better – unified threat management (UTM) systems that ensured that there aren’t cracks between security products, or best-of-breed (BoB) products that could evolve as quickly as the threat landscape itself? BoB won that debate decisively; in fact, what used to be called “UTM” is now referred to as “next-generation firewalls,” one of many important ‘shields’ around enterprise data, applications and users. However, with the expanding threat perimeter (caused in no small part by the trends towards hybrid and collabmobilicloud), 2015 is time to take a fresh look at how to ensure that all of the aspects of the security infrastructure are integrated to protect against intrusion.
  6. BYOD – more a story than a choice. The expanding threat perimeter is sometimes blamed on bring your own device (BYOD) policies, which are in turn supposed to be the subject of internal debate. But hey – next year is 2015. It’s time to stop pretending that there are alternatives to BYOD. Employees will bring their devices (and with the trends in collaboration, customer devices will also become part of the supported device community). BYOD is a reality, not a subject of debate.
  7. ‘Orchestration’ is everybody’s problem. In cloud circles, ‘orchestration’ has two meanings: technical orchestration within an IT operational process, and orchestration of multiple applications into a coherent, multi-application software infrastructure. In 2015, both will become more prominent. The latter definition especially will come to dominate IT discussion: as more and more SaaS applications are used by the business, there will be more benefits to connecting them, more requirements to secure them, more exposure (in terms of both lost benefit/agility and security) associated with the management of them. This will largely be an IT responsibility, but not entirely, because…
  8. The BDM becomes the KDM for business applications. Okay, this is pretty easy, since we’re just describing a transition that is mostly complete. Techaisle research shows that business decision makers (BDMs) are responsible for SaaS business application purchases in over 70% of US SMBs today; they, and not IT managers, are the ‘KDMs’ (key decision makers) driving SaaS adoption. In 2015, it will become even clearer that IT can’t gate the introduction of new task automation software.
  9. IT bifurcation. If IT can’t preside over the introduction of new business technology, what is its role? In 2015, we’ll start to see that the concept of ‘the IT department’ will start to splinter. First up, we’ll see a distinction between IT-as-an-important-force-in-driving-corporate-strategy and IT-as-a-supplier-of-management-and-integration-services. The former will spend much less time on ‘IT’ than ‘business strategy’. The latter group will likely divide again, with one part focused on connecting business applications together so that “task automation” becomes “process, department and/or enterprise automation,” while a second group focuses primarily on on-premise product acquisition, configuration, deployment and support. Both of these approaches, though, will be subject to intense cost pressure, as outsourcing to the channel will become an attractive option.
  10. In the channel, the ability to manage recurring revenue streams will separate the ‘viable’ from the ‘ready for consolidation’. Many members of the channel recognize that acting as a managed service provider (MSP) and/or participating in provisioning of cloud services is important to the future…but many don’t really know how to transition from their current model to an approach predicated, at least in part, on recurring revenue contracts. In 2015, we’ll start to see a firm separation between channel members that have the sales, technical and management structures needed to combine recurring and traditional business models and those that don’t. By the end of the year, we’ll start to refer to the latter group as “struggling,” “acquired” or “on their last legs.”

And just for fun – here are five issues that are likely to appear on future lists, but aren’t yet ready to be part of the 2015 mainstream.

  1. Big Data is still long on promisebut a bit short on real application. Firms are investing in data scientists, assembling data, and rolling out proof-of-concepts in which the insights gleaned by the data scientists from the data deliver stunning new insights to management. Most of these PoCs will fail. Honorable mention, though, to firms that embed Big Data outputs into applications used by customers and/or line staff – we’ll see some tangible progress in this area in 2015. Businesses will begin to hire Big Data Product managers that connect the dots between marketing, engineering and analytics.
  2. IoT – still lots of smokebut again, the fire is more than a year away. However, because IoT outputs do deliver visible and tangible benefits, the momentum for IoT will start to build in 2015. Privacy and security concerns, data analytics and interoperability will creep up to the center stage.
  3. SDN is still on the horizon. SDN is the future – we keep reading this, and we’re pretty well convinced of it ourselves. But, networks are complex, and expensive, and hard to migrate. The longer term signals for SDN are very positive, but 2015 isn’t the year in which we’ll see it as the lever that pries billions of dollars’ worth of Cisco gear out of data centers.
  4. Power and cooling as a business issue. In a lot of ways, cloud is to power and cooling what fracking is to oil: it relieves the immediate pressure to do something substantive about a looming issue. In the case of power and cooling, cloud has made it possible to use IT in vastly more areas of the business without addressing the inconvenient reality that our data centers won’t support the density required by all of this storage and processing. However, even a hybrid future brings more local demand, and eventually, businesses of all sizes will need to come to grips with how to create the IT environment demanded by their on-premise equipment. Fortunately for many of these firms, “eventually” will occur after 2015 concludes.
  5. Wearables are approaching prime time, but We fully expect wearables to create entirely new technology use cases, and to become a critical factor in the UX discussion referenced above. There are simply too many compelling use cases to keep wearables from ascending into the IT mainstream, in both business and consumer contexts. However…there are still some advances needed, in battery technology, in communications capabilities, even in basic materials science, before the wearables future arrives. Wearables will become ubiquitous, but not in 2015!