2016

As the year comes to a close, analysts and vendors begin to trot out their predictions for what will be big in the technology landscape for 2016, whether it’s new products, or emerging trends in the IT workplace.

These forecasts need to be taken with a grain of salt, and some things just come out of nowhere, like Dell buying EMC.

Other issues and challenges for IT departments seem to have been with us for years, such as a constant shortage of skilled workers, evolving security threats, or the debate over whether to select best-of-breed applications versus a single vendor with “one throat to choke.”

Here, we take a closer look at a few 2016 predictions that Canadian IT professionals should be paying attention to.

SDKs for popular mobile apps can put data at risk.

Security

Security is one facet of IT that is constantly evolving to meet the challenges posed by new technologies. With the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) phenomenon now simply a reality of doing business, IT departments can longer settle for securing data inside the firewall.

As mobile banking and payment technology starts to gain traction, it will pose a huge security risk in 2016, according to the November 2015 Threats Report released by Intel Security’s McAfee Labs division. Mobile banking apps, along with macro and fileless malware, were revealed to be key security threats, due to poor coding practices for mobile app cloud security.

And there will be other ways mobile devices will threaten enterprise security, including SDKs that either unwittingly or maliciously expose corporate data, while social media has recently become a vehicle for spreading malware.

The Internet of Things (IoT) also means even more devices will be connected to enterprises, thereby opening doors to sensitive information, as the ubiquity and physical distribution of IoT devices will give attackers even greater opportunity to gain physical or logical proximity to targets.

iot

The Internet of Things

Is 2016 the year for IoT? Research firm Gartner estimated that in 2015 there were 4.9 billion connected “things”– growing to 25 billion by 2020. And some IT use cases have already become clichés.

IoT has seen some adoption in the industrial space – and a lot of the high profile coverage has been around interesting consumer applications – but vendors such as Citrix Canada expect to see the need for mobility and connectivity bleed into everything, including the enterprise. This has been dubbed the “Integration of Everything (IoE).”

There are Canadian organizations that are already IoT enterprise-wide to improve their operations and those of their customers. Intact Insurance, for example, is leveraging commercial fleet data from Telus to more accurately price premiums, while the City of Burnaby is able to improve trash management. However, its CIO also noted municipalities do face budget limitations as to how far they can take IoT deployments at the moment.

There’s no doubt that IoT applications and scenarios will continue to multiply. It’s just a question of how fast. According to a Leger study jointly commissioned by the Ryerson DMZ and Primus Telecommunications, Canada is ready to embrace IoT, and Ryerson has been offering courses that brings different disciplines together, such as design, fashion and engineering. Last year, an interdisciplinary group built a smart pill dispenser.

OpenText President and CEO Mark Barrenechea is especially bullish on IoT, predicting broader enterprise adoption due to its economic impact and the opportunity to monetize the exchange of information, micro-licensing, and transactions. He foresees algorithms as apps for applying analysis over the connected masses of information generated by the IoT, and that owning the data, analyzing the data, and improving and innovating become the keys to corporate success.

More data centres based in Canada will address residency concerns for enterprises moving to the cloud.

Cloud Computing

It may seem obvious to say that cloud computing will be significant in 2016 – almost par for the course – but with the announcement by several major vendors including Microsoft and Oracle that they would be setting up data centres in Canada, no doubt we’ll see organizations that were previously reluctant to put data in the cloud over residency concerns begin to revisit their strategies.

At this year’s Openworld conference, Oracle stated that it intends to be the forefront of cloud computing ten years from now, and that enterprises by then would have moved everything off-premise.

In the meantime, it’s likely we’ll we continue to see more SaaS-based offerings aimed directly at specific lines of business within the enterprise. OpenText’s Barrenechea observed that the rise of SaaS companies over the years has been tied to cash over time, rather than the cash upfront model, but cash is still king and businesses need profit. As quickly as the fast-growing, no-profit SaaS companies have appeared, they will now begin to collapse.

From a technology perspective, HP Enterprise predicts the power of OpenStack as a cloud platform along with Docker and other container technologies will enable enterprises to improve how workloads are assigned to resources.

webify

Webifying apps

Citrix Canada anticipates that organizations will aim to do more with their IT after a year focused on weathering the economic storm caused by falling oil prices and a weak Canadian dollar. Employees are increasingly expecting “anytime, anywhere” access to company apps and data, and will demand a shift towards organizations webifying – or digitizing – company apps.

This trend has already started as some vendors are making it easier for end users and non-developers to build mobile apps either for data input from the field or to more easily disseminate information.

In early December, Microsoft unveiled PowerApps, an enterprise service for employees, developers and IT professionals that allows them to quickly create apps that work on any device using a Microsoft Office-like experience with a template and a visual designer that automates workflows.

storage

Storage

Between IoT and all sorts of apps generating new data, storing it all will require some innovation and new approaches. HP Enterprise sees a number of storage-related technologies getting the spotlight in 2016.

It will be the year all-flash array shipments outpace HDD-only, while first-generation flash media will start to give way to next-generation persistent memory and solid state technologies. In addition, the impact of flash will be felt in storage networking where there will be new development on Fibre Channel alternatives.

The company expects traditional backup to undergo the same arc as IT as a whole, where infrastructure becomes invisible and application owners gain more control.

talent

Finding and keeping people

Getting the right talent will remain a challenge for enterprises as they are faced with evolving technology in areas such as IoT, mobile, cloud and analytics. According to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), we’re not training enough people to fill the growing gap. The organization’s report titled Digital Economy Supply: Canada’s Post-Secondary Education Stream confirms the pipeline that produces workers who are capable of leveraging modern technologies is not keeping up with industry demand.

While this is an issue that’s important for all players in the digital economy, ICTC said it should be of particular concern to CIOs who are leading the digital transformation of their organizations – and there is already a skills shortage.

The skills shortage seems to be a perennial challenge for IT departments, but there could be some changes afoot. OpenText’s Barrenechea noted we will begin to see Millennials enter management-level roles, and they will radically restructure all aspects of business — from productivity tools to HR policies. Millennial managers will pull from a global pool of talent, hiring the best employees from around the world to create highly skilled, dispersed teams. Organizations with cultures that can attract and keep top talent will be the ultimate winners.


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Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.