As any year comes to a close it’s always a time for retrospection. By any measure 2012 was a tough year for the channel, requiring loads of ingenuity, innovation and sheer tenacity just to keep pace never mind actually getting ahead. That doesn’t mean that the channel isn’t thriving, but it does mean solution providers in 2012 needed to be at the top of their game.
That said, what follows is a list of 12 most significant technology trends from the last year that are reshaping the channel on a profound enough level that their impact will continue to be felt through 2013. In no particular order they include:
Low Energy Servers: Data centers are being fundamentally redesigned to move certain classes of applications, such as analytics, on to more energy efficient processors. The threat of losing this business to ARM prompted Intel to completely rethink its server strategy in 2012, which should in turn create lots of reengineering the data center opportunities for the channel in 2013.
In-Memory Computing: As multicore processers become standard issue while the price of Flash memory continues to fall, more databases and associated application logic is going to run directly in memory. The reason for this is simply. Even if the servers are still a little pricey, the fact that applications will run multiple orders of magnitude faster in-memory is a performance advantage that just about every company is going to find too hard to ignore.
Virtual Data Centers: A term that is mainly being popularized by VMware, virtual data centers represent nothing less than the convergence of storage, networking and server management across the entire data center. The end goal is to not only create a more agile IT environment, but also actually lower the total cost of ownership by relying more on IT automation to manage any number of tasks. In 2013 this trend will drive a lot of upgrade opportunities for the channel.
Software-Defined Networking (SDNs): Closely aligned with the concept of virtual data centers, SDNs will allow IT organizations to manage complex networks at a much higher level of abstraction, there reducing both errors and costs. There are naturally multiple approaches to SDNs, but in every case customers have to either upgrade existing network hardware or acquire new software to achieve the benefits of SDN.
Cloud Sprawl: As organizations get more comfortable with cloud computing they begin to view it as just another tier of computing. The good news for the channel is as customers get more comfortable they start to use more services than ever. The really excellent news for a channel is that solution providers will be increasingly called in to manage all that chaos in 2013.
RESTful Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Connecting multiple applications together has never been easier thanks to RESTful APIs. In fact, the APIs are giving rise to a whole new digital economy that is being created more often than not using the expertise of application integrators found in the channel. An emerging technology at the moment, RESTful APIs will the primary default used for integrating everything from hardware to applications by this time next year.
Big Data: While there currently is a lot more talk about Big Data than actual production applications, technologies such as Hadoop are moving into the mainstream. The good news from a channel perspective is that Big Data projects not only consume massive amounts of storage, they put a tremendous amount of pressure on every piece of IT infrastructure in use. As a trend the channel should expect Big Data to be one of those strategic technology gifts that keeps on giving for years to come.
Advanced Analytics: Closely related to Big Data, the end goal of advanced analytics is to make more reliable business decisions by leveraging algorithms capable of automating business processes in real time based on all the raw data available. Right now most of the focus in this area is on predictive analytics applications. But starting next year companies will focus more on “prescriptive analytics” that embed the analytics capability directly inside a business application. Application upgrade opportunities should abound as a result.
Bring Your Own Application: If 2012 was the year of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), 2013 will be the year we see people start choosing their own productivity applications. Reconciling all the data being collected by all the different applications will be a major challenge in 2013. But now that end users are exercising free will as part of the general “consumerization of IT” movement, there’s no reason to think they will stop at exercising that freedom at the application level regardless of what the IT department thinks. Somebody, however, still needs to put the security and governance frameworks in place to make that dream an actual reality in 2013.
Collaboration Applications: Whether it’s on premise or in the cloud, interest is increasing productivity using any combination of social networking tools and unified communications frameworks will reach a frenzied state; especially as more employees work outside the office thanks to the rise of mobile computing and the “consumerization of IT.” The opportunity for the channel will be finding some way to unify all those different modes of communication across different classes of collaboration software.
Unified Security: As attacks become more targeted and sophisticated, security defenses will need to be upgraded. That means going well beyond anti-virus software and firewalls to create a layered approach to security where attack vectors are continuously monitored, while alerts to new threats are dynamically shared across security technologies from multiple vendors. There may never be such a thing as 100 percent security. But that doesn’t mean that customer’s aren’t keenly interested in funding better ways to defend themselves against cyber criminals, digital miscreants and now any number of quasi-official cyber espionage networks.
Windows 8: Not only does Windows 8 create an upgrade opportunity, especially in the area of mobile computing, it also signaled Microsoft’s entrance into the hardware business. While most of that push is via retail, in 2013 it’s almost certain that Windows PC manufacturers such as Lenovo, HP and Dell will look to the channel to counter Windows Surface machines from Microsoft. There may not be much profit in those devices; but the opportunity to sell Microsoft Office licenses along with services that simplify the management of mobile computing devices should not be ignored in 2013.
In retrospect the past year has given birth to a number of technology trends that, while still fraught with a certain amount of risk peril, should wind up being good for the channel. But the lion’s share of the opportunity will not only go to the swiftest, but also those solution providers that apply these capabilities in ways that provide the most business benefit to the customer. After all, it’s never been about IT for technology’s sake; rather it’s about the business outcome the technology enables.