12 Enterprise and Mobile IT Predictions for 2017

By Rob Marvin Features PCmag

The business IT landscape saw a host of significant shifts over the past year. On the development side, the DevOps revolution is marching forward on the strength of innovative technologies such as containers and microservices. At the same time, a burgeoning space around low-code development platforms is making it easier for business users to build apps for custom use cases.

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We've also seen the continued evolution of business collaboration and IT helpdesk workflows. The rise of Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) platforms and new conversational chatbot interfaces from Microsoft, Facebook, and countless others have implications for everything from business Voice-over-IP (VoIP) to the future of sales.

On the IT security and mobile device management (MDM) side, the slow demise of on-premises software continues to give way to virtual servers. Built atop that more scalable infrastructure, the shift to broader enterprise mobility management (EMM) is helping business create smarter, more unified mobile business hubs.

Heading into 2017, it pays handsomely to be on the cutting-edge of IT. We spoke to companies and experts from throughout the IT industry on what trends to expect in the new year, and their predictions spanned everything from UCaaS and microservices to chatbots and the Internet of Things (IoT).

A Dozen IT Predictions for 2017

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1. API Economy: The New Business Engine
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the key to open-source software and the foundation of any effective IT integration. Sven Hammar, CEO of website monitoring company Apica said APIs will emerge as a key business driver in 2017, with more pressure on enterprise application developers to ensure the APIs deploy and function properly.

"As more and more applications are created to help communicate, work, purchase, and play more efficiently, developers and application providers leveraging APIs will become the norm. Many of these tools are large and tie to other parts of an organization like transactions, shipping, and warehousing," said Hammar, who added that, "according to Kristin R. Moyer, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, 'the API Economy is an enabler for turning business or organizations into a platform.'"

2. More Speed, More Testing, More Automation
Apica's Hammar also predicts that more and more automation will require new levels of testing to speed up the development process. He explained that testing and application performance management (APM) tools today can provide a holistic view of application development to where you can now test new features that weren't available months ago.

"In order to stay competitive, organizations have sped up their application development to light speed by moving away from the traditional three layers of testing to an automated model," said Hammar. "Unfortunately, some organizations hesitate to automate and continue this methodical approach to application development, resulting in competitors eating up any market share available. Some of today's most advanced applications are the ones that are integrated and automated within the test automation phase."

3. Machine Learning Maximizes Microservices Impact
John Schroeder, founder and Executive Chairman of enterprise data platform MapR, sees a link between advancements in machine learning and greater adoption of microservices architectures.

"This [coming] year we will see activity increase for the integration of machine learning and microservices. Previously, microservices deployments have been focused on lightweight services, and those that do incorporate machine learning have typically been limited to 'fast data' integrations applied to narrow bands of streaming data," explained Schroeder. "In 2017, we'll see development shift to stateful applications that leverage Big Data, and the incorporation of machine learning approaches that use large of amounts of historical data to better understand the context of newly arriving streaming data."

4. The Mobile Workstyle Will Dominate the Enterprise
Mobile and tablet internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time worldwide this year. In the workplace, employees are becoming increasingly more mobile. Eugenia Corrales, Senior Vice President of Product at VoIP provider ShoreTel, predicts users will go to their mobile device first to perform business functions.

"There is still broader functionality on the desktop but it is becoming a secondary device to conduct business functions. This behavior is driving technology development and adoption on the mobile device first, followed by desktop and web clients," said Corrales. "While the desktop will continue to be an important work tool, workloads will be moved to mobile-based applications more than ever and new functionality will appear mobile first."

5. Businesses Will Start Integrating Generation Z
Generation Z, also known as the post-millennial generation, will begin entering the workforce this decade. ShoreTel's Corrales believes that businesses need to address the changes in workstyle that this new generation brings.

"Gen Zs grew up with a constant communication stream, extensive content sharing, and many options for receiving their content. Their expectations are high for tool performance while patience and loyalty to non-performing technologies are low," said Corrales. "Gen Zs know they have options in productivity tools and will pursue them quickly. Businesses will need to be even more responsive to technological changes and provide more flexibility and interconnectivity than ever as Gen Zs drive new services into the workplace at an ever increasing rate."

6. The Rise of Bots in the Workplace
With digital assistants on every smartphone operating system (OS) and chatbots proliferating throughout our messaging apps, bots are beginning to become commonplace in everyday culture, and even in sales. Corrales said we will see more companies taking advantage of bots to create stronger contextual awareness and improve the speed and accuracy of decision making in the workplace.

"Leveraging the increasing amount of customer data and improved analytical tools, bots can produce tangible value in decision making. Some interesting use cases include contact center applications and sales enablement tools," said Corrales. "Companies such as Chyme and Kore are developing bot technology specifically for the workplace. For instance, Chyme's bots help workers in contact centers quickly determine the customer's problem by identifying patterns of previous customer behavior. Kore's Smart Bots can help retailers automatically figure out if certain merchandise is in stock via a simple messaging platform. Bots will continue to infiltrate the workplace, enabling businesses to obtain tangible value from evolving Big Data analytics and machine learning."

7. The Unified UCaaS and Collaboration Stack
By 2019, IDC predicts that 75 percent of IT spending will be driven by third-platform technology, which means cloud, mobile, analytics and social media-based services. Over the same timeframe, IDC predicts the global UCaaS market will top $35 billion. ShoreTel's Corrales believes UCaaS and collaboration platforms will see deeper integration as the market goes through some consolidation amidst global expansion.

"UCaaS first emerged in the US as the cloud infrastructure and the technology matured. Regions outside of North America are now starting to take advantage of the technology. Within the UCaaS market, the majority of growth and adoption will spike in markets outside of the United States. In particular, Europe, Asia Pacific and Australia are starting to deploy UCaaS solutions now that the technology has been vetted and the needed infrastructure is in place," said Corrales.

"This transformational technology shift brings several interesting characteristics to productivity and collaboration tools in the workplace," she added. "In the collaboration space, end-users are gaining decision power in the enterprise, placing greater value on ease of use and overall user experience. Hence, best-in-class solutions are giving way to more integrated and holistic solutions that eliminate integration and compatibility issues. We will see growing partnerships and consolidation in the marketplace as vendors shift to focus on creating the best full stack solution rather than a standalone technology. IT spending for integrated collaboration stacks will continue to grow as companies forgo point solutions with integration challenges."

8. Compliance-as-Code Emerges as a Top DevOps Priority
Businesses are always struggling to stay on top of changing compliance regulations. Tim Prendergast, CEO at cloud management and security company Evident.io, has led technology teams at Adobe, Ingenuity, Ticketmaster, and McAfee. He foresees DevOps teams adopting the concept of "Compliance-as-Code" to streamline regulated IT in the cloud.

"It was just a few years ago that 'Security-as-Code' was embraced by DevOps because it gave security its own declarative model," explained Prendergast. "This coming year, we'll see more DevOps teams adopt compliance-as-code in order to reduce the reporting and maintenance overhead that all regulated entities have to endure. As more companies move production workloads to the cloud, it will become imperative that they adapt their processes and tools for compliance to avoid making the audit process even more cumbersome. Compliance-as-Code will solve that challenge and ensure that compliance is continual as new code, new features, and new services are rolled out."

9. CISOs Become the New CIOs
With the move to digitization, information technology has become a strategic asset for businesses, leading CIOs to take COO and CEO positions. Rajiv Gupta, CEO of cloud security provider Skyhigh Networks, predicts a shake-up in the IT corner office.

"Now that every company is a software company, they also need expertise in software security," said Gupta. "2017 will be the year security cements its role as a competitive differentiator, with CISOs delivering faster product time to market and employee and customer privacy."

10. Cloud Projects: The Best Way to Jumpstart Your IT Career
According to financial services giant UBS, corporate spending on IT and traditional cybersecurity will level out in favor of cloud security technology. Skyhigh Networks' Gupta sees cloud expertise as the golden ticket for IT professionals in 2017.

"Early adopters of cloud security technology will see their career prospects skyrocket as they offer coveted experience leading global cloud security projects," said Gupta. "The average company experiences over 2.7 billion cloud events per month, only 23.2 of which are actual threats. Companies moving to the cloud want IT security professionals who can weed through the noise of false alerts and apply security at scale."

11. IT Becomes the Data Hero
IT is at the helm of the transformation to self-service business intelligence (BI) at scale. BI provider Tableau said IT provides the flexibility and agility businesses needs to innovate, all while balancing governance, data security, and compliance. The company believes closer partnerships between IT and business users will help combat Shadow IT practices in the coming year.

"By empowering the organization to make data-driven decisions at the speed of business, IT will emerge as the data hero who helps shape the future of the business," said Francois Ajenstat, Chief Product Officer at Tableau.

"With cloud becoming a strategic priority for many enterprises, IT is now working in close partnership with business users and proactively vetting popular applications," added Ashley Kramer, Director of Product Management and Head of Cloud Strategy at Tableau. "As a result, SaaS apps can be fully integrated into the business. IT can connect apps to relevant data streams, meet security requirements, and scale solutions to the whole enterprise."

12. The Internet of Shadowy Things
CIOs may not want IoT to intersect their enterprises, but EMM provider MobileIron anticipates it will happen in 2017 whether they allow it or not. Sean Ginevan, Sr. Director of Strategy at MobileIron, said it's imperative that CIOs take action to mitigate the risks of shadowy, internet-connected devices like smart refrigerators and smart cars.

Ginevan said the answer is to develop the building blocks that let you say "yes" to the Internet of Shadowy Things. He offered three proactive network management and endpoint security tips to help IT proactively secure and mitigate risk from these devices.

  • Segment the Network: "Users will bring new devices onto the network that you likely don't want connecting to critical infrastructure so it's time to add a couple of new SSIDs and VLANs to your network," said Ginevan. "You might already have a guest network in place that provides Internet connectivity while blocking access to enterprise resources, and that's a start but IoT devices may need access to some enterprise resources whereas guests need none. IT can decide over time what resources are accessible on the IoT network. Ultimately, an IoT network fits somewhere between your outright-trusted enterprise network and what you use for guests."

  • Think Seriously About PKI and NAC: "You don't want users taking their credentials and putting them into the refrigerator to get it online because if it is compromised the refrigerator is acting on the network as one of your employees (spoiler alert: it's probably your CEO)," said Ginevan. "Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) can help by ensuring only authorized endpoints enrolled by the user and trusted by IT can connect. Layering in Network Access Control (NAC) ensures that devices are actually trusted and meet your minimum security criteria. Less trusted IoT devices are kept segmented to the correct network."

  • Think About Traffic Shaping: "If you do have devices that are compromised, you can stop the bleeding," said Ginevan. "Traffic shaping, particularly around suspicious traffic flows (short packets, long periods of activity, repeated destinations) can help mitigate the effect of attacks launched from your network and provide improved connectivity for mission critical services."

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.