Just like that 2017 is half over. Organizations are already starting to forecast future technologies, trying to determine what to expect for the rest of the year and into 2018.
As the second half of the year begins, it is the perfect time to look at what trends and technologies likely to take center stage. Here are the top four trends CIO Dive is hearing the most buzz about:
1. SD-WAN: Companies grapple with swelling networks
Managing the corporate network is more challenging today than ever given the rise of cloud and IoT applications. SD-WAN is viewed by many as a way for companies to manage it all more effectively. As a result, SD-WAN has worked its way into the limelight.
In May, Cisco validated SD-WAN when it announced plans to acquire Viptela, an SD-WAN company, for $610 million. Viptela’s software-defined system for enterprises allows customers to more easily manage network resources across hybrid cloud environments and on-prem networks. Cisco representatives said acquiring Viptela will allow them to deliver next-generation SD-WAN solutions more quickly.
Experts expect the SD-WAN market to see significant growth over the next several years as companies grapple with swelling networks. Gartner predicts 30% of enterprises will have deployed SD-WAN technology in their branches by the end of 2019, with that growing to 50% in the next few years
"The 'last mile' or WAN-edge of the network is the most logical 'IT complexity' problem to solve in that there are very well-defined legacy topologies and connectivity schemes that are ripe for transformation, including automation and consolidation," said John Dickey, president of Talari Networks. "SD-WAN represents the best way to transform the edge enterprise network into the cloud-ready age, in which more and more data and apps run in a hybrid-cloud fashion."
The primary enterprise benefits? Aggregation of connectivity lowers costs and delivers higher bandwidth networks with reliable and secure connectivity between them.
2. Blockchain: Ready for takeoff
Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, is on the rise. The technology is already being tested in the enterprise for things like asset tracking, inventory tracking and regulation and compliance, among other things.
Experts predict more enterprise proofs of concepts (POCs) will be announced over the next six months. Many examples of blockchain in action will be focused in the financial services sector, though other use cases will likely emerge.
"Growth in POCs will continue across various industries because stakeholders are becoming more educated on the benefits of distributed ledger technology," said Alex-Paul Manders, Technology Business Management practice lead at Information Services Group.
"Enterprises are now capable of automating legal contracts and financial transactions within self-executing smart contracts," he said. "With smart contracting mechanisms organizations can automate specific functions within a supply chain to process transactions, transfer ownership and settle contractual agreements instantly."
In addition to more blockchain POCs, Manders said he expects to see more large-scale technology providers like IBM or Microsoft coming out with new blockchain technologies to compete against public blockchain technologies such as Ethereum.
3. Getting cloudier: Growth of the multi-cloud
A multi-cloud future seems inevitable for large organizations that have multiple business groups, highly divergent application needs and thousands of developers operating in many parts of the world.
"The reality is that while central IT is typically overseeing the cloud adoption journey, pragmatism requires that they must partner with multiple cloud providers to enable their organizations to leverage the cloud partners that meet their needs," said Dave McJannet, CEO of HashiCorp. "It’s not about the idea of dynamically moving workloads around (because data is expensive to move) but rather the practical reality of large organizations using cloud architectures that seems to have settled into the collective conscience of these customers."
Standardizing on two to three cloud partners allows organizations to embrace the move to cloud while at the same time allowing teams to safely choose the cloud that matches the kind of application types that they need.
For example, Google Cloud is investing quite a bit around artificial intelligence and machine learning, so customers might choose to put particular workloads with its cloud platform as a result. On the other hand, Microsoft Azure will always be strong for .Net application development. In other cases, geographic or regulatory requirements may dictate which cloud is chosen.
4. An enhanced future: VR and AR in the enterprise
VR headsets and other devices that create mobile virtual or augmented reality experiences are rapidly showing up in the enterprise, and use of them looks likely to grow.
"Big companies far outside the world of consumer entertainment are testing and deploying augmented reality and virtual reality equipment in a wide range of work-related applications, and improving capabilities are inspiring more potential uses," said David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte. "The technology is getting so effective — and sufficiently user-friendly — that more companies should consider incorporating AR/VR solutions into their workflow."
Deloitte estimates more than 150 companies in multiple industries, including 52 of the Fortune 500, are testing or have deployed AR/VR solutions, according to Schatsky.
The technology boasts many use cases across industries. For example, workers who perform service in the field can use AR/VR devices to access hands-free information while completing a manual task, such as maintenance or repair. Smart glasses or head-mounted displays can overlay instructions, maps, system information or real-time feedback over a worker’s field of view, according to Schatsky.
"Some of these applications also offer the ability to collaborate with colleagues from remote locations who can see what the user sees and can guide him to troubleshoot any issues," he said.