The top stories of 2018 so far
These are the trials, tribulations and mysteries that dominated business tech in the first half of 2018.
With six months of 2018 under the belt, it's crunch time for many businesses. Next year's goals are lurking around the corner, and a lot of work that went into Q1 and Q2 will come to fruition in the coming months.
Whether it felt like a slow trudge or excited last steps before a finish line, here are the trials, tribulations and mysteries that dominated business technology in the first half of 2018:
1. Haunted by a Spectre
The year kicked off with a cybersecurity announcement that rocked the industry: Computer chips from Intel, AMD and ARM, dating back decades, had hardware vulnerabilities that could allow malicious actors to access a computer's memory. Experts concluded the only true fix was a complete replacement of CPU hardware.
Every time the memory of Spectre and Meltdown briefly faded, new flaws resembling the vulnerabilities or variants were discovered, reminding businesses that nothing is ever secure. As the followers of the Drowned God remind us, "What is dead may never die" and only "rises again harder and stronger."
2. The H-1B headache
The skilled worker visa filing season opened in April and, for the sixth year running, applications hit the cap within five business days. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 199,000 petitions, down from more than 230,000 in 2016 and 2015.
In the months before, the H-1B visa program was the subject of much political debate and changing policies. USCIS suspended premium processing for FY 2019 petitions through September to focus on long-pending applications and reduce processing time. The Trump administration also announced plans to change H-4 visas for spouses of H-1B visa holders, modify the definition of a specialty occupation and increase scrutiny on certain applicants and requests for evidence.
H-1B visa holders fill many technology positions in the United States, mitigating the shortage of tech talent across fields. Many experts fear that changes to the visa program will work to the detriment of the U.S. as it fights China to lead the world in tech.
3. So what's Dell up to?
Dell Technologies made headlines this year as news broke that the company was weighing a public offering or a reverse merger with VMware, which Dell owns 80% of. In 2016, the company purchased EMC for $67 million — the largest deal in technology history.
Struggling to find a technology niche and manage its large debt — estimated somewhere between $50 billion to $55 billion — a reverse merger or IPO might turn the company's tides. The VMware deal would turn the company public in the process and avoid the cost and time of the IPO process, leading some experts to put their eggs in the VMware basket.
4. IPOs on IPOs
The last six months have seen a strong performance by technology companies going public. Dropbox, Zscaler and Carbon Black were among the more anticipated market entrants, and all three companies performed well on opening day.
In the first third of the year, enterprise, cloud-based software companies especially dominated, finding success disrupting specific parts of business technology instead of one-size-fits-all models.
Many companies have gotten the ball rolling on the IPO process, which can take at least four months but usually longer to complete, and barring unforeseen circumstances, these players may be entering the market in Q3 and Q4. But confidential filing has made it difficult to know for certain what the next six months hold.
5. Dropbox (finally) goes public
After years of speculation, Dropbox filed to go public in February, disclosing a 500 million-strong user base and $1.1 billion in revenue in 2017. The collaboration market greatly expanded over the last few years, so questions of Dropbox's long term profitability as a public company, especially in light of Box's performance, circulated.
The company unveiled a host of enterprise partnerships and vertical integrations ahead of its IPO, including a strategic partnership with Salesforce. The company popped 35% in its IPO in late March in the first big tech IPO since Snapchat's 2017 debut.
A favorite of SMBs, the content platform company has continued working on increasing its hold in the enterprise by going after vertical sectors. The company recently unveiled deeper ties with the media and entertainment space.
6. The quantum race gets hotter
Quantum supremacy, annealing, qubits and random numbers … it seems fewer people understand what's really going on in quantum computing even though more people are talking about and investing in it.
Researchers, countries and companies are still years away from a universal, error-corrected quantum computer that can reach quantum supremacy. But that doesn't mean uses for the technology aren't in place.
Quantum annealing and optimization applications are being put to work by companies like Volkswagen and Toyota. Technology organizations like Intel, Google, Fujitsu and NIST unveiled a variety of milestones for quantum computing, from new records for qubits to true random number generation.
Big tech companies and countries are jumping in on the hardware race, but for most companies the costs associated with this endeavor are too high. The quantum services and software markets, facilitated by the movement of quantum compute power through the cloud, are more widely open for businesses to find a niche in the advanced technology.
7. Getting ready to GDPaRrty
Despite two years' notice, the months, weeks and days leading up to May 25, when the EU's General Data Protection Regulation took effect, were a headache for many IT leaders. Many companies experienced an influx of data subject requests, and some companies — especially large, well known tech companies — were quick targets of complaints and class action attempts.
The second half of 2018 may see more concrete steps to enforcement taken. For now, many regulators are still unprepared, understaffed and underfunded. And before going after companies that failed to comply with big fines, the regulators need to build a strong case to withstand inevitable legal challenges.
The work for business leaders also doesn't stop after the deadline. Servicing data subject requests, auditing vendors and partners and instilling best security practices among employees will be an ongoing effort. Many companies are still not fully compliant, and regulators' leniency will only extend for so long.
GDPR is the de facto global data protection regulation, but other regions and countries are reacting and planning to formulate their own policies. The Trump administration is reportedly weighing options for an American "counter-weight" to the European regulation.
8. The role of the CIO is (still) changing
While it can feel like a broken record, the changing nature of IT leadership is still a prominent trend in the enterprise. Some CIOs are earning awards for driving innovation throughout their business, but many are hampered by "keeping the lights on" and a lack of clout at the executive level.
As CIOs work to reinvent their business, many will have to reinvent their role, putting a greater emphasis on innovation. Technology and business strategies are no longer two separate parts of business, and the alignment may morph the distinctions between CIOs, CTOs and CDOs further.
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