Outlook: fair

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The channel may struggle to keep up with emerging technologies

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Billy

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18 January 2019 | 0

Billy MacInnesYou won’t be surprised to hear that cloud, digital transformation, hyper converged infrastructure (HCI), SD-WAN, IoT, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the technologies and trends expected to play a prominent role this year.

Many of them were also highlighted as major trends and technologies for last year and are probably going to be featured again when 2020 begins.

But how they will feature and in what ways depends on who you ask. For example, Francis O’Haire, group technology director at DataSolutions, believes that ML and AI “will become common in areas such as cyber security, data analytics and IT infrastructure management”. A view shared by Karen O’Connor, general manager service delivery at Datapac, who cites the use of AI and ML to protect against ransomware. She points to Sophos Phish Threat as a means to educate and test users on phishing through automated attack simulations and training.

And Michael Conway, director at Renaissance, predicts that behavioural-based and predictive technologies, particularly those based on a mix of AI and ML “will become critical in order to continue to offer a secure and compliant environment”. George O’Dowd, managing director at Novi, on the other hand, stresses the role of AI in “support functions like HR, logistics and the supply chain. More innovative SMEs may then seek to implement tried-and-tested AI functions in their business processes”.

When it comes to HCI, Darren O’Sullivan, sales director at Logicalis Ireland, believes there will be a growing number of HCI deployments “for appropriate customer deployments”. He also predicts “increased demand for IT compute, storage, networking and security services across the board” on the back of continued investment in digital transformation initiatives.

O’Haire is unequivocal, claiming that 2019 will see HCI “grow from being a disruptive niche technology to becoming the preferred replacement for ageing and complicated SAN-based architectures”.

Continuing with the software-defined theme, Mike Cox, UK & Ireland channel development and alliances director at Westcon, predicts that SD-WAN adoption will play well with multi-site organisations this year. “The technology is more established, and the market is more accepting,” he argues.

Cox admits that “security is a major concern for customers”, but there are “plenty of complementary solutions”. He adds that “more partners will need to be SD-WAN savvy was customer demand rapidly increases”.

Mobile apps
It’s probably no surprise to anybody that cloud looms large in 2019. Evanna Kearins, vice president for global field marketing at DataStax, says that there will be a particular focus on hybrid and multi-cloud deployments this year. But it will bring its own problems. “The challenge that companies will find is that they can move their apps over to hybrid, but they will not be able to move their data so easily, at least without major application rewrites,” she warns. “Cloud database deployments will therefore get more attention next year.”

As a consequence, a big differentiator for partners will be the ability to understand “how to migrate applications and data to the cloud, particularly when there are multiple clouds involved”.

O’Dowd agrees that businesses will continue to adopt subscription-based cloud services and solutions this year but there will be a move “towards more innovative cloud adoptions and approaches”. He highlights a demand “for more agile and versatile cloud environments”. With the increased investment in digital transformation initiatives, O’Sullivan believes that “the ratio of deployments will shift from traditional on-premise solutions to cloud-based models”. He’s fairly safe in that prediction given that the Cloud industry Forum recently reported that spending on cloud infrastructure had surpassed on-premise infrastructure for the first time in 2018.

Incidentally, that report, Cloud – The Next Generation, also highlighted the role of cloud in enabling the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution: AI, ML, IoT, blockchain and big data.

On the subject of infrastructure, O’Connor at Datapac is keen to stress the popularity of Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) in 2019. She argues that outsourcing hardware procurement and lifecycle management frees up resources while allowing employers to meet their user expectations of “ensuring technology is up-to-date and always available. Given the IT skills shortage, user expectations will be a key driver behind DaaS, as employers seek to entice the best talent”.

Mind you, just because people are highlighting some of the same technologies for 2019 that were cited as big trends for 2018, doesn’t mean that things have become boring. Far from it. Especially not for channel partners who will have to grapple with pressures on their own businesses while helping their customers stay on top of everything that 2019 throws at them. Plus ca change and all that.

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