A month into 2018, and the many predictions that tend to come in at the beginning of the year from industry analysts, experts, and pundits have now started to subside. I’ve been collecting some of the more meaningful predictions for our community in a number of our major arenas. Here is what some of our reliable sources have to say about cloud, cybersecurity, data center, Internet of Things, and networking for the year ahead.

Cloud

Network World, an IDG publication, foresees 2018 as being a “year of adoption” for hybrid cloud, which blends private and public cloud. In its article “5 Predictions for the Hybrid Cloud Market in 2018,” Network World cites data from research firm IDC that shows private and public cloud both grabbing increasingly larger amounts of IT infrastructure spending en route to 2020, as traditional data centers decrease.

Organizations will spend 2018, says Network World, continuing to find the right balance of public and private cloud. Network World also points to increasing use of containers “to ensure applications can run in any infrastructure environment.”

2018 Cloud Predictions.jpgAI and machine learning—cropping up with regularity now as part of digital transformation discussions—could be upcoming forces in the cloud realm sooner than later, Network World opines. “Expect 2018 to be a year where private and hybrid cloud vendors talk about how to bring machine learning and AI capabilities in these environments,” it says.

CIO, another IDG publication, also plays up machine learning and AI in an article titled “2018 Cloud Predictions.” “We will start to see machine-driven knowledge and automation driving our monitoring, incident management, cost management and configuration management,” states CIO. “The end result: reduced costs, higher security, improved SLAs and better performance.”

Cybersecurity

No one needs a prognosticator to be able to say that cybersecurity will continue to be vital in 2018, but let’s look deeper. The publication eWeek (formerly PC Week) asked 18 security experts to share their predictions for the year ahead. Here are some of the highlights from a slideshow titled “18 Cyber-Security Trends Organizations Need to Brace for in 2018”:

  • Challenges from 2017, notably ransomware, will continue.
  • It will be “AI vs. AI” as cybercriminals use machine learning to spoof human behaviors and the cybersecurity industry also employs the technology to respond to the threat. It’s what eWeek’s expert from IBM, Caleb Barlow, terms a “cat and mouse game of cybercrime and security innovation.”
  • Africa will prove a mounting area for threats. Says another IBM expert, Steve Stone, “With its growth in technology adoption and operations and rising economy, and its increasing number of local resident threat actors, Africa has the largest potential for net-new impactful cyber events.”
  • While cybersecurity is often viewed as an area of pure risk, forward-looking CEOs will begin to see it as a way to innovate and generate ROI. “In 2018 and beyond, effective cyber-security measures will support companies that are transforming their security, privacy and continuity controls in an effort to grow their businesses,” according to Greg Bell, Global Cyber Security Practice co-leader at KPMG.
  • HTTPS will be seen as lacking in terms of providing robust security and end-to-end encryption, with the result that there will be increased momentum for encrypting data before it is sent over HTTPS.
  • Healthcare will continue to be a lucrative target.2018 Cybersecurity Predictions.jpg
  • Automation, as a way to combat the massively widening security skills gap and take advantage of advanced analytics, will become an even higher priority for chief information security officers (CISOs).
  • Plant manufacturers will wake up to the security danger in their realm by offering enhanced security themselves, not just going with third-party companies.
  • When it comes to protecting data, businesses will come to realize that their existing network security deployments are not enough and will implement solutions expressly related to data security.

There are many other thought-provoking predictions in the eWeek slideshow, so be sure to have a closer look.

Data Center

For data center, we turn again to Network World for some forecasting. Relying on IDC research in its article “Top 10 Data Center Predictions: IDC,” Network World puts data center modernization at the top of the list of crucial changes.

“Automation technologies will be not only in the IT infrastructure but also within the critical infrastructure—the power and cooling infrastructure—driving better resource utilization and better asset management,” says Jennifer Cooke, research director for IDC's datacenter trends and strategies team.

Forcing this modernization are the heavy workload demands of next-generation applications and new IT architectures. “Developing the ability to gather and analyze real-time data from the critical infrastructure will really be table stakes from here on out, especially in a more distributed and diverse data-center ecosystem,” Cooke adds.

2018 Data Center Predictions.jpgAnother change for the data center environment will be increasing movement toward a software-defined model to achieve much-needed agility and efficiency. And this, in turn, will drive a lot more activity at the edge. Some organizations will be challenged to find the talent able to handle this change.

“This is only going to heighten their skills shortages,” says Richard Villars, IDC vice president for datacenter and cloud. He adds that as companies think about implementing software-defined infrastructure across their data centers and edge environments, they will need to pay attention to building team skills in service orchestration, automation of deployment and provisioning processes, and asset reclamation.

A second data center forecast article from Network World, “Tech Predictions for 2018: Data Center Trends to Watch For,” points to the rise of hyperconverged systems. “Hyperconverged systems—fully integrated servers with storage, virtualization, and software-defined everything pre-built and pre-configured—are already taking off like a shot and will continue to accelerate,” the article states.

Internet of Things

For some IoT prophecy, we turn to our own source here at Cisco, Maciej Kranz, who is vice president of Cisco’s Corporate Technology Group. In his blog post, “The Internet of Things: 5 Predictions for 2018,” Kranz positions 2018 as an exciting year for IoT, one in which “enterprise IoT projects will finally move beyond merely automating existing business processes, to truly transforming industries by creating entirely new revenue streams and business models.”

2018 IoT Predictions.jpgSynergistic technologies like AI, fog computing, and blockchain are what will drive IoT forward, according to Kranz. By converging with IoT, AI and machine learning will enable deeper analysis of IoT data streams, which in turn promotes more insightful decision-making. Fog computing, in its ability to extend cloud capabilities to the edge of the network, will make IoT systems more scalable and address issues such as latency, bandwidth, reliability, and cost. Blockchain will make IoT data transactions more secure, eliminating the need for a central, trusted intermediary between devices.

On that last point, Kranz predicts that 2018 will be the year when IoT security becomes the No. 1 priority in the enterprise. As part of this, organizations will increase their efforts to skill employees to address IoT security concerns. “Businesses will increasingly take a unified, policy-based architectural approach to IoT security by involving security and cyber teams from the start of an IoT deployment to implement a comprehensive strategy across the enterprise,” Kranz says.

Networking

What do our pundits have to say about good ol’ foundational networking in the year ahead? For that answer, we turn again to Network World and an article titled “3 Ways Networking Will Change for the Better in 2018.” In short, we are looking at a continually more commanding presence for the network as automation “moves beyond vision and becomes fully operationalized.”

Network engineers’ lives stand to be changed. As Network World explains, “This advanced level of automation in the network frees up network engineers’ time, allowing them to spend time on projects they find more interesting: projects that generate revenue vs. just keeping the lights on. If you take a network operator who spends all her time troubleshooting and automate that process, that same person who used to manage 10 network devices can now manage 1,000 network devices or start working on a next-generation, self-tuning monitoring system. The career opportunities for managers and for network engineers become more exciting.”

2018 Networking Predictions.jpgCRN Magazine, in its article “10 Networking Predictions for 2018,” lends force to Network World’s words about automation, predicting that customer demands will fuel the growth of intent-based networks. “Software-defined, intent- or outcome-based networking … gives organizations the ability to seamlessly choose the right network paths, assign the desired priority to network traffic and ensure the health of the network at all locations.”

Lastly, in a separate article titled “Enterprise Network Trends to Watch 2018,” Network World looks into the crystal ball one last time and says this about SD-WAN: “Software-defined WAN technology is sweeping across the industry, growing from an emerging technology in 2017 to become mainstream in 2018.” WAN virtualization technology will reduce, if not replace, the need for hardware in the branch office as VPNs, firewalls, and Internet connections become aggregated into software.

If all of these predictions come to pass during 2018, or at least get set in motion, it could be an eventful year indeed. Which ones would you bet on happening? Are there others that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you need convincing that any of the skills discussed here might be worth developing through training and certification, click here.

 

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Gary Pfitzer is a content manager at Learning@Cisco, focused on bringing various aspects of today's IT journey to light through business papers, blogging, customer success stories, and other writing.