What does 2016 hold in store for the IT department? I asked three of Total’s technical consultants for their predictions – they all see changes that will reshape your IT infrastructure.
A whole new age for Microsoft
Microsoft is planning, for the first time, to release new versions of all of its major products in the same year. New versions of Windows Server, Exchange Server, SQL and SharePoint is big news and all have a fundamental change of architecture.
Chris Field, a Senior Technical Consultant specialising in Microsoft solutions, explains, “Previously there were on-premise versions and cloud versions, but this will be the first time that Microsoft just creates one (cloud) version, with the on-premise versions deriving from that.
“It's like a whole new age of Microsoft – like nothing we’ve seen before,” says Chris. “Microsoft already has cloud solutions, and in 2016 they’re going to bring that kind of cloud functionality and flexibility to their on-premise products.”
Chris also notes that Microsoft is becoming more flexible and willing to support different industry practices. He comments, “Microsoft supporting containers, including out of the box support for Docker, is going to be massive – within Microsoft there has been a huge change in who they’re willing to work with, and to what extent, which has enabled them to be a more flexible, innovative company.”
For users, the change will depend on what they’re already familiar with. Users of solutions like Office 365 won’t see much change, but there are fundamental differences for those currently using older products such as Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007.
“The mass adoption of Windows 10 will be big next year, because by default it includes APIs for enterprise mobility management,” adds Dale Scriven, a Senior Technical Consultant specialising in end user computing (EUC). Services such as VMware’s AirWatch allow over the air configuration and management of Windows 10 devices, thus eliminating the requirement for devices to be initially joined to a traditional domain by utilising single sign on and identity management.
Cloud changes hardware requirements
These cloud-based products are going to change the hardware and infrastructure required in the enterprise, and Microsoft’s reference architecture is no longer a big monolithic SAN, with middleware servers and front-end servers. Instead, it is simply multiple servers with local disks, handling replication within the server applications.
Chris says, “That kind of cloudified architecture is going to be used for many more services that are delivered on-premise, which will change how companies design their server rooms and what hardware they need.”
“Previously if you wanted to have two data centres, you had to have a very expensive SAN in both places with all of the replication licenses and the direct, private links joining them together.” says David Irwin, a Technical Presales Consultant. “Now that the replication is done by the application layer, you only need a much simpler storage and simpler connectivity – so companies can adopt that kind of multi-site disaster recovery (DR) more easily, or just use the cloud to fail over to.”
Chris agrees: “Over the next couple of years, I expect to see companies investing more in their primary data centre or primary production environment, with the cloud being used as their backup solution or secondary site, giving them pay-as-you-go DR.”
Hyper-converged and commoditised
David comments, “We’re going to see increased adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure components, such as Atlantis or Nutanix, and start the decline of traditional virtual infrastructure design, so companies will be less inclined to buy big SANs and switches, and instead will move towards a modular, simpler approach.”
“The final stage of commoditisation of the server room depends on being hyper-converged – you simply have a box that delivers virtualised services, and it doesn’t matter which vendor provides it,” says Chris. “Companies won’t have to worry about hardware design and management nearly as much as today, and this simplification will free up resources for IT departments to deliver the new software cloud services.”
“Once these services are being delivered by hyper-converged on-premise hardware, it also becomes easier to just move that to Azure or elsewhere in the cloud,” continues Chris. “We’ll see more of that level of service mobility in the coming year.”
With Dell’s acquisition of EMC planned for 2016, David questions the timing of this for both companies. He says. “Dell is looking to re-invent itself as an alternate provider of the total stack in the server room, but the market has already moved ahead, and the server room is becoming a diminishing part of the overall IT spend as it becomes services-driven.”
While Dale points out that EMC currently owns VMware, further complicating the story, David adds, “Even though VMware is arguably the main reason for the acquisition, it may get left behind in the deal – whatever happens, in 2016 the Dell-EMC acquisition will certainly have a big impact on the IT market.”
VDI becoming niche
From the end user computing (EUC) perspective, Dale predicts that the increased move to cloud will see a reduction in MDM (mobile device management) solutions. He also expects changes as Citrix and VMware integrate the multiple products they have recently acquired, reducing the amount of administrative consoles required and improving design flow.
“Mobile device management will evolve to mobile device enablement, where companies deploy containers or secure containerised services to a device in a managed way,” says David. “Any company data within that container will be protected and wipeable by the IT department, but the device as a whole is owned and managed by the individual.”
Uptake of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) may be driven by changes to simpler and cheaper licensing which has been rumoured, but this is counterbalanced by the fact that applications can be delivered through other thin mechanisms, such as Microsoft’s RemoteApp. VDI has always been niche and only utilised where SBC is not appropriate either due to application requirements or performance requirements.
“The use case for VDI and Citrix will become more specialised, for example where in-house applications lock companies into specific versions of Flash or an operating system,” says Chris. “If you don’t have those requirements, adoption of VDI is probably going to reduce – there will be secure and niche environments increasing their requirement for VDI, as the rest of the world shifts away to more open, cloud-based solutions and BYOD.”
Any device anywhere
Our three consultants expect that the trend of any device giving the same or very similar experience will continue, but with the experience tailored to that device, for example being touch-enabled.
While Microsoft has promoted how Windows 10 is truly cross-device, Dale comments, “Other providers, such as Citrix, have offered that consistency for longer than Microsoft with products such as Citrix Receiver and Citrix Worx Home.”
Chris comments, “I don’t think Microsoft pioneered that – Apple have long had the same look and feel across multiple devices and operating systems, and Microsoft saw that and decided to do the same for the enterprise.”
Of course, any discussion of predictions is incomplete without considering security.
“Security is still a top priority – what is new is that recent high-profile breaches have highlighted how a lot of companies are not protecting other people’s data adequately,” says Dale. “Just having a firewall and a few passwords is not good enough in this modern day, when a 15-year old can hack the Pentagon.”
“The recent big security breaches were to do with users not following best practice, and doing something that made a system vulnerable,” says David. “Users are the crux of pretty much all security, so the training and protection of those users must increasingly become the focus in 2016.”
Cloud and more cloud
Whichever way you look at it, cloud will continue to dominate the headlines in 2016.
“Microsoft’s announcement of bringing an Azure (and hence Office 365) region to the UK will convince a lot of laggards to adopt cloud, as they can longer cite keeping their data UK-only as a reason not to,” says David.
Over the next year, Chris expects to see cloud adoption to continue to grow, with Office 365 becoming the norm, and deployment to Azure or AWS becoming standard practice. He comments, “We’ll start to see a massive reduction in legacy and the old ways of doing things. Companies that don’t adapt will really start to struggle.”
If you'd like advice on your cloud strategy, you can arrange a free-of-charge con-call with Chris to find out how Total’s consultancy services could help you.