Part two of our series on the key trends set to shape the world of IT in 2020
Power to the people
Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director,
Last year saw further consolidation in the channel. While this will continue, expect the ripple effects of global megatrends to make themselves felt too.
Power to the people – democratisation. Purely transactional resellers risk further decline as the industry becomes smaller but more sophisticated. Even those resellers that have already transitioned to service-based models will need to up their game as SME buyers get savvy, driven in part by the democratisation of business applications that allows smaller enterprises to access the same tools and solutions as larger firms. Resellers need to stay one step ahead if they are to offer added value back to customers. Scale isn’t necessarily the answer: it used to be that the big ate the small; now, the fast eat the slow. Your relevance, proposition and speed of response will need to be on-point to ensure survival in the democratised business jungle.
Biophilic design – hardware’s role in the outside-in office. Architects working at the vanguard of corporate HQ design are bringing the outside inside. Biophilic design places nature, sometimes entire mini-forests, in the workplace in a bid to keep employees calm and productive. With mental wellbeing high on the agenda and tech and agile working fuelling the dichotomy of people being more together and more alone at the same time, companies are thinking much more deeply about design and creating spaces that foster conversation and productive encounters. Hardware needs to fit around this. The copier room and watercooler, once the village pump of any workplace, are being designed out in favour of a more distributed environment serving smaller, more agile working groups.
Sustainable procurement – TCO plus SDG. There has been a stick shift in how sustainability ranks in buying decisions. The days of box ticking are over; now, you need to demonstrate real evidence, which will make up a sizeable chunk of any tender score. If a reseller wants to work in the public sector, things like adherence to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are becoming mandatory. Total Cost of Ownership plus Sustainable Development Goals – TCO plus SDG – will be the new success formula in enterprise and public sector.
Business ethics – managing reputation in the trust-apocalypse. Ethics is the natural bedfellow of sustainability and just as much of a focus right now. A brand’s entire value can nosedive through the unethical behaviour of its leadership and bigger enterprises and the public sector will avoid doing business with operators that have tarnished their image. Placing good ethics and robust governance at the centre of how you do business and at the forefront of your proposition to the market is essential.
Don’t believe the hype just yet – avoiding the AI bandwagon. There’s been plenty of talk about the impact of AI, from driverless cars to business applications. While we might find ourselves in the middle of the AI hype curve, the reality is that we are still at the start of a long journey. No doubt there are some amazing innovations, but they remain beyond the reach of most organisations, given the level of investment required to realise them. As we enter the next decade, we’ll see fewer people rushing to buy AI out of FOMO and more properly interrogating their investment. If RPA (robotic process automation) – many people’s first step on the AI journey – enables them to achieve their strategy and direction of travel, great. But the days of buying AI just because it’s the hottest ticket in town are waning.
Mind the gap – the UK’s urban-rural economic gap will widen with 5G. We’re in the early days of 5G but it will be a real game changer for the economy. The big networks are piling into our major cities to make it ubiquitous in these important commercial nodes, while rural businesses are still waiting for fibre optic broadband. This is a problem. The irrepressible rise of urbanisation means our city centre economies continue to flourish and outpace the rest of the UK. London’s office market has long since overheated as a result, and now big centres like Manchester are catching fire too. For the channel, 5G will add more scale and speed to the tech infrastructure underpinning London, Manchester, Birmingham et al, creating happy hunting grounds for resellers targeting movers and growers. Those without routes into these markets won’t feel the ripple effects of the 5G goldrush, even as the cost of doing business in such centres rises.
Rise of the automation first mindset
Guy Kirkwood, chief evangelist, UiPath Gartner describes robotic process automation (RPA), where software robots are used to automate daily processes and free up humans for more creative, strategic tasks, as ‘the fastest growing segment of the global enterprise software market’. It expects the global market for RPA services to reach £5.98 billion this year, as an ‘automation first’ mindset becomes a strategic business imperative. Here are seven trends that I believe will impact RPA adoption this year.
1 The global economic downturn will encourage automation. Signals from the financial markets don’t look good. The fall of long-term interest rates and the retraction of corporate investments reflect increasing instability from global tensions, conflicts and trade wars. If consumer fear takes hold and demand collapses, we could be facing another recession. Normally, organisations would lay off employees and struggle through; automation offers another way forward. As businesses face the realities of working in an economic downturn, I predict they’ll adapt their business models with automation, scaling up robots rather than scaling down human employees.
2 RPA will become the YouTube for automation. In 2020, RPA is going to claim its place as a central platform for other enterprise automation tools: it will become the repository for automation in the same way that YouTube is for video content. The centrality of RPA will run parallel with the development of automation code that is more useful and reusable, enabling it to spread even further as organisations reuse code across industries and geographies. This is the front end of an even longer term trend, as RPA becomes more accessible and extensible.
3 More organisations will combine and reuse robots. In 2020, organisations will learn how to standardise robots better and apply them across use cases and departments and eventually across companies and industries. This will result in more predictable deployments and easier scaling, rather than adopting automation in silos, which constrains the benefits of RPA.
4 Students entering the workforce will drive automation deployment. Historically, employees have had to connect and integrate increasingly outdated technology systems via repetitive, manual work. In 2020, students entering the workforce will be familiar with better options and will force lagging businesses to transform and modernise their processes. They’ll be asking why we’re doing the same things the same way after all these years—and many organisations won’t have adequate answers. Given the proclivity of students to learn automation in school, they will start automating bits of their jobs. As new employees become more efficient and effective, the now vivid benefits of RPA will outweigh any remaining hesitancy, compelling organisations to change.
5 We’ll continue to be surprised by the intelligence of machines. The power and abilities of machine intelligence are continuing to grow. Tasks that we once thought uniquely human are quickly becoming do-able by software. The growth of AI will be exponential, similar to Moore’s law, with plenty of surprises in store. Every innovation we’re seeing in AI and computing is happening on top of innovations in quantum computing. We’re regularly increasing the number of qubits in quantum computing, and the potential use-cases for this power is vast. Limitations that we’ve previously accepted as immutable won’t last.
6 RPA will become a topic discussed on the world stage. In 2020, extra-governmental organisations such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum will discuss RPA in the context of jobs, wages and global economics. Individual countries will become increasingly interested in the effects of automation on their societies. Prioritising RPA in these socio-political contexts and policy discussions will be crucial if robots become key players in the coming economic downturn.
7 Consolidation among RPA vendors and automation-led services companies will accelerate. As larger, more established organisations move into the RPA market, they’re going to acquire and merge with upcoming RPA vendors. The leaders, identified in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software, Forrester Wave and Everest PEAK Matrix reports, are unlikely to be acquired, because of their high valuations. Instead, enterprise entrants to the RPA market will acquire and merge with smaller services and technology businesses to compete with these leaders.
Enterprise data centres alive and well
Rob Johnson, CEO, Vertiv
As the world charges into 2020, organisations will increasingly give up the enterprise-or-cloud debate that has dominated C-level conversations in recent years in favour of hybrid architectures that incorporate public and private cloud models and edge assets around a reconfigured core.
Hybrid architectures will allow organisations to maintain control of sensitive data while still meeting soaring demand for more capacity and increased computing capabilities closer to the consumer. As connectivity and availability become conjoined concepts in this new data ecosystem, an increasing premium will be placed on seamless communication from core to cloud to edge.
This evolving approach to managing data and computing resources provides the background to five emerging data centre trends that Vertiv is anticipating for 2020. These are:
1 Hybrid architectures go mainstream.
While cloud computing will continue to be an important part of organisations’ IT strategy, we are seeing a subtle change in strategy as organisations seek to tailor their IT mix and expenditure to the needs of their applications. As we see more of these hybrid architectures, it is becoming increasingly clear that the enterprise data centre is alive and well, even if its role is changing to reflect a mix that best serves modern organisations.
2 Speed of deployment is the new arms race.
As capabilities across technologies and systems flatten out, data centre and IT managers will increasingly use other criteria for selecting equipment. Cost is always a separator, but more and more the decision will depend on how quickly assets can be deployed. When all other factors are close, any advantage in speed of deployment and activation can be decisive. This is especially so in today’s distributed networks, where delivery delays mean lack of service – and revenue.
3 Average rack density remains static… with pockets of high performance.
Although average rack density is likely to reflect marginal increases at best, the surge in advanced applications and workloads related to artificial intelligence (AI), such as machine learning and deep learning, will make pockets of highperformance computing necessary and more common. Expect early activity in the areas of defence, advanced analytics and manufacturing in 2020 to lay the foundation for more widespread adoption in 2021 and beyond. These racks so far represent a miniscule percentage of total racks but they still present unfamiliar power and cooling challenges that must be addressed. The increasing interest in direct liquid cooling is a response to highperformance computing demands.
4 Batteries pay it forward.
In 2016 Vertiv predicted lithium-ion batteries would begin to find a home in the data centre, and that has proven to be true as lithium-ion today holds a significant share of the UPS battery market. That share is growing and starting to extend to edge sites, where its smaller footprint and reduced maintenance requirements are a natural fit. The next step is leveraging the flexibility of lithium-ion and other emerging battery alternatives, such as thin plate pure lead (TPPL), to offset their costs. As we move into 2020, more organisations will start to sell the stored energy in these batteries back to the utility to help with grid stabilisation and peak shaving. Expect this to be an important part of larger conversations around sustainability in the data centre industry.
5 Global cross-pollination.
The U.S. has been the epicentre of the digital universe and this generation of data centre development. But innovation happens everywhere, and a parallel digital ecosystem with notable differences is emerging in China. Data centres across Europe and other Asian and South Pacific markets, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, are also evolving and diverging from traditional practices based on specific regional issues related to sustainability and data privacy and controls e.g. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. This, and more vigorous attention to environmental impacts, are leading to new thinking about hybrid architectures and the value of on-premise computing and data storage. In China, some data centres have been running 240V DC power into manufacturer-modified servers to improve efficiency and reduce costs. DC power has long been a theoretical goal for U.S. data centres and it’s not hard to envision other parts of the world adopting the model being embraced today in China.
A changing role for IT
Sanjay Castelino, Chief Product Officer at Snow Software
Enterprise technology continues to be at the forefront of innovation, driving technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and software-as-a-service (SaaS), and influencing IT decision-making, spending and governance. So, what is in-store for enterprise technology in 2020 and how will this influence the way businesses use such technology?
Line of business-driven IT spending: Traditionally, IT has focused on managing the capacity and availability of technology investments purchased by a business, acting as official gatekeeper. Recently, there has been a shift in this model, with individual business units driving technology buying decisions and the technology itself shifting towards cloud-based consumption models. As a result, IT now needs to help organisations better understand and more intelligently consume technology. That speaks to cost, productivity, risk mitigation and using technology to its greatest advantage. In the year ahead, we’ll see more organisations focus on consuming technology in a more intelligent way.
Software usage vs. compliance: Cloud offerings enable users to buy and consume what they want, when they want it, without centralised oversight. This creates new challenges for IT as they attempt to track and manage all the technology in their environment. To date, many organisations have tolerated unmanaged use of cloud solutions because they believe the biggest spend is still under control. However, what they don’t know is whether all that SaaS and cloud spend is creating unmanaged compliance and data risks. Without proper visibility and insight, businesses will struggle to manage these risks and that challenge is only going to grow and become more difficult over time.
Cloud overspend vs. ROI: There is a growing disconnect between an organisation’s understanding of usage and spend on cloud services, and how vendors are charging for those services. Azure and AWS are now tracked and billed by the hour, even the second. Yet many businesses are still trying to analyse usage data on a monthly or yearly basis. That creates a significant challenge for organisations trying to understand, manage and optimise spend. This dissonance will only increase as innovations like serverless technology take hold in the years ahead.
Serverless computing: Today’s cloud infrastructure is relatively easy to understand compared to what it will look like in 2020 and beyond. For example, when provisioning a cloud instance today, a user only needs a basic idea of how it operates and what it will cost. But when new cloud approaches like serverless become more popular, cloud usage will be managed by the people writing code. In serverless computing, the code drives the cost to deliver the service, and businesses are not yet prepared to deal with these new consumption models. This year, companies need to prioritise their understanding of consumption models because these will start to have a significant impact on their business.
The tipping point for wireless power
Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder of Chargifi
Never more than now has convenient access to power been in greater demand as a result of our ‘always on’ lifestyles. According to the latest survey by the Wireless Power Consortium, ‘battery anxiety’ remains high and has increased year-on-year, with 73% of consumers now experiencing battery anxiety.
Apple’s announcement that all devices from the iPhone 8 upwards are to be shipped with wireless charging puts the number of wireless charging devices at around 1 billion.
As we enter a new decade, all the signs are that this is set to increase, with the number expected to rise even higher to around 1.7 billion at the beginning of 2020. Apple’s intention to switch its users to a 100% wireless experience speaks volumes. As we enter a new decade, wireless charging will be faster, we’ll hear rumours about laptop wireless charging and more and more consumers will be carrying wireless charging-enabled devices with the expectation of being able to power up seamlessly. In fact, research has revealed that 50% of employees expect wireless charging in their office space. The demand gives businesses an opportunity to monetise power – the critical foundation to the consumer experience. The deployment of a cloud-managed, smart wireless charging service can increase engagement, satisfaction and loyalty, enhancing service and driving revenue. Mass deployment of smart wireless charging can access and act on insight that Wi-Fi alone cannot.
IDC’s top 10 predictions for 2020
1 Spotlight on digital capabilities: By 2022, 25% of the top 500 European companies will have at least two board members with digital business excellence capabilities.
2 Digital investments: In 2020, European organisations will spend over $271 billion on digital transformation, but only 16% will deliver new revenue streams.
3 Data collected from connected devices: By 2022, data collected from connected devices will generate a revenue opportunity of $10.5 billion for the top 500 European organisations.
4 Core modernisation journey: By 2025, 60% of European organisations will modernise their core IT leveraging the cloud, resulting in a 25% business productivity improvement.
5 New technology leadership role: By 2022, 30% of European organisations will define a new technology leadership role combining CIO, CTO, CDO and innovation functions.
6 Processes to become more intelligent: By 2023, 70% of European intelligent process automation (IPA) initiatives will be infused by AI.
7 European organisations will replace KPIs with KBIs: By 2022, 60% of the top 2,000 European organisations will replace KPIs with KBIs (Key Business Issues) to accelerate employee and customer advocacy.
8 Accelerate cultural change: By 2022, a third of organisations will fail to accelerate business agility and innovation due to a copycat culture.
9 The role of the CISO: 2022 is the cut-off for CISOs to establish themselves as business leaders who can provide digital trust.
10 The ethical use of digital technologies: By 2024, 50% of European public companies will report annually on the ethical use of data, automation and AI in their organisations.