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IT in 2012: A year in review

/ Technical
January 22nd, 2013

a review of IT in 2012

The cloud

The popularity of the cloud has obviously continued to rise throughout 2012. We are seeing general demand for complete cloud solutions, along with hybrid models of cloud and local IT services. Cloud is popular because it works for a significant percentage of businesses, adds value and typically decreases costs, both in the short-term and the longer-term.

Organisations can gain access to enterprise-grade systems and service for a fraction of the cost, without any concern for the management and maintenance. In tough times, the cloud has provided a lifeline for businesses worldwide, putting many on the front foot when they could have been on the back foot without access to cash for investment.

Having said that, we’ve also seen numerous businesses moving to a cloud infrastructure, even though a cloud-based model may not be the best solution for their business or operations. Too many businesses have been buying cloud services due to the marketing hype and slick sales.

A lot of cloud providers have been selling service on the premise that the cloud simplifies IT, but that’s not always the case. Businesses will need to analyse their own unique business needs to determine what will work, both now and longer term. I’ve also seen companies sign-up to long-term cloud contracts with no understanding of how they’ll get in or out of a cloud platform.

Thin-client

Thin-client computing has been on the rise for the last few years, generally driven by companies that are sweating their desktop assets during the downturn by moving computing onto central server platforms. It’s also been driven by cloud delivery and some by BYOD. This shift is generally a good thing, as it’s typically more secure and simpler to maintain. The rise of readily available bandwidth through 3G, 4G and wireless is also enabling remote workers to access systems as if they were based in the office. Plus, there’s no real need for the painful and productivity-draining IPSEC and SSL VPNs.

Virtualisation

Virtualisation has continued to rise as well. In fact, server virtualisation is now the standard model for server computing. We have seen more penetration from internal desktop virtualisation (VDI) but it’s not that significant in the small and mid-market arena. Generally, this is down to the skills needed to run an effective operation; staff are costly and can be difficult to retain for the smaller environments. On the upside, hosted desktop services, either VDI or thin-client, have still been strong. That’s because these smaller businesses can get access to enterprise-grade IT service without the need to pay, train and retain IT infrastructure staff.

Big data

There has also been a lot of noise about Big Data in 2012. It’s still really in its infancy, interrogating and manipulating huge amounts of structured and unstructured data to deliver valuable information to a business. I’d say that in general, this is an area that is still really delivered on a per-project basis and is broadly experimental on every occasion. It’s really for the global giants that are fighting for competitive advantage since it’s not yet able to deliver a return to the mid and small-markets.

Software systems

It’s been interesting to see many companies investing in their software systems in 2012, particularly around CRM, ERP and other business/information management systems. This shows that companies are investing in systems for a return and to remain competitive. Those companies investing are noticeably becoming sharper and more efficient. I know that we’ve made significant modifications in our own business through improved data capture and analysis. I’ve also seen this across vertical markets.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

The BYOD space was extremely noisy in the first three quarters of the calendar year. Fortunately, that’s quietened down. Either because demand was lower than many of the vendors thought or because the market was smaller than they believed. Most IT trends go in waves: the first wave falls short of the shore, the second floods. We will see a second wave of BYOD but I expect it to come in the next couple of years. The people who need BYOD are businesses, but iPads (which are what BYOD is really targeted at) aren’t business machines.

Some companies are using them, but mostly just for reading email and .pdf documents. The big test is going to come when Microsoft’s surface platform touches down. Can it deliver the best of both worlds, for home and business use? The truth is that it probably can, but will it? I know that many IT managers are praying for a device that they can secure and control. If you don’t have control you don’t have security. I hope the term BYOD vanishes in 2013 and we just get back to mobile device security.