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Of Microservices, Mainframes, and Monitoring Aware Networks: Predictions for Enterprise IT in 2016

Article Written by Eric Thomas, Director of Solutions Architecture, ExtraHop Networks

Crystal Ball As the head of a professional services team for an IT vendor, I spend a lot of time meeting with enterprise IT stakeholders, from network engineers to security architects to CTOs. One of the most interesting parts of my job is getting to talk to these folks about their view of the IT industry - what excites them, what scares them, what makes them raise a skeptical eyebrow. While this perspective certainly helps inform my day-to-day job, it also gives me a good sense of what's coming. Based on conversations I've had with customers over the past 12 months, here are a few predictions for IT (and then some) in 2016.

The public cloud will suffer its first major breach. One of the biggest challenges for public cloud vendors like AWS and Azure was convincing enterprises to trust their infrastructure to a third party. The huge advantages delivered by public cloud (think elasticity), coupled with the fact that the cloud has been a very safe place to-date, have won over the hearts and minds of many IT professionals. But even the biggest IaaS enthusiast must recognize that it's not a matter of if a breach will happen, but when.

That's not to say that more organizations shouldn't start planning for a move to the cloud. The advantages of cloud are not going away, and will only continue to increase as things like Big Data require better scalability. But just as the past 24 months have taught us that no datacenter is impervious to today's sophisticated threat vectors, it's time to acknowledge the reality that someone will eventually crack the cloud. The time to start preparing is now.

Microservices are of the moment, but mainframes aren't going anywhere either. Microservices are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Grid-based microservices architectures are fast, agile, and highly scalable. But replacing the mainframe? That's not going to happen anytime soon. Particularly in industries like financial services, retail, and travel, mainframes continue to be enormously foundational to the infrastructure, and a rip-and-replace is not feasible - at least not in the near term. In 2016, expect to see microservices continue to grow in importance, replacing mainframe functionality where possible. But the death of the mainframe won't happen this year.

Monitoring-aware networks come online. SDN has matured significantly over the past few years, and among our customers and others, we're starting to see it gain real traction. The next evolution of SDN is monitoring-aware networks. As demand for greater visibility into these networks escalates, expect to see hardware-agnostic vendors build commodity capture interfaces directly into device firmwares, enabling much easier, more agile monitoring of these complex and dynamic architectures.

The network administrator takes back control. Not so very long ago, the network administrator was the master of IT, with a significant degree of control and influence over the IT estate. Not so anymore. Cloud, virtualization, and software-defined networking - not to mention all of the shadow IT happening in organizations - has wrested a large degree of control from the network team as critical resources increasingly reside outside their domain.

Far from becoming obsolete, however, in 2016, the network administrator will start to take back control. The growing sophistication of network-based analytics is giving IT the ability to mine the network as a critical real-time source of information about not only the IT infrastructure, but connected devices, cloud deployments, and even the business. Expect to see network administrators leverage these analytics technologies to reclaim a seat at the stakeholder table. 

Network monitoring and security architectures converge over east-west traffic. As many organizations have learned the hard way over the past few years, securing the perimeter is not enough. Visibility into anomalous activity and potential threats inside the environment - all of the East-West traffic - is going to play a central role in security moving forward. 2016 is going to be the year when security and network monitoring converge in a big way. Security will no longer stand alone, but be integrated into infrastructure, optimization, and monitoring products.

The C-suite demands real-time analytics. Whether you're a sales leader, a CMO, or a CIO, Big Data is only valuable insofar as it positively and productively informs decision-making. Otherwise, it's just data. While historical data sets can provide important insights, in 2016, expect to see a growing emphasis on real-time data analytics. This is particularly true in IT, where the ability to identify things like potential security breaches and performance problems in real time can have a dramatic impact across the entire business. As IT's role continues to pervade all aspects of the enterprise, demand for real-time stream analytics to support the troubleshooting and optimization of those architectures is going to be significant.

Electronic health records budgets will be siphoned off for new projects. One of the verticals with which I work most closely is healthcare, and from an IT perspective, it's a fascinating industry for a couple of reasons.

First, healthcare IT is immensely complex. As the industry becomes more consolidated, this complexity is only increasing, with the need to integrate often radically incompatible systems and manage thousands (if not millions) of end-points across multiple facilities.

Second, healthcare tends to lag far behind other industries when it comes to adoption and innovation of next-generation technologies. There are valid reasons for this. Existing complexity makes adding anything new to the mix - even something that could eventually reduce complexity - a daunting proposition. The regulations surrounding healthcare also impact adoption rates. In healthcare, the stakes of deploying in a public cloud or streaming data to an analytics platform are much, much higher.

But 2016 is poised to be the year that healthcare IT begins to make serious strides around things like cloud, virtualization, and Internet of Things (IoT). For one thing, many of them may have budget to start exploring these things. As electronic health records (EHR) deployments stabilize, it will free up budget dollars initially allocated to those initiatives. For another, the high-upside of Big Data analytics for the healthcare industry, in particular, is going to drive demand for more scalable, elastic storage options like public cloud.

For many years, the pace of innovation has created a huge amount of disruption in IT - most of it good. While I certainly don't expect the pace of innovation to slow down (if anything, it will continue to accelerate), 2016 may just be the year where we see IT organizations make big strides in integrating and optimizing both old and new tools and architectures. When it all shakes out, that alone may be the most powerful driver of transformation of them all.

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About the Author

Eric Thomas is the Director of Solutions Architecture for ExtraHop Networks, the global leader in real-time stream analytics for IT and business. To connect with Eric and learn more about ExtraHop, check him out on LinkedIn.

Eric Thomas 

Published Friday, January 22, 2016 8:04 AM by David Marshall
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