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SolarWinds 2018 Predictions: The Next Phase of Intelligent Tech, Edge Computing & Security

VMblog Predictions 2018

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2018.  Read them in this 10th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek and technical product marketing director at SolarWinds

The Next Phase of Intelligent Tech, Edge Computing & Security

It's that time of year when everyone returns to business as usual, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on the new year with fervor. Last year was one for the books-particularly in the technology world. We saw many buzzwords of years past turn from ideas to reality as once "futuristic" technologies like AI moved from innovation labs into offices and living rooms at an unprecedented scale.

But, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "nothing worth having comes easy." In 2018, organizations will be challenged to not only keep pace with the evolving technology landscape, but to also address the ways these changes will impact networks, IT and more. Couple this with the inevitable security risks that will arise with every new integration and, businesses will have their work cut out for them yet again!

2018 will bring about a number of changes in technology, as well as how we perceive these new tools, including:

1.       Automation anxiety will relax around AI & Machine Learning

To date, much of the noise surrounding AI and automation has been around how these tools and technologies could jeopardize job functions currently being held by people. This fear, uncertainty and doubt around the "next big thing" in technology is common in any new cycle of rapid adoption. Consider the Industrial Revolution: the introduction of assembly lines seemed poised to reclaim countless jobs. Instead, the nature of those jobs simply adapted to the needs of new technology-even giving way to the emergence of new skills and jobs such as machine maintenance, servicing, etc.

While this anxiety is not without cause, 2018 will mark a turning point in the perception of AI and automation from foe to friend. In the year ahead, more organizations will embrace AI, machine learning and automation as ways to augment (not replace) their existing human resources. For IT professionals, this will necessitate the cultivation of AI- and automation-era skills such as programming, coding, a basic understanding of the algorithms that govern AI and machine learning functionality, and a strong security posture in the face of more sophisticated cyberattacks.

For businesses, the challenge will now be approaching these unchartered "intelligent technology" waters strategically in order to derive specific value-adds for their business and to effectively communicate the ROI to decision-makers.

2.       Edge and IoT computing will continue to evolve-despite being plagued by ‘chicken or egg' syndrome

The question today remains: will edge computing drive the growth of IoT in 2018 or will IoT be the catalyst for the edge? Like the age-old question of which came first-the chicken or the egg-it doesn't really matter. What does matter is how the relationship between these capabilities is changing as new technologies and use cases emerge. Although the concept of pushing processing to the network's fringe, i.e., the edge, has been around for years, we now have billions of devices creating data and billions of users connecting at once-a convergence that generates the need for processing and network technology between it and the centralized system. In 2018, computing boundaries will be pushed even further to meet the needs of IoT's demanding applications.

We may also see the IoT industry finally prioritize security for these devices-after years of complaints from security-minded IT-pros and a few near-miss IoT-pocolypses-and building strong IoT systems that corporations can feel comfortable implementing. Additionally, 2018 may see a proliferation in business-relevant IoT devices, aided and abetted by IoT management tools such as AWS IoT Platform.

3.       Outdated security laws will need a refresh

Contrary to what the 2017 headlines may suggest, malware itself is legal. In actuality, the "criminal" part of malware activity is in the intent to sell for criminal use-and intent can be hard to prove (or disprove). Distinguishing between cybervillains and good hackers can be nearly impossible and well-meaning security researchers may find themselves as the focus of investigations in the coming year. When it comes to prosecuting Black Hat vs. White Hat hackers-it's all a bit gray. In 2018, the industry and current administration will need to dust off the law books and consider revisiting some of the outdated laws that are not able to distinguish between the unique intricacies of today's cyber landscape.

Case and point? The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which forbids accessing a computer without authorization, or in excess of authorization. In theory, it outlaws hackers, but realistically, does not distinguish between cybervillains and ethical hackers. The Act also suggests employees can be blamed for post-termination access, even if by mistake. The potential for security researchers to get caught up in the statute's ambiguity will be a focus in 2018. And with the massive skills shortage facing the industry, there is no wiggle room for losing good talent to outdated regulations.

2018 will prove to be a year of dealing with the reverberation produced by the technologies that struck a chord in 2017. Businesses will grapple with meeting the demand, as well as uncertainty around IoT and AI, while still trying to plug up security holes in their existing systems. It will be particularly interesting to see how attitudes and perceptions of technology adapt as even more connected, smarter and seamless technology becomes the new norm for the masses.

2018 may not be "easy" by any measurement, but isn't that what makes all the hard work worthwhile?

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About the Author

Patrick Hubbard 

Patrick Hubbard is a Head Geek and technical product marketing director at SolarWinds. With over 20 years of IT experience spanning network management, datacenter, storage networks, VoIP, virtualization, and more, Hubbard's broad knowledge and hands-on expertise affirm his IT generalist authority.

Since joining SolarWinds in 2007, Hubbard has combined his technical expertise with his IT customer perspective to develop SolarWinds' online demo platform, launch the Head Geek program and create helpful content that speaks to fellow networking and systems professionals. He runs SolarWinds' customer education and training program to empower IT Pros to resolve their IT management problems quickly and easily with SolarWinds software. Hubbard is also a Cisco NetVet and a regular speaker at technology conferences for Ethernet, IPv6 and SDN.

Published Thursday, January 25, 2018 7:28 AM by David Marshall
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