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Gartner ranks 'Web-scale IT' as a top 10 strategic trend for 2015

Cloud, mobile and analytics are major themes in Gartner's top 10 list of strategic trends and technologies for 2015: The Data Mill reports.

However digital your enterprise is right now, there's still more work to do.

David Cearley made that point clear at last week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo as he walked attendees through the consultancy's top 10 list of strategic trends and technologies for 2015. The Gartner analyst divided the 10-item list into three categories: the first three entries reflect the meshing of the real and virtual worlds; the second three focus on intelligence (not just computing); the last four describe the future of IT, which culminates in what Gartner calls Web-scale IT.

Amid the jargon, CIOs will recognize the IT issues they've been grappling with over the past few years. The shift to anywhere, anytime, any device computing -- and the security required to make that happen -- figures heavily into the list. So does the requirement to make sure the data being delivered actually helps people do their jobs better.

Here's a look at all 10.

1. Computing everywhere

Mobility is no longer about the device, it's about the individual, Cearley (and others at Symposium) said. The goal, now, is to enable computing everywhere.

Strategy notes: Different platforms, different architectures, and different products from different vendors (with Google, Apple and Microsoft still battling it out) will continue to coexist and will have to be managed. Cearley advised IT professionals to embrace that heterogeneity and forget about total control of the enterprise. He suggested using containment and isolation as a security strategy. CIOs should expect to see rapid evolution and consolidation of the mobile market in the next few years. "You'll need to re-evaluate on an 18- to 24-month basis," he said.

2. Internet of Things

Industrial, social and informational networks continue to have an impact on the enterprise.

Strategy notes: "Your action should be to take three or four assets, products or processes and look at this model and say, 'With IoT and additional technology, how can we change how we manage, monetize, extend these things,'" Cearley said. Also, find ways to make room for experimentation. "Embrace the maker culture," he said. "Empower individuals in the organization to come up targeted solutions, building on IoT for existing customer problems."

3. 3-D printing

In the last few years, 3-D printing has seen significant advances -- from material science to price points to technology, according to Gartner. And "business models are becoming real," Cearley said. "Boeing , in its latest jet, has 80-something parts manufactured by 3-D printing." Project Daniel, from Not Impossible Labs, leverages 3-D printing to create hand and arm prosthetics for amputees in South Sudan.

Strategy notes: Before investing, Cearley said to consider these five questions: Will you be able to focus more on customer needs and less on manufacturing? Can you be more agile? Can you reduce costs? Do you have knowledge, staffing and skills to deal with this? How will this drive innovation?

4. Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics

Big data will still be a topic of conversation in 2015, but Cearley said to focus on "big answers" instead. That means making analytics a central part of the enterprise, embedding them into every application and process.

Strategy notes: Big data security will be "the heart of next-gen security platforms," Cearley said. "Big data logs, events and information all feed into more advanced security models." Also, the concept of a data lake, or a dumping ground for enterprise data, may be a popular theme, but Gartner believes it's better to think in terms of a data reservoir, which emphasizes, among other things, "potability" -- or data fit for consumption, he said.

5. Context-rich systems

Pervasive, embedded analytics will underpin context-rich systems that understand the user, the systems around the user and the content the user is interacting with, Cearley said. Security is one use case. If a user is accessing the system from Beijing, China, but his calendar indicates he's in Connecticut, that contextual piece of information raises a red flag.

Strategy notes: Become familiar with context-rich digital assistance, which can manage calendar appointments or pin down information more quickly than an employee acting alone. "You're going to see this kind of capability as essentially an intelligent [user interface] linking material together and delivering it to the user," he said.

6. Smart machines

Context-rich systems pave the way for smart machines, which use machine learning and artificial intelligence to complete tasks humans would otherwise perform. "Machines are becoming more and more intelligent," he said. "They understand abstract concepts, learn and reprogram themselves." Cornell University's observant predictive robotic servant, for example, uses sensors, a camera and machine learning to "see" human behavior and figure out how to assist.

Strategy notes: Gartner classifies smart machines into three categories: movers (self-driving cars), doers (Cornell's robotic servant) and sages (IBM Watson). The most immediate impact on the enterprise will be sages -- specifically virtual personal assistants that can, for example, warn the user of potentially missing a flight based on access to the user's digital calendar, current location and real-time traffic information.

7. Cloud/client computing

Cloud/client computing is about "the unification of cloud and mobile," Cearley said. Applications will live in the cloud, which will act as the coordination point, he said. Content will be better synchronized across multiple devices and will be able to deliver information based on where the user is accessing it from, what's around the user and what the user is trying to accomplish.

Strategy notes: This isn't about migrating enterprise apps to mobile devices, Cearley said. Instead, CIOs will need to consider more advanced application models. "The cloud focus for 2015 needs to be on cloud-optimized and cloud-native applications." They'll need to be designed differently than conventional applications.

8. Software-defined applications and infrastructure

"The future is software-defined," Cearley said. "To get the agility we need with this increasingly complex environment, we can't have hard-coded, predefined elements." Software-defined networking, security, data center and storage will enable CIOs to "assemble components based on applications needs," he said. Software-defined application delivery will be supported by cloud/client computing.

Strategy notes: Start building APIs and "component services" that can be assembled. "Some software-oriented architecture services come forward, because we need those to deal with flexible, agile cloud-centric models with multiple tiers of client and service components," Cearley said.

9. Web-scale IT

Cearley called Web-scale IT "the future of your IT world" and "the foundation for your digital future." Web-scale IT refers to the type of "global-class" computing capabilities that are currently the province of the Facebooks, eBays and Amazons of the world. This is the model of computing that CIOs need to bring to the enterprise.

Strategy notes: Bring IT development and business operations teams together, which will mean "more API-based management, velocity-based processes and continuous development," Cearley said. CIOs will also have to iron out the cultural issues that are bound to present themselves when meshing these two teams. CIOs will ultimately have to embrace Web-oriented architecture, software-defined models and new ways to build hardware, Cearley said.

10. Risk-based security and self-protection

Stop assuming the perimeter will defend the enterprise and start thinking about applications that can protect themselves. "Applications are typically this black box," he said. "Security can't see into it. But we've got to open it up."

Strategy notes: Two elements are needed to open up that box: First, security app design: "The application developer doesn't become the security expert, but the application should interact with external security tools, he said. The second element is runtime application self-protection. These are "engines that can take data, monitor what's happening to the application and respond in real time," Cearley said. CIOs will have to take on the cultural challenge of "bringing the security and development team together in a more unified way," he said.

Welcome to The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter at @TT_Nicole.

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What strategic trends and technologies for 2015 did Gartner miss?
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Continuing to monitoring the cloud trends with regular updates to enterprise cloud strategy with storage
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The web-scale definition is already being misused in the market. The Gartner definition mixes together "global scale" with things like CI/CD and API-driven infrastructure - which are both actual things, both don't require global scale. And then you have companies like Nutanix which use "web-scale" as a tagline for their data-center HW. 
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