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The Real 2020 Question
It’s common, at the turn of a year or (even more) at the turn of a decade, to read about what’s new, the future trends… common, and maybe exciting, but not always as useful as we might think. Many of the “new” things that will happen in any new year or decade are really evolutions of current things. They won’t revolutionize costs, benefits, or decisions. Some of the things that will be revolutionary seem so pedestrian that we don’t read about them. So, let’s ask the right question: What will be different in 2020 and the decade beyond?
Opening Up on Packages
For CIOs and IT/network professionals, the biggest difference will be that integrated offerings will displace best-of-breed thinking. In the last decade, we’ve seen startups and small companies proliferate, taking advantage of the pace of change in technology and the natural resistance of leaders in any product space to support change. The problem is that all this change and all the vendors that’ve been raised up by it have created a massive integration and finger-pointing problem for buyers.
One CIO told me that a network or data center project in 2019 took twice as long as one in 2010, because of the multiplicity of vendors and technologies that had to be fit together and kept running. Worse, most of that increase in project time happened between 2016 and 2019, and 2019 was the year that generated the greatest increase. That told the CIO that integration problems were going to “swamp my organization” in 2020 and beyond.
The solution is a “package.” Now as ever, most CIOs are wary of vendor lock-in, so they aren’t rushing back to the good old days of “you can’t lose your job for buying IBM (or Cisco)!” What they like now are packages built around open technology and designed to do all the things they need in one handy collection of pre-integrated stuff, all of which is open. You can see this with the exploding popularity of Kubernetes, not just as a container orchestration tool but as the basis for a cloud-native programming and deployment environment. In 2020 and beyond, everything we do and buy is going to be presented in ecosystem or package form, because that’s the only path to eliminating the crushing integration complexity that’s developed.
The most significant impact of this particular trend is the anointing of Kubernetes as the center of the application and cloud universe. Few products as technical (and complex) as Kubernetes have achieved the kind of rock-star status it’s attained, and that very status (and the PR visibility that accompanies it) means that as trends like containers, cloud-native applications, hybrid cloud, and even hosted network services develop, a set of tools presented as offshoots of Kubernetes will implement them. In 2020, Kubernetes will be the most valuable technology asset in the IT world, and everyone will be jumping aboard.
Managed Services to Rule
Another big difference to expect in 2020 is that managed services will be the rule, not the exception. For years, managed services have been seen primarily as a means of dealing with complex technologies when internal support skills were limited, even minimal. In 2020, managed services will be seen as the most appropriate way of reducing operations costs, overall. The cloud is already seeing a big ramp in the use of managed services, but we’ll see it dominate cloud container use and even SD-WAN adoption in 2020.
A big part of the drive toward managed services is also an element in the drive toward integrated product ecosystems; the challenge of operations. Companies are almost universally reporting that their reliance on technology is growing much faster than their budgets for technology support. Most also face challenges hiring and retaining people with skills in new technology areas. In areas like networking and the cloud, where new technologies are creating “spot shortages” of skills, managed services are the ideal approach. In broader application planning and development, it’s the integrated product ecosystem that wins.
Products & Services to the Forefront
That brings us to our last, and perhaps most fundamental, change for 2020. Next year will be the year when we refocus our IT and network attention on products and services, not technology. New technologies get a lot of attention from sellers, buyers, and the media, but the attention hasn’t been enough to drive adoption nearly as fast as it has driven interest. Tech users of all classes are eager to see results now, and that means something they can actually buy.
This last change may be the most challenging as well as being the most fundamental. The first two trends illustrate that integration and management are emerging as the biggest barriers to new technology, and therefore to the use of new products. Will it create a world of pure services, a world where only giant suppliers with the broadest possible product families can exist? Perhaps.
It was once true that nobody got fired for buying IBM, or Cisco, and there was a good reason for that. The “safe” choice was the single vendor. We’re probably never going back to that, but we are going back to a single source, and that could be a good thing for buyers, which could make 2020 a great year.
Happy holidays, everyone.