My 2018 predictions: Lee James, CTO EMEA

1) A multi-cloud approach

Multi cloud is prevalent across most of our client base and will become critical in 2018. Clouds are now starting to be used according to their specific capabilities and in a utility-type fashion, as businesses benefit from the ability to broker these services in an on-demand way, which can be challenging for service providers. If organisations can harness the power and benefits of each of the clouds available, it will really drive their businesses forward next year.

2) Professional Services in demand

As the cloud becomes fundamental to the very functionality of a business, there has been a huge rise in demand for consultancy around professional services. In 2017, there was a big increase in the number of customers asking us to advise and guide them on a range of queries from cloud selection, to strategy, migration and transformation, and this is something that will increase further in 2018.

Businesses are also increasingly coming to us for guidance on organisational transformation and governance of internal process transformation as they shift to the cloud. As a result, IT will continue to move from a ‘function’ to a much more ‘product focused’ type of practice for many organisations in 2018. This has come about because companies are constantly looking to open new channels. This means the ability to efficiently and effectively incubate and test new markets and products within a cloud ecosystem is now massively important throughout our customer base – particularly in areas such as retail and gaming. This will continue to be the case next year and further validate the importance of guidance around professional services.

Other factors will also drive the demand for, and the importance of, professional services. For instance, many data centre lease cycles will be up for renewal in 2018 meaning potential re-tendering of contracts. Businesses will also be looking at how they can take advantage of new services and innovations such as machine-learning technology as well as drive application modernisation to improve efficiency and innovation.

Finally, expect ‘multi cloud as a service’ to become the norm in 2018, as CIOs look to leverage differing cloud providers for different requirements including utility pricing. This practice will require service management and application integration, multi-cloud security and governance, and application modernisation.

3) Security first approach

The threat from cyber criminals rose rapidly in 2017, meaning the importance of a solid security strategy is absolutely fundamental to the future success of any business in 2018. So great is the importance of a good security function, that some in the industry are starting to talk about them having their own ‘share prices’, raising or falling in value depending on its ability to defend against attacks.

Keeping cyber security share prices high in 2018 has to be a top priority for organisations next year. This isn’t only because cyber espionage will continue to rise, but because the consequences of a breach will become far greater as stricter regulations such as GDPR come into effect.

Add to this the fact that a multi-cloud approach will continue to become the preferred strategy for most organisations means that having control and complete oversight of all layers of data is vital as it moves seamlessly across clouds, via new technologies such as serverless computing, containers and machine learning.

Businesses simply must make the adoption of a state-of-the-art managed security wrapper across their whole business an absolute priority in 2018. This security net will not only protect against criminal elements but also ensure that governance and regulatory changes can be easily implemented and made consistent across clouds, irrespective of which company and geography they are hosting in.

4) Helping containers play like a symphony

Containers and serverless technologies became very popular in 2017 and embedded themselves directly into the software development processes for many companies, thanks to their ability to speed up the time it takes to deliver products to market.

Orchestration – the next iteration of containers – has already started, and there are several container orchestration platforms, including Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Mesos. These orchestration platforms automate deployment, scaling, and management of containerised applications. They group containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery.

Kubernetes is leading the way and we expect this to gather significant pace in 2018. One of Kubernetes’ key advantages is its ability to run an application on any cloud, including Private Clouds, AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform, making it easier to migrate from one cloud vendor to another.

As with any open source platform, consistency and standardisation will be critical as many tools and capabilities fight to be part of the orchestration band. Monitoring will also be important, and making decisions upfront on tools such as Prometheus will be key for a harmonious outcome.

5) AIOps – The year of the machine in operations

As operational management increases across multiple clouds, applications and environments, moving from a reactive to a proactive posture will be critical.

Having the ability to reduce the amount of incoming noise to IT staff, proactively detecting incidents, correlating events across complex ecosystems, and streamlining collaboration workflow across teams and toolsets, while codifying knowledge to make operators smarter when encountering future incidents is the future of IT Operations Management. Step forward AIOps…

Standing for ‘Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations’, AIOps refers to multi-layered technology platforms that automate and enhance IT operations by using analytics and machine learning to analyse big data collected from various IT operations tools and devices.

Many AIOps platforms can predict possible incidents and emerging root causes, significantly reducing the number of incidents and time spent on their detection, diagnosis, and resolution.

Gartner estimates that only 5% of all large enterprises are currently combining big data and machine learning for IT operations. However, Gartner expects that number to jump to 40% of all large enterprises by 2022. If this prediction comes true, AIOps will create a massive shift in IT Operations methodology.

The deployment of AI in an IT operations context is challenging, however, and must be approached gradually as this isn’t simply about technology. It’s about people and process first and foremost, with the ultimate end goal being collaboration across an IT organisation to get the right information to the right people so that issues are resolved as quickly as possible.

The skill is doing this at anytime, anywhere with the right people. AIOps could well be the ‘Martini moment’ we have been waiting for…

To learn more about any of the topics above or to speak with a member of the team, please visit our website.

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Before joining Rackspace as EMEA Chief Technology Officer, Lee gathered his experience developing and delivering industry leading cloud, analytics and SAP services for global organisations, culminating in an innovation award for building BP’s first multi-cloud platform. As part of the Betfair team he was responsible for the delivery of a Devops driven platform that performed more transactions than all the European stock markets each day. Lee recently moved into IT services and using his experience he has delivered global cloud transformations, advanced analytics platforms and cloud inspired organisational transformation for a number of major organisations. At Rackspace, Lee is responsible for helping our customers maximise their cloud investments across people, process and technology as well developing new Rackspace products and services. Lee is a proud father of four, and you may well find him managing an under 12 football team, striking a golf ball in random directions and partaking in Rugby League matches.

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