Through the looking glass

We round up the top predictions from networking industry experts, delving into what to expect in 2015 and beyond.

Tags: Brocade ( DataIDC Middle East and AfricaSilver Peak ( DataFort
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Through the looking glass The Gulf IT industry had an interesting 2014, as the region rebounded and investment in technology flowed more freely
By  Tom Paye Published  January 21, 2015

The Gulf IT industry certainly had an interesting year in 2014, as the region rebounded and investment in technology flowed more freely. Local cloud providers expanded their offerings, and have finally begun putting regional organisations at ease about consuming off-premise cloud services. And as upgrade cycles came around, Middle East-based companies looked to the crème de le crème of technological offerings in order to not only future-proof their networks, but also provide their businesses with new levels of agility.

On the other side of the coin, the cons of an ever-more-connected world were put into context with some of the biggest security breaches ever seen. First, we had the Heartbleed SSL bug, which continues to affect unpatched servers around the world, and then the Shellshock vulnerability. Finally, towards the end of the year, Sony Pictures experienced one of the most devastating, and embarrassing, security attacks ever recorded. It served as a useful lesson that, though companies might view security as a sunk cost that needs to be minimised, a brutal attack could cause no end of damage.

These events provide an excellent backdrop to a number of predictions for 2015 and beyond. We’ve spoken to several industry experts to discern what IT departments should expect over the coming year, including which trends are important and which can be left for the moment. Either way, the aim is to provide an overview of where IT budgets can and should be placed as new technologies continue to be developed.

Data centre trends
“A year or two ago, we were debating whether the data centre and the cloud were quite ready to come together. Clients were concerned as to whether the cloud was geared to support production workloads and compliance requirements. But today, every CIO I talk to isn’t asking if they should move to the cloud. Now it’s a question of how much of their environments they can move to the cloud and how quickly they can make the transition,” explains Kevin Leahy, Dimension Data’s group general manager for data centres.

Leahy’s analysis certainly marks a change in the attitudes towards how data centres should be run in conjunction with cloud services. In light of this, Dimension Data says that organisations now need to re-evaluate the amount of data centre space they need, as well as where their remaining data centre facilities should be located.

Of course, in the Middle East, things have been running a little differently, due to organisations’ unwillingness to allow their corporate data to be hosted outside of the country they’re in. However, with the advent of local data centres around the region — in the UAE, for example, Pacific Controls, Datamena and eHosting DataFort now offer public cloud services — enterprises are warming up to the idea of consuming services through a locally-hosted cloud.

Indeed, large data centres, typically owned by industry and cloud provider heavyweights, see nothing but growth on the horizon. These giant facilities are expanding either due to the fact that they’re absorbing the capacity being transferred to them from customers looking to exploit the cloud model, or simply as a result of the nature and complexity of the businesses they serve.

According to the organisation, the next data centre trend to watch relates to technology, or rather, the ability to unlock its true value. Leahy explains: “Increasingly, CIOs aren’t asking for our assistance with technology issues, they’re seeking help in updating their operational processes so that they can extract maximum value from their technology investments.”

Frank Casey, Dimension Data’s director for managed services agrees: “It’s all about internal maturity. Every client I speak to is at a different level of maturity and most feel they have a fair amount of work to do. The goal is to move the organisation forward, in a structured manner,” he explains.

Casey sees automation as key to extracting maximum value from technology. “Most IT teams are focused on making sure that infrastructure is up and running, and, due to workload and time pressures, aren’t thinking about how they can drive greater levels of automation,” he says.

Making informed decisions regarding new technology investments is critical to ensuring you extract maximum value from them, Dimension Data says. The market is shifting away from component-based hardware and software, and moving to bundled technologies that feature high levels of automation. However, it’s not always easy to determine how to get the most out of these technologies, and how they’ll interoperate with the legacy infrastructures and workloads that may be running in a public cloud.

The rise of the New IP
According to Yarob Sakhnini, regional MEMA director at Brocade, as businesses and consumers continue to embrace cloud, mobile and social technologies, enterprises and service providers will need to have agile networks, which should have the capacity to quickly adapt to customer demand and enable the rapid delivery of new services. However, he warns that traditional legacy IP networks are static and unresponsive, so are unable to cater to the changing market dynamics. This is why he foresees the rise of the ‘New IP’ in 2015 and beyond.

“We are moving into an era of user-centric networking infrastructure that can massively scale to handle the mobile data boom, cloud services explosion, big data analytics burst and Internet of Things,” he says.

“In 2015, we will see this begin in earnest, with the rise of the New IP, a new networking paradigm that is better aligned with the evolution of the rest of IT — and increasingly open, software-driven, and user-centric.”

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