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Emerging IT continuity challenges

What issues and new technologies have disrupted the IT continuity landscape in 2013 and how are these likely to develop in 2014?

By Patrick Hubbard and Lawrence Garvin, SolarWinds.

We have spent the past year speaking with hundreds of techies at every major networking trade event in 2013 and from these discussions have drawn a number of predictions for the coming year, as well as insights into how the industry has evolved and developed over the past twelve months. Below, we share our thoughts on the past year and our predictions for 2014.

2013 has been the year of vendor-led hype on buzz technologies such as SDN and cloud, but in practice very few notable advances in technologies or vendor offerings in these areas have come into fruition.

Cross-product support, and a noticeable increase in budget, has accelerated the advance of virtualization. Products such as Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) have made it possible to integrate with VMware V-block, boosting the desktop virtualization trend and widened its reach into mid-market networks. Similarly, with the launch of Hyper V, 2013 was the year that Microsoft finally became a genuine player in the virtualization space.

Throughout 2013, the wider IT community has begun to understand the impact of network vulnerabilities caused by third-party applications, with Flash and Java vulnerabilities increasing and the industry heavily criticising the quality and frequency of Microsoft updates. IT pro’s no longer assume that the major vendors are dealing satisfactorily with security threats and can no longer be relied upon to maintain security.

When looking at what 2014 has in store for the industry, it’s safe to say that the next year promises a broad spectrum of advances in information technology that will ultimately benefit businesses and which IT continuity managers will need to be aware of and planning for. Network complexity, virtualization and storage, application monitoring and the role of the IT department are all expected to change dramatically.

Network complexity

Next year we expect to see increased demand for more services over the same infrastructure, bandwidth or connection both inside and outside of networks. The quality of network equipment continues to improve, so there will be fewer failures and network administrators will be able to access information quickly via monitoring services. However, when networks are virtualized they become more complex, so failures and outages will become harder to detect.

Services such as telepresence, virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI) and VoIP require high levels of service and are strongly affected by latency (connections with long delays). Yet users are expecting to see the quality of their VoIP or telepresence calls match that of their landline connections. IT pro’s will look to meet VoIP expectations with hardware and monitoring equipment that manages an outage in real time and resolves automated failovers within software.

LAN speeds have been a common yet underestimated problem. But with cloud-based data storage and companies using SaaS for their core services, the focus will veer back to the efficiency of WANs.

Virtualization/ storage

While virtualization has already become ubiquitous, being used in networks of all sizes and complexities, there will be more emphasis on extending the benefits of virtualization to desktops (Virtualized desktop infrastructure, VDI).

The direct cost savings of VDI are not as clear-cut in virtualized networks, since the cost of desktop computers and applications must be taken into account. Yet since VDI also offers business the flexibility to change and grow without significant additional investment in time and money, so we can expect to see increased take-up throughout 2014.
Virtualization also reinforces the IT pro’s need to be aligned with business goals and ensures that IT infrastructure is able to grow and change with the business.

Keys concerns for IT pros in 2014 will include the handling of Microsoft OS changes, both MS 8 and the end of XP support. Because changes to the Microsoft operating system since XP have been significant, help desk professionals are concerned about the extra expenditure on new licences and training. For large networks it will not be an option to stay with XP unsupported.

Application monitoring

IT pros will continue the trend of setting pre-determined levels of web-based application performance that match the rigid performance standards for applications housed on their internal networks. For instance, everyone expects NetSuite or Salesforce to run just as efficiently as Outlook. The complexity will increase when catering for staff utilizing mobile applications, such as sales for iPhone. Users see no difference and will expect the same levels of reliability and use.

Skill-set for IT pros

The divide between senior and junior engineers will continue to widen. Increasingly senior engineers will have to learn how to manage teams in multiple locations and across multiple cultures. Senior engineers are selling themselves as experts to maintain their value, but we can expect to see a shift to a business focus. More IT pros will refocus their hours by looking at ideas for mid-term savings and improvements.

Since IT is core to any business, IT pros are ideally placed to understand business needs and align IT resources to the overall business goals. They are best placed to transform a business, so expect to see this trend escalate during 2014. Also look to see CIOs take steps to ensure their independence from other departments by establishing their own value to the business. They will be pushing to become an innovation centre rather than a cost centre.


•Date: 17th December 2013 • World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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