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Sam Routledge

Chief Technology Officer

Well, it’s that time of year again! We did pretty well with our predictions for 2013, so here’s our stab at what’s going to happen in 2014:

Windows XP exploits: Support for Windows XP ends in April this year, as anyone who isn’t living in the 1990s will have heard. It wouldn’t surprise us if some nefarious hackers have been saving up Windows exploits for after this date in the expectation that they won’t be patched.

What to do: get off Windows XP as soon as you can! Whether you go for virtual desktops, a hardware upgrade or an in-place upgrade, you still have time – and we can help.

BYOD continues apace: The tide of consumerisation, and users bringing their own IT into corporate use, cannot be held back. No doubt there will be another wave of BYOD this month from those who have been lucky enough to receive a new tablet for Christmas! Rather than trying to resist, like King Canute, we should be embracing this trend to enable us to mobilise services and business processes – without paying for the hardware.

What to do: At the very least, you should be managing these devices – but the opportunity is in delivering services that are useful to your mobile workforce. Talk to one of our specialists about how we can help you deliver applications securely to your users’ devices – or develop applications specifically for your needs. The winners in this space will be those who mobilise business processes properly, or innovate by exposing part of their inner workings to customers through apps, enabling them to self-serve. Don’t be the DVD retailer in a download world!

Peak LAN: 2014 will (maybe!) be the peak year for shipments of LAN ports, as the world goes BYOD and therefore wireless becomes much more important. Of course, data centre networking will be even more important, but the traditional wired LAN will diminish.

What to do: evaluate whether your existing WLAN solution is sufficient for the BYOD explosion. Bear in mind that identity services can be integrated into your WLAN service, helping you to route different devices and users to different services – an important part of BYOD provision.

VDI hits maturity – at last: It’s a running joke in the industry that every year since 2006 has been ‘The Year of the Virtual Desktop’. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assert that we’re finally there. We’ve been doing a load of work in our labs and with customers on dedicated and shared graphics cards, HP have launched what I have been calling ‘physical virtual desktops’ on their Moonshot platform, and the software stack has matured considerably over the last 18 months. I think we can now safely say that we can deliver a centralised desktop experience for pretty much any use case, from call centre to CAD workstation.

What to do: if you have a use case in your organisation for a centralised desktop strategy, get in touch and let us help you to look at the options and associated costs. Remember that VDI can be a part of your mobility strategy – but that true mobility is about far more than just delivering a Windows desktop to an iPad.

Software-defined starts to become a reality: We said last year that ‘software-defined’ would be the main buzzword for the year. Looks like that was correct! After a year of fluff, things are starting to crystallise into reality. VMware’s NSX product (the Nicira acquisition) is starting to be deployed, as are software-defined storage technologies from HP and EMC among others. It may be that in the long run, software-defined will allow you to build grid-based IT architecture without the reliance on SANs and expensive networking gear – watch this space!

What to do: Start understanding and evaluating these technologies and see where they fit in to your strategy. Remember that as this is software-based, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to replace your hardware. Software-defined will be really important as we move to the next iteration of ‘cloud’ as it should allow your workloads to maintain their attributes as you move them from your data centre to the cloud, and back.

Flash market consolidation: Flash storage has been the big thing of 2013 and will certainly continue to be one of the talking points in 2014. The market is really interesting at the minute, as the advent of solid-state storage has enabled a coterie of start-ups to launch, challenging the established players. Most of those players have now launched their flash offerings, so this year looks likely to be an interesting one – some of the flash start-ups will get acquired, some will disappear, and one or two may kick on and hit the big time. Whatever happens it’s an exciting market – and an exciting technology for helping your applications to perform.

What to do: if your systems are underperforming and storage is the bottleneck, if you are considering an IOPS-intensive workload such as VDI or if your existing array is scheduled for replacement, you should certainly be considering flash technology. Our data centre team can talk you through your options.

Voice and video: Two developments here that we think will be of use to our customers. Firstly, cloud-based video conferencing services will enable a resurgence of site-to-site video. You know that massive, expensive, screen and camera set-up in your board room that no one uses because it is too complicated? Well, we can get those being used now, helping you save the travel costs and time that you thought it would. The second development will be the advent of WebRTC – effectively allowing access to smartphone functionality through a HTML-5 browser. This is ideal for customer contact, perhaps recruitment, remote support…

What to do: If you might have a use case for WebRTC, now’s the time to make sure your telephony provider has it in their roadmap. You might also want to review your options in the room-based VC space if your kit is under-utilised. Our UC team of course can help with both.

And finally, possibly the strangest prediction you could expect from an infrastructure provider:

Forget about the infrastructure: IT departments who are fixated on flashing lights in the data centre are not doing the best for their businesses! 2014 needs to be the year where we stop fixating on kit and worry more about what the business needs. Whether that be stacks of converged infrastructure, grid based systems (see Software Defined, above) or Infrastructure as a Service, the kit side of things should be as frictionless as possible so that we can all get on with the job of serving the needs of the business better. Then we can start to work on the fun stuff – mobile apps, managing SaaS services, new line of business applications, business discovery platforms, etc.

Sam Routledge - Softcat Solutions Director