Michael Bird: Hello and welcome to series two of Explain IT, brought to you by Softcat, the show for IT professionals by IT professionals. This show aims to simplify the complex and often over complicated bits of Enterprise IT without compromising on detail. I'm host Michael Bird and over the next 30 or so minutes I'll be challenging our panel of experts to take a different area of the IT ecosystem and, of course, ‘Explain IT’. So for the first episode of series two, and the first episode of 2019, we're going to be asking our panel what their Enterprise tech predictions are for 2019, plus also, to give us a bit of an idea about what happened in 2018. And with me to help are four of Softcat’s chief technologists, and in this series we're going to be asking all of our guests to tell us an interesting fact. The idea is that it’ll help you, as the listener, to figure out who's who. So without further ado let's introduce our guests. So first up we have Dylan Foster-Edwards who is Softcat’s Head of the office of the CTO. Dylan what is your interesting fact? In fact, the first interesting fact of Explain IT and the first interesting fact of 2019.
Dylan Foster-Edwards: My second language is - I am a fluent speaker in Welsh.
Michael Bird: That is interesting.
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Bore da.
Michael Bird: Thank you. What was that?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Good morning.
Adam Harding: What about happy new year?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Blw..sorry, it’s a bit of a tongue twister…
Adam Harding: It does sound Welsh!
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda, which means happy new year.
Michael Bird: Well happy new year!
Michael Bird: We also have Dean Gardner who is Softcat’s Chief Technologist for Cloud. Dean what is your interesting fact?
Dean Gardner: My interesting fact is I, in the 90s for four years, was a semi-professional footballer.
Michael Bird: Were you actually?
Dean Gardner: I was, I played for Bromley.
Michael Bird: No way, did you get paid for it?
Dean Gardner: Yes.
Michael Bird: How much?
Dean Gardner: Not a lot. Brown envelope stuff, keep it there.
Michael Bird: Did you score any goals?
Dean Gardner: Quite a few, yeah.
Michael Bird: Where did you play?
Dean Gardner: I was centre midfield or just upfront. I ended up going to New Zealand playing football there as well for six months.
Michael Bird: Really?
We also have Adam Harding, who is Softcat’s Chief Technologist for end user computing. Adam what is your interesting fact?
Adam Harding: Well I love motorcycles. Love them. And I was having a conversation with my friends about how terribly useless a motorcycle and sidecar was, so obviously I immediately bought one. I bought a 1974 Russian motorcycle, got it back home and decided to turn the whole thing, refurbished the entire thing, and turn the whole thing into a beer bar. So now it’s a mobile beer bar.
Michael Bird: A mobile beer bar?
Adam Harding: Yeah I basically just drive it in my garden and use it for barbecues, but it's amazing it's my proudest.
Michael Bird: We also have Craig Lodzinski who is Softcat’s Chief Technologist for emerging technologies. Craig what is your interesting fact?
Craig Lodzinski: So my interesting fact is that, unlike Dylan, I can't speak Welsh, but I can say happy new year in Polish.
Michael Bird: Go on then.
Craig Lodzinski: It’s szczęśliwego Nowego Roku.
Michael Bird: Can you speak any other Polish, other than just ‘happy new year’?
Craig Lodzinski: I can speak quite a bit of Polish, some German, some French and the classic English way of communicating with anyone outside of the English speaking world which is talking louder and slower.
Dean Gardner: He's just showing off now.
Dylan Foster-Edwards: And sometimes in English.
Craig Lodzinski: Very occasionally in English. I’m also semi fluent in Manc, being from the frozen north.
Michael Bird: And listeners, you may have realised Craig is calling in from Manchester, so thank you very much for joining us, Craig.
Michael Bird: So I've asked each member of our panel to take a technology area and give a quick 2018 summary and more importantly give us some tech predictions for 2019. So the four areas we’re going to looking at are hybrid infrastructure, which Dean is going to be talking about; digital workspace space which Adam is going to be talking about; cybersecurity which Dylan’s going to cover and IT intelligence which Craig is going to be looking at. So let's start off with Dean. So Dean, what happened in the world of hybrid infrastructure in 2018?
Dean Gardner: So last year, in 2018, we found that a lot of organisations were standardising on-premise. So they started looking at what they could do with their on-premise data centres. So hyper converged became quite a big market in 2018. Public cloud from 2017 into 18 was a focus point for a lot of organisations, but they realised how difficult that was and so that hybrid cloud conversation pretty much took hold and we're seeing a lot of Enterprise organisations moving to public cloud, probably more than we expected, but still obviously having a large on-premise footprint. So hybrid cloud is pretty much where organisations have been this year and I think there's that standardisation of on-prem with the right model of service being consumed from public cloud. So I just think people and organisations are becoming a bit more grown up about where public cloud fits and where it doesn't fit. Whereas I’d say last year there was this push to go all in public cloud and I think people have realised that's not, in most cases, the right model and there's an intelligent conversation to be had about where workloads fit and obviously in most cases, public cloud and on-premise is still very relevant.
Michael Bird: So Dean, what is your big prediction for 2019?
Dean Gardner: My big prediction for 2019 will be organisations to moving with hybrid cloud infrastructure and that means people will be investing in a standardisation and consolidation in their existing data centres, but really leveraging public cloud where it fits and where it’s suitable. The move to all in public cloud, I think people have realised that's not the right model for a lot of organisations and I think there's going to be definitely a move in that direction but I think there's going to be a focus on technical skill sets and training so people really understand where it fits and where it doesn't fit and I think that is going to be a real critical area in 2019. And we’re moving into areas such as looking to consolidate databases within the on-premise data centre, so looking to look at the big database environments that you have or in your applications and seeing where you can do those things better. And public cloud is definitely something that organisations need to understand where they can do it better. And we're seeing a lot more advancements around machine learning, artificial intelligence and those specific areas and investments and services coming from the public cloud providers. And again it all comes down to where do they fit, where are they relevant? And all for me comes back to the understanding and the technical skills training for operations teams that are running IT today. So there won't be a massive move in that direction, but I do think in 2019 there's going to be a consolidation, if you like, of what's happening and simplification of what's happening in a hybrid cloud world and we've got some big players this year such as sql end of life for 2008, there’s going to be a big move around organisations looking to probably fix that issue or solve that problem by consuming or pushing those databases out to the cloud providers and there's some sort of compelling events such as AWS providing services or infrastructure now back into the data centre with their outposts announcement which was at Reinvent last year. And I think it's those kind of things where everybody's looking at hybrid cloud infrastructure as a major player in 2019 and that’s all vendors, whether that’s public cloud and the traditional on-premise vendors.
Michael Bird: So hybrid cloud is your big prediction. How will that prediction affect organisations and what, if anything, will organisations need to do to take advantage of it in 2019, this year?
Dean Gardner: I think that a lot of organisations are still stuck with infrastructure that is server storage networking and I think there's going to be a massive hyperconverged play – we’re seeing that already, last year, in 2018. I think that will just carry on, so much of the same, but we’ll see a lot of organisations can potentially look at hyper converged and they're going to be doing that to standardise. It all comes down to, for me, technical skill sets and understanding. There is a shortage of technical skills around where hybrid cloud can work and I think that's going to be a focus point and I think we're going to see a lot of organisations investing in their people to be able to take advantage of those services and technologies. In public cloud in AWS and Azure alone they have over 100 services available to serve different platform models, essentially, to provide service functions to organisations and that's a lot, that's a lot to understand, that's a lot to educate yourself against, to understand where they fit and I think there's going to be a massive play in that piece, that education piece, that training piece, because ultimately there are services that can fit and there are services that can’t. Just moving virtual machines from an on-premise environment into cloud, people realise that's not going to give you any benefit, so why do it? And I think that's what we've realised, talking to our customers, that there's if you going to do that you might as well stay within an on premise environment but consolidate into hyper converged and actually plug in a public cloud where possible and applicable, to actually do things either new or replace service functions that run traditionally maybe on a virtual machine but that's going to have to come with it an education piece and understanding so that needs to me is a massive area of focus for 2019.
Michael Bird: So how likely out of ten, do you think we’ll be talking about hybrid cloud this time next year?
Dean Gardner: I think we'll be talking about it a nine or ten, and the reason being is that we've seen public cloud providers now starting to go back into the on-premise.
Michael Bird: So Adam, let's move on to digital workspace then. So what happened in the world of digital workspace in 2018?
Adam Harding: So 2018 was very much the year where there was a collective realisation that organisations are not Windows 10 ready. So there was a huge amount of activity from organisations trying to understand what are the questions we need to ask ourselves? What do we do with our applications? What do we do with our data? What do we do with our operating systems? What do we do with our client devices? What to do with the back-end infrastructure? How do we change the operational model so that we can work in the new Windows as a service evergreen world? That was the big one. Other things that really stepped up were, generally the management of end-user technology infrastructure. So historically we've had things like System Centre which gives you a very traditional management approach, very heavy and very detailed and allows you to have a huge amount of control of your devices and on the flip side we've had our phones and our tablets that have been managed by MDM style tools. Realistically last year was the first year where products from, say VMware such as Workspace ONE, Citrix Workspace and Microsoft's own co-management approach bringing Intune and SCCM together started to be used, so that was a big shift and the third thing is, I think it was the year of subscription of everything. So historically we are all completely comfortable with and used to software as a service and, as Dean has mentioned in this podcast, the cloud piece is huge and is a monthly commitment and so on and so forth, that's really reached down into how we buy our hardware now as well so there's been a big push from the HPs, the Dells, the Lenovos, the Apples of this world to give you more than just a finance agreement, but the ability to subscribe to your device and then to have some additional services on top.
Michael Bird: So Adam what is your big prediction then for digital workspace in 2019?
Adam Harding: My big prediction is actually not focused on a technology, it’s focused on an approach. I think there will be a real elevation of people-centric design. Designing from the user, for the user to ensure that all of these new technologies that we are introducing as part of the Windows 10 upgrade, perhaps adopting Microsoft 365 or G Suite, or whatever it might be, the new devices that are coming along with that, the introduction of new collaboration tools, all that type of stuff is designed from the user for the user. It's about trying to make sure that they have simple secure access to the applications, the data, the people and the processes that they need at any given point in time on any device, in any scenario. The other things I think you'll see is there will be a continued, absolute continued focus on the Windows 10 migration. We are now pretty much at T minus 12 months to have that done before you're going to need to extend your Windows 7 support, which is a relatively expensive approach to doing things. I think that you'll find mobility will be a given in the end user technology projects and its seamless collaboration and interconnectedness of people, processes and services - that will be the focus of the new projects and programs. I think you'll find that data classification and conditional and contextual access will be a real focus for people because there's been a lot of talk about it and people have struggled for a long time to classify their data which has made it very difficult for them to apply policies to files which has made it very difficult for them to extend access to that, outside the organisation to their people on the move, so that's got to be dealt with and again, Microsoft and other vendors have done a good job of making sure that at least the tool sets exist. There's going to be a lot of work involved in helping you categorise your environment. I also think employee engagement is going to be a big thing. Organisations are going to put a greater focus on measuring and improving employee sentiment, enablement and empowerment and they will be using data-driven behavioural analytics and artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to make sure they have more of a real time view of how their users feel - of whether they’re positive about the changes that are being made to the organisation, specifically changes that are going to be made within the IT environment and rather than the historic approach which has potentially been - send some business analysts around before we start a project, gather 1000 pain points, cram them into 10 problem statements and then agree them, sign it off and never go back and talk to those users again, there’ll be repetitive, continual measurement to show progress of the investments, I think that will become a bigger thing. Because actually that's how you’ll make sure that your transformational projects land properly and we make sure that we have done the right awareness, the right enablement, created the right appetite to use new technology and new ways of working and also to make sure we reinforce it. A lot of the time we still find that maybe six months after a transformation, people start to revert to their old habits.
Michael Bird: Ok so then how will people-centric design affect organisations and what, if anything, will they need to do to take advantage of people-centric design?
Adam Harding: People-centric design won't affect organisations, it's a process they need to carry themselves, but what they will need to do to benefit from it is genuinely get closer to their users. Historically in our industry, the flow of activities as we go and find out what the business problems are from the business owners, from the business leaders and then we sign off a business case and we go and do some stuff. But there is often a distance between the perceived problems at that exec level and the real world problems when you talk to the feet on the street - the people on the ground and I think that some of the challenges we have with making sure that transformations stick and the benefits are realised is probably not including the real workers, the do-ers, in that conversation early enough. So I think there will have to be a mindset change. Waiting until there's enough complaints before you do something is a road to ruin, so it’s trying to be proactive, lean into your user base, try and delight them as you would the customers of your organisation.
Michael Bird: So how likely, out of ten, do you think we’ll be talking about people-centric design, and the other predictions you made, this time next year - January 2020?
Adam Harding: People-centric design, I would like to think that it's a growing piece and we’re talking probably a seven out of ten, hoping that in 2021 or wherever we're going after that it will be a nine and a ten, I think it will gather momentum. Microsoft Windows 10? Ideally they'll only be two weeks left until the support shuts off, but there'll be a lot of panic and a lot of people will have missed the mark, so I would say that’s almost a ten. And the conversations will all be about extending the support, they will be about can organisations like Softcat do the readiness work to accelerate the outcomes, there’ll be a lot of that. And the other thing that I think the conversation will shift to on the Microsoft Windows 10 piece is, organisations already struggle to get their applications and data ready for the updates. Realistically, the Windows 10 update cycle that you want to move with is every six months, so I think there will be a surge in the requirement for application readiness as a service where you outsource your application compatibility packaging remediation and so on to third parties, you out-task it to use their automation platforms so you can go quick enough. And I think it will probably be a similar thing with straight Windows 10 image management services. With regards to mobility and the fact that I actually think that mobility, as I’ve said, will be a given. So yes it will be included in every RP and every tender response that anybody puts out or receives, but I think the collaboration piece will be a good eight or nine out of ten. The interconnectedness of your people with their applications, with each other, with the services, that's the thing that's going to differentiate you from your competitors next door, so that's a big mark. VDI - people keep on telling me VDI is dead, it's not dead, it serves an absolute purpose, but I think the conversation will change, so that is definitely going to be within the seven to eight out of ten bracket. As to how frequently, at least, it comes up, well the conversation will change. The old adage that virtual desktops should be kept close to the data they are calling on is true, so you will see the VDI deployments across Azure, AWS, IBM Cloud grow exponentially over the course of the next year, so it will only become even more important as you're trying to hook into the good stuff from Amazon and Microsoft and the other guys. There will also be, if you're still looking to execute your VDI sessions on-premise, I think that realistically the conversation will lean towards ‘how do I use a management and data and control plane up in the cloud and still manage the data and the VDI sessions themselves on-premise?’ Data classification and contextual access – it’s a big problem, we will still be talking about that for a very very long time, that's a good ten, but we must get there because that's what gives you the ability to work, to access this stuff and distribute this stuff with confidence, and that's what we need otherwise you're going to fall behind your competitors who are able to use their file data and distribute it effectively to customers and partners and suppliers, let alone the people who work from them. And the employee engagement stuff - that will bubble, it will grow as we come along. I think we will see conversations around people like Qualtrics who have been bought by SAP for eight billion dollars, so they must think there’s something in this. And Pcon. It will start to rise. So we’ll definitely talk about it - six out of ten.
Michael Bird: Ok so let's move on to cybersecurity. Dylan what happened in the world of cyber security in 2018?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: So in 2018 a few things really. So again it's been another busy year from a security perspective, from a tech and a channel perspective. 2018 has been a year that data has continued to be important and it's reaching the top of everybody's conscious. If you look back at what happened in May with GDPR coming into effect, data continues to be a major issue and we see a number of huge data breaches within the year with the likes of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica etc, so clearly it's important that people are keeping control of their data and if you look at some of the buzz words around IoT, autonomous vehicles, AI, they all create data and all potentially create a security problem for customers so it's important that they're getting a grip of what's happening in their space as they adopt those technologies. Data’s no longer an invisible force but a fundamental part of everyone's daily life, so akin to when people start adopting electricity over a century ago.
Michael Bird: So Dylan what is your big prediction for 2019?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Actually I've got three for 2019.
Michael Bird: Ok.
Dylan Foster-Edwards: So firstly identity and access management in support of cloud adoption. And I’ll come back to the detail in a second. Cost of poorly implemented permissions across per user licence model and lastly password breaches and phishing attacks will continue to be a challenge in 2019.
Michael Bird: Let's talk about identity management and access to cloud platforms then.
Dylan Foster-Edwards: So identity and access management I guess will continue to be a major investment as far as organisations who are looking to adopt more cloud services as they increase and take on more services especially in the Saas space, it will become more and more important that they have control of that identity and access management because elements of that are no longer going to be under their control so potentially opening up more holes in their environment that they have less control over and I guess in the Saas space especially, we're seeing it in some of our organisations, where some of those are being adopted without the involvement of IT because people would say, ‘that's a good Saas service, I’ll subscribe to it’, start using it and most people don't tell anybody.
Michael Bird: So then the cost of poorly implemented permissions?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Organisations are understanding that if you have a poor implementation of the permissions from a user perspective then you're going to lead to a much more complex environment as far as identity is concerned, so again it links back to what we're doing in the Saas space, if you've got a number of different Saas services you're consuming and they're using a different licencing model, or different permissions model, then obviously it makes a lot more complex your IT guys to get control of that, so it's important that you're adopting a single sign-on strategy so that you don’t increase complexity rather than decrease complexity.
Michael Bird: And the last one on your list?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: Password breaches and phishing attacks will never go away. People out there are constantly looking to try and hack into people or get into a new system. So there’s people who, that’s all they like to do on a day to day job is hack in to these sort of things, so attacks and breaches will continue to be the biggest threat to most organisations. Especially as they’re taking advantage of migrating from internal systems and moving data to either externally to the systems or consuming cloud, so an element of lost control is happening so the threat will increase because you can't physically get your arms around it and it needs to be appropriately designed to make sure that it continues to be as secure in your system as it is if you're consuming from an external provider. And I suspect most users will still continue to ignore the guidance their internal IT guys give you and will continue to use the same password for everything and iterate it with a number on the end but again, coming back to my point earlier, I think it's important that organisations make it as simple as possible because if you're forcing users to have to remember tens of passwords all the time, then clearly they’re going to either write them down or make them simple for the ease of them to remember, so keep it simple - single sign-on, aggregate all those accounts together and you’ll reduce the potential for those attacks to happen.
Michael Bird: So taking those three predictions then, how will that affect organisations in 2019 and what, if anything, will organisations need to do to take advantage or to protect themselves against it?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: So I guess it would be remiss of me to not mention Adam Louca who's our Chief Technologist for cybersecurity. He's pretty clear in that pretty much everything that we do, security is a thread of every element, of every project. So I think organisations, as they continue to consume more services and as their landscape and attack surface continues to grow as they consume more services, it's important they continue to evaluate what they’re doing to make sure that they’re secure at every level. From our perspective we make sure that they continue to evaluate, identify where the gaps are and bridge those and apply the relevant controls or additional technology that will help them gain control of their environment.
Michael Bird: So how likely then, out of ten, do you think we’ll be talking about these predictions this time next year?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: It’s always a ten from security, because it never goes away.
Michael Bird: Good answer. Ok so let's move on to IT intelligence then with Craig. So Craig what happened in the world of IT intelligence in 2018, last year?
Craig Lodzinski: So I think it was an interesting year in 2018 for IT intelligence. I think we've moved significantly away from just gathering data and trying to hold onto all our data in this big data concept into true intelligence. So really we’re looking through a great deal of insight into systems. We've seen a real acceptance of telemetry and two-way data, so we look at storage arrays, services from companies like Nimble with Infosight who were acquired by HPE this year and really the acquisition of Nimble in 2018 by HPE was all about Infosight, and taking that data service, more so than the actual storage array and the technology underneath it. We’ve seen pure storage with Pure1 and more and more services coming out even to the consumer space with the smart home and automation continuing to get bigger. I think it's become a lot more of a holistic thing within 2018 trying to stitch services together so we see more and more services looking for the whole IT estate, obviously, Dean and some of the other chaps have mentioned about looking for intelligence across the cloud - multi cloud and hybrid cloud and getting that very holistic view of intelligence in a broad sense across the entire IT estate.
Michael Bird: So Craig what is your big prediction for 2019 for IT intelligence?
Craig Lodzinski: So I'd say my big prediction for 2019 would definitely be that we're going to see a lot more spread of AI machine learning technologies across the entire IT infrastructure and the IT estate. They won’t just be AI machine learning technologies that are gathering and providing intelligence, there's a lot of data systems on the back-end and we've seen some interesting movements in databases, data gathering, data technologies. But 2018 was very much the year that everything was washed in the loving warm glow of AI machine learning, but actually a lot of those systems weren't quite truly integrating that technology. I think in 2019 we’re going to see a lot more true use of AI machine learning technologies in perhaps platform as a service, and software as a service perspectives, making a lot more easier to consume, a lot more easier to access for organisations, and taking that intelligence right across the full estate so your traditional products, we’ve seen organisations that have been acquired and new startups leaning very heavily on the intelligence aspect and I think even lower end traditional products are going to start to have intelligence baked into them, perhaps by accessing cloud services, APIs and Saas products.
Michael Bird: So then how will AI machine learning affect organisations and what, if anything, will they need to do, or what can they do to take advantage of it?
Craig Lodzinski: I don't think it's a specific point product in the same way we looked at ,within 2018, the big flag in the first half of the year was GDPR and that was a defined deadline, needed a defined strategy. AI machine learning is part of the toolset, it’s not something that has to be adopted, it’s not an act of law or anything like that, but it's something that we need to be aware of in the same way that we were aware of the changing nature of public cloud a few years back. AI machine learning has a potential set of opportunities for organisations, there’s a potential set of defined risks their core business line from disruptive organisations adopting these technologies. A lot of talk is used about companies like Uber and Airbnb who use data and AI machine learning very intelligently to help create their core business advantage. The same is starting to permeate across the entire landscape in the same way we saw with cloud. So I think it's having an awareness of it, figuring out what the organisation’s strategy is in those areas and being able to take intelligent actions within the entire IT landscape.
Michael Bird: Ok so how likely, out of ten, do you think that we’ll be talking about AI machine learning this time next year and why?
Craig Lodzinski: So I think it's a ten out of ten really. I think it's an absolute inevitability that we’ll be talking about it this time next year, because there's a been a lot of hype, there’s a lot of investment from vendors, there’s a lot of VC funding and startups coming to the fore in the field of AI machine learning. Now whether we’re talking about it in a positive light this time next year is another question. It may have turned out to be a bust and we're not quite there and we've reached a point where the maths and the mathematical theories that we have just completely fall off a cliff, that's very much a possibility. We may, on the other hand, be talking about something really world changing - new categories, new companies, new disruptions, but absolutely, it’s an absolute certainty that we will be talking about it in a year's time and for many years to come, I believe.
Michael Bird: Ok so let's do a quick summary then. Dean?
Dean Gardner: So this year hybrid clouds, multi-cloud is going to accelerate. It’s going to continue. Organisations will understand better where public cloud fits into that story.
Michael Bird: Excellent. Adam?
Adam Harding: Windows 10. There’s a lot of work to be done and organisations are going to need to focus on Windows 10. Collaboration will be the next most used word on the tenders we receive, I'm sure. And VDI’s going to the cloud, we're going to drop the I from the VDI and let someone else do it for us.
Michael Bird: Dylan?
Dylan Foster-Edwards: So don't forget identity and access management is key in support of your cloud migration and keep an eye out for those password breaches and phishing attacks.
Michael Bird: And Craig?
Craig Lodzinski: So we're going to see intelligent use of data. AI machine learning will continue to be top of the hype cycle and we'll see if the hype turns into another thing.
Michael Bird: Excellent, well thank you very much guys. Adam, Dean, Dylan and Craig it's been really interesting talking to you all, getting your views on what is in store for this year. Thank you so much for your time. If there's anything in the show, listeners, that has piqued your interest, or if you’d like to talk to someone at Softcat about anything that we've talked about in this episode, we’ll include some details in the show notes with some contact information, plus some links to some of the stuff that we talked about in this episode as well. Do also make sure you click subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. So that's been Explain IT from Softcat, thanks for listening and goodbye.