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6 emerging technologies that belong in an IT operations plan

A penny saved is a penny earned. But when it comes to AI, specialized compute engines and these other key emerging IT operations areas, a penny saved today is a dollar wasted -- or worse -- in the future.

Every IT team must decide on areas to invest in and where to stop spending time and money, as well as new ways to maximize the IT operating budget.

I won't go on about how you should be putting money into cloud, big data, orchestration, automation and so on. You already have an IT operations plan well underway for these trends. If you don't, stop here and go address modernization.

These six lesser-known trends may well surge to mainstream enterprise IT use in 2020 and beyond. Small expenditures in the 2019 IT operations plan could help avoid large knee-jerk expenditures later.

1. Data analysis via AI, machine learning

Artificial intelligence is both emerging and a topic du jour. Invest in either proof-of-concept or prototype projects in AI as soon as possible. Plan for substantial training courses on machine learning, deep learning and AI. Pour resources into creating a solid base platform of big data aggregation and analysis to set the basis for solid returns on AI investments.

2. Microservices at a fundamental level

Microservices are not just about the speed and resource efficiency of container-based deployment -- although you'd better understand how containers are different from VMs before you go down the microservices path.

The true potential of hybridized cloud platforms lies in this dynamic way to build and run applications that moves away from the monolithic app. Enterprise architects and the developers and IT team that support applications can generate a far better platform that supports the business more effectively with microservices over monoliths. Microservices can be dynamically linked together in real time and reused by multiple different calling services.

Developers must understand how to build small, functional components and how to make components easily identifiable to calling services. IT teams must plan how they will monitor and manage microservices through effective orchestration software.

3. Specialized compute engines

Platforms are increasingly hybridized and complex, chasing away the idea of a general, all-purpose server platform. Microservices, IoT and AI all change workloads, and these trends necessitate real-time platforms that can focus specifically on a set of needs.

Evaluate GPUs, as opposed to CPUs, in the IT operations plan, as well as application-specific integrated circuits or field-programmable gate arrays. Research what's available in hardware and specialized cloud instances and where each system excels.

4. Advanced compute approaches

While still in a nascent stage, quantum computing is worth understanding.

IBM, Google and other companies have made quantum computing narrowly available for specific workloads. While still in a nascent stage, quantum computing is worth understanding. Average companies should get at least one person in the organization up to speed.

Businesses in any vertical with heavy data modeling -- pharmaceuticals, complex chemical, seismic modelling and aeronautics -- should immediately dedicate budget and resources to get perspective on qubits and quantum supremacy.

5. Security like IT hasn't seen before

IT security has to go on the IT operations plan target list year after year, because the whole concept of IT security has to change. Microservices-based applications in production cannot be secured in the same way as a monolithic application. Hybrid platforms with a mix of private and public cloud systems give attackers more surfaces.

It is useless to take security approaches based around challenge and response, or focus myopically on the database or application. Instead, emphasize information security and invest IT operating budget in data loss prevention and digital rights management. If possible, consume these technologies as managed services, rather than running them, as this will make life much easier for administrators on staff.

6. Business-savvy IT staff

Are you employed because your knowledge of Python and Chef is fantastic? Probably not. Everyone on the IT operations team is there to keep the business running smoothly on an IT platform that does not constrain what that business needs to do.

IT teams must spend time and money to educate staff members about what the business does, how it operates in its competitive markets, what holds it back and where it intends and needs to go.

Enhanced understanding in these areas makes IT professionals indispensable. The team can respond to requests faster and better thanks to this broader context. Additionally, they can advise on where to make strategic technology platform improvements.

Call it business-IT alignment, BizDevOps or any other name -- this directive is probably one of the cheapest, but most effective items on a future-proofing IT operations plan.

Call it business-IT alignment, BizDevOps or any other name -- this directive is probably one of the cheapest, but most effective items on a future-proofing IT operations plan, and it can make the next budget round easier.

Work to get IT into the position to ask for business investment, rather than pitch line items in areas that the business doesn't understand and, therefore, doesn't want to spend. For example, rather than ask for tools to deploy microservices, pitch that these tool investments will ensure the IT platform supports business needs and aims. Rather than explaining quantum computing to people who don't truly need to know what a server is, ask them to invest in computing that makes the organization more competitive in its markets.

This was last published in November 2018

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