David Fearne, Technical Director at distributor Arrow ECS, looks at how the technology landscape appears in 2017 and believes that in a fast moving market, rapid adoption, voice and security top the list.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How would you characterise the market right now.
David Fearne (DF): Historically, it might take three to four years before businesses would actually embrace brand new technologies from the wild. However, this is changing and can now be as little as months or even weeks. As the competitive edge gets thinner, organisations are always on the lookout for what they can adopt in order to gain an advantage in the marketplace. This is now all about having the fastest, latest, most highly automated and most intelligent technology.
In 2017, the reality is that cutting-edge technology is needed for many aspects of business – not least to enhance the consumer experience and engagement with the brand. However, many businesses aren’t gaining from the differentiation that technology provides because their tech is at least a year old. Companies need to take advantage of these rapid developments and adopt the technology of now. Here lies the opportunity for the channel to take a real thought leadership position within the enterprise. Channel organisations should use their understanding of a customer’s business and help them differentiate from their competitors; whether it’s cognitive computing, artificial intelligence or the latest cloud software.
CBM: So, which technology is growing the fastest?
DF: ‘Hello computer….’ Voice control is nothing new, it’s been a feature in many devices for a number of years. However, it’s also been driving people crazy; ordering the wrong tickets or dialling someone you didn’t want to speak to. We’ve recently seen a few big steps forward in voice recognition technology and software, as well as some very powerful development tools to enable developers to create a voice interface for an application, for free. The biggest leap forward I’ve seen is that the social stigmatism surrounding this form of human-computer interface – especially in public – seems to be going away, and the desire to use voice is increasing.
This leads us to a natural point of innovation for voice interfaces in 2017. With every major platform having a powerful customisable voice interface – either as commodity hardware or software – the ability to start to use it for the enterprise becomes very high. Think of it like this, we don’t naturally communicate ideas using spreadsheets – we talk; so put a voice interface in front of this and ask the office what the sales were like for the last month.
CBM: You say the the enterprise is becoming a Telco. What does that mean?
DF: The promise of the software-defined revolution has been a slow one. The issue, like so many disruptive technologies, has not been the tech itself but more the adoption. None have felt this more than the software-defined network, a technology stuck between an appliance-centric past and a very virtual future. The coming together of these two worlds certainly started in 2016, though we’re predicting a much greater uptake in 2017 along with one of the newest technologies to gain traction, the Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN).
SD-WAN enables organisations to overlay flexible virtual networks over their existing inflexible WANs. This allows two applications operating at distance to share one logical network or provide security through micro-segmentation. This can also be extended to any endpoint or apply network changes based on dynamic policies linked to applications. SD-WAN has no reliance on the underlying network architecture on the whole and can allow for the use of commodity broadband lines or even 4G to provide WAN connectivity.
For me, the biggest draw towards the use of SD-WAN is the huge growth in adoption of SaaS applications. As we see customers wanting to wrap enterprise connectivity around these services, SD-WAN will drive this as a necessary part of an enterprise network architecture.
CBM: You believe that existing security postures are becoming uncomfortable?
DF: We’re moving away from the old security infrastructure as we see the clash of IT versus OT (Operational Technology). We can no longer look at different security technologies in isolation; every time there’s a threat we need to wait for a human to detect that threat, to then be mitigated and a patch to be released. As we introduce more technologies to an infrastructure, the network is massively expanding the attack service and the number of points where it can be compromised. Everything can become an attack vector, which can be hacked to gain access to the hub. This is where using User Behaviour Analytics (UBA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist.
There are many challenges and massive opportunities for the enterprise and channel. I’m looking forward to seeing how well businesses embrace these and what unfolds in 2017.