As we launch into 2013, SolarWinds’ has marked their IT and business predictions for the coming year as more evolutionary than revolutionary. For a large number of IT managers and business leaders, the new year will see acceleration in trends that are already influencing their organizations and performance.
The most important of these is the conversion from client-side servers to cloud-based resources and architecture. If IT professionals want to succeed in 2013, they need to develop their skills around the cloud, and use those skills to get the best, most cost-effective IT deployments into different business units. They’ll also play a vital role in monitoring and managing those IT deployments in real time.
As businesses come to rely more and more on software-based architecture, 2013 will also be a year dominated by security, systems monitoring and scalability. IT managers will be the ones responsible for these issues, which is why they have to keep investing in ensuring their skills are up to the task. The four main predictions we have for 2013 are:
Software defines everything
The cloud has pervaded the IT industry to such an extent that we’re all a bit sick of the term. In 2013, we’ll see conversations shift to making IT “software-defined”: that is, computing environments where applications and data are no longer tied to specific physical devices. In other words, we’ll see the actual location of physical systems – such as those of the data centre – becoming less and less important.
This is largely a continuation of what we’ve already seen in the last few years, but it means a significant skills refresh may be in order for many IT professionals – particularly in managing resources remotely and via software interfaces. As “service-based” IT models (like SaaS, IaaS and PaaS) gain in uptake and complexity, IT professionals won’t have as many opportunities to physically access their IT deployments. Knowing how to use software management tools will be a new “core competency” for many in the IT industry and it’s a skill which most should already be focusing on.
Security goes real-time
A malicious intrusion can bring down a business’ reputation and profitability in a matter of minutes. 2013 will see a significant jump in demand for real-time cybersecurity solutions. Instead of relying on highly-specialized analysts, IT managers will be increasingly called upon to rapidly respond to security issues as part of their daily job. For many, the first step will be deploying simple tools which correlate system events and logs to pick up on potential security breaches. SolarWinds itself is focusing on providing more Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) tools which use pre-configured rules to help identify problems, then source solutions from a library of active resources.
However, IT professionals will have to invest in more than new tools to handle security threats in real time. The most successful approach will be that of the “specialized generalist”, who knows how to respond to smaller threats and how to identify (and then refer) those which fall outside their expertise. Building an understanding of the security implications of different deployment scenarios is critical to good application deployment, especially as IT managers deal with increasingly diverse and software-defined operating environments.
We’re already seeing hosted private cloud options appearing from the likes of Rackspace, HP, and IBM, a trend which will only grow in 2013. We’ll also see public and hybrid cloud providers offering more capabilities for IT managers to run security and monitoring applications within their environments, which have been positioned as less secure than private clouds in the past. IT professionals must understand the difference between each type of private, public, and hybrid deployment models if they want to securely deploy their clients’ applications.
Monitoring becomes top priority
As the recent Microsoft and Amazon outages have demonstrated, systems outages can have an equally devastating effect as a malicious assault on an organization. Preventing these outages will become a far higher priority in 2013 than it was this year, and businesses will be focusing on monitoring and management processes to minimize their occurrence. The faster IT professionals can identify and react to outages – potentially even before they occur – the more they can maximize productivity and revenue for the business. Monitoring and management will also be a prime focus for business leaders looking to improve efficiencies – after all, you can’t reduce costs or improve customer service if you don’t have high visibility across the IT processes which your business runs on.
In 2013, IT professionals will deploy a far greater range of network availability and performance monitoring tools than before. Monitoring network traffic, servers and applications will still be a high priority, but tools for IP and patch management will also become increasingly prevalent as businesses look to optimize their non-physical “resources” and keep their systems stable and secure. IT managers will also start factoring in the growing need for remote support and access, working increasingly closely with service providers to get monitoring capabilities into software-defined operating environments.
These environments will also offer new modes of responding to network or server outages – for example, the cloud’s scalability will allow some businesses to rapidly increase capacity at any surge in traffic. The effectiveness of these responses, however, will rely on how skilfully IT managers monitor their systems and understand the signs to watch out for.
Preparing for 2013
Many IT professionals will experience the shift to software-defined IT systems more keenly in 2013 than in the past year or two. To adapt, they’ll have to develop or build on new competencies, ranging from knowing how to manage cloud deployments through a software interface to rapidly responding to outages, intrusion attempts, and other unforeseen events. Deploying the right software tools will also play an important role in management, as will close collaboration with service providers. While 2013 won’t be revolutionary, the most successful IT professionals will be using it to boost their skills with new processes and tools – in other words, evolving their own practices to meet and exceed fundamental business goals.
This article was contributed by Brad Hale, Director of Product Marketing, SolarWinds.