2018 Year in Review and Reflections
As 2018 comes to a close, it’s been an exciting year for the IT world and our customers. Our firm, Vicom, posted its best year in our 37 year history and why is that? What are the firms doing in using IT to make themselves better in using IT to their advantage? Let’s talk about it. As I do each year, (see last year's post here) I’ll go through a list of things we’ve seen with our customers and the market that have been significant. Nothing I will discuss is earth-shattering or revolutionary in what we’ve seen so let’s get to my review, reflections, and sometimes rants, for the things we’ve seen in 2018. Here we go.
IT as Commonplace
What do I mean here? Isn’t IT always commonplace within firms? Well yes, but we’ve seen more firms (particularly small and midsize firms) realize the need to invest in and look at IT as an important and strategic investment versus only a cost center. Enterprises have realized that a long time ago, but it’s small and mid-sized businesses that have woken up to this more and more. Why? Unfortunately, it’s when something happens. Data breach or Ransomware? Need better security. Quick growth and running out of capacity? Need to buy more compute, storage or cloud service. Firms realize that smart, prudent investment in IT is not just something that is necessary, but something that can help their businesses be better— no matter their size. It’s a good thing. This makes firms more apt to invest in the right types of IT and hopefully a bit more proactive in their approach.
Office 365 Continued Adoption
This was on my list from last year and deserves a spot on my list this year. We continue to see significant adoption and growth in enterprise firms with Office 365. I’ve written a few blogs over the years on O365 (see them here, here, here, and here) on how and why firms are using it. But to adopt it’s not as simple as just moving services over from on-prem services to O365–it’s not a light switch thing. There’s a lot of research, planning, and work to be done to get it right. The firms we worked with over the past year (and we’ve done a lot of O365 implementations) need help with architecture, governance and operational guidance—not trivial things—and that’s why they’ve turned to an outside partner. This will continue as O365 is an area that Microsoft has done very well and customers will continue to adopt.
I always like to reinforce us (Vicom) as a great example of O365 adoption: Vicom is a Microsoft Gold partner of 16+ years, but yet we moved our own Microsoft services to O365. So if we did that (and we’ve spent years helping firms with their on-prem Microsoft environments, and continue to do so), then it probably makes sense for others to do so as well. We don’t want to manage those services anymore and most firms we work with feel the same way.
Bad Actors Continue
Security is and will always continue to be an issue with firms, as we all know. There’s rarely a day in the news where you don’t read about some significant IT security issue or data breach. Moreover, those are the ones that you know about that are out in public. There are many others, within large, mid-sized and smaller customers that happen regularly. Because of this, our ProServ managed services division has new offerings around security to help give the peace of mind that small firms need around IT security, similar to the types that enterprises use. This offering is a direct result of the continued rise in IT security issues.
Here’s the thing: firms don’t want to spend money on IT security, but it’s something they have to do. This year we are seeing firms being more proactive and/or preemptive (take your pick) when it comes to IT security. We are pleased to see this willingness in the uptick of IT security spending. This trend will continue. Some are doing it proactively (as I mentioned above), but unfortunately, some are only doing it after they experience a security issue. Good to do it, but better to do it before something bad happens.
Bad actors will always continue to do their thing, and then good actors will leapfrog them, and then the bad will leapfrog the good, and so on—that’s just the reality. Firms need to take IT security seriously because it’s only a matter of time before something happens. Better to be prepared upfront. We see firms getting better at it.
Firms have aggressively adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law in 2018. The point is to help unify how data and privacy are handled and give users a simplified way in how they control access and use of their data. It’s also meant to be a consolidation and unification effort throughout the EU (conceptually similar to how the US has federal privacy laws that supersede states laws) and bring clarity to data protection guidance for firms operating and using data in/out of the EU.
However, here’s what we’ve seen: firms here in the US that might, someday, maybe, who knows, somehow do business with a firm that has even a remote office in the EU, are adopting the tenants of GDPR here in the US. Some are doing it to be prudent (in case they look to do business in the EU in the future, so they are prepared), but many are doing it to make sure they remain in compliance—CYA—and that’s fine.
That’s why you’ve gotten all of those emails and notices from places you previously opted in asking you to do it again. It left many people who weren’t sure what it was all about wondering why. GDPR is why. While it might not directly affect everyone here in the US, firms in the US are adopting the standards of GDPR just in case.
It’s is a good thing. Protecting your data and giving you better control is a smart and logical thing to do.
Flash Only Storage Adoption
Even with all of the cloud services available that allow for the replacement of on-prem storage, we see firms still aggressively investing in storage—but flash storage. There is also a whole new set of flash-based storage solutions organization are adopting. For general purpose storage needs, for niche based such as archival, or secondary storage, firms are buying a lot of it. It will continue, even with cloud-first adoption strategies adoption—see my next bullet. The two can seem a bit contradictory, but both are growing and will continue to grow.
Firms need the performance, speed, and agility that flash storage provides for their most demanding applications. That performance can be a differentiator for them in the market. We’ve seen a big uptick in flash-based storage sales and a steady decline in spinning disk storage, which is a fascinating dynamic. Expect this to continue.
Cloud First Strategies for Firms
While cloud continues to grow, many firms initially adopted it for specific workloads, or for particular areas that needed to be more agile and couldn’t be bogged down by organizational bureaucracy—and this what created shadow IT. But now we see much more of a cloud-first strategy when it comes to environments, applications, and workloads and it’s a good move. I likened this to when server virtualization became mainstream. Many firms were dabbling with VM’s at first, but at some point, it became mainstream. This was when firms dictated that all new workloads would be virtualized—a VM first strategy—and it took root.
I believe this is what we see now with cloud. All things that can be cloud are put there, while other workloads/apps that don’t belong in cloud are not. Also, if you want a workload/application that should be in the cloud, but don’t want in it in the cloud, you have to go through a solid justification as to why—and it can’t be because you don’t want it there. More and more we see firms adopt a cloud-first strategy and firms will continue to need guidance on the best ways to move and use the cloud for their specific applications and workloads. This is where your trusted IT solution and services providers can help.
Hyperconverged Awareness and Adoption
HCI is one of those things that I believe is a no-brainer and am wondering why it hasn’t been more prominent up to now. Hyperconverged makes sense for specific workloads and applications (see my post from 5/31/18 “Why Hyperconverged Infrastructure”) but has seen much slower adoption than I expected.
I think many firms have looked at HCI as an either/or thing—to do full distributed infrastructure or hyperconverged, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We see lots of firms now using HCI in specific areas and for particular applications, such as VDI and ROBO’s—all good fits for HCI. What’s exciting is seeing more firms showing interest in HCI. Firms are more aware of it, evaluating it, and therefore adopt it. I think a lot of this interest and awareness is also due to significant new takes and uses for HCI, such as firms like Cohesity doing HCSS (Hyperconverged Secondary Storage) and industry leaders such as Nutanix. This brings HCI to a new level, and people are starting to take notice. We saw much movement on this this year and, no doubt, it will continue.
Those are some of the things we’ve seen throughout 2018 that we’ve found noticeable and significant. It by no means an exhaustive list but these are the items I wanted to discuss.
It’s been an excellent year for the IT world, our customers and our firm. Our customers have been much more aggressive in their adoption of the technologies, solutions, and services that they need and in demanding value from those solutions. You know what? It’s a very good thing.
So where does that leave us? Did you get done all you needed to accomplish from an IT perspective in 2018? If not are you prepared for what 2019 will bring? I look forward to 2019 and it what it brings for all of us as I know it will be another great year, as it always is in IT. Challenging, dynamic, crazy, but great nonetheless.
I look forward to writing my 2019 blog on what was significant next December. I wonder if there will be any surprises, but we’ll have to see.
See you all in 2019 and, as always, I like to close each year wishing you IT and overall success.