The IT Crystal Ball



By Phil Koster
Senior Cloud Engineer
Trivalent Group, Inc.


The “IT Crystal Ball” is sometimes hard to read.  There are some famous (or infamous) predictions that have been made, such as:

  • “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” Western Union internal memo, 1876
  • “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
  • “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, inventor of Ethernet, 1995

I will do my best to make some predictions below as it pertains to the SMB market and ordered from shorter range to longer range.  So, please bear in mind that my predictions will become less accurate as the business size gets larger.  I am speaking in generalities, and specific situations may be exceptions to the trends I am predicting (plus, I might be wrong).  I make no claim to being a prophet, fortune teller, astrologer, tarot card reader, or any other such person with visions into the future.

1.) The trend of “as-a-service” (aaS) will continue to grow. As vendors find more money and more efficiency in service-based models, installable software will become less available and support for installable versions will increase in cost.  As these “aaS” models continue to prove themselves, new offerings will be made available only as services.  Ask your Trivalent Account Manager or vCIO about services such as Trivalent’s Cloud offerings and Office 365.

2.) The on-premise data center (or server closet) is not going away in large scale yet, but I think we are at the very beginning of the “new age” of living in the cloud. Some SMB’s, especially start-ups, are becoming able to utilize subscription services very heavily and potentially eliminate on-premise servers altogether.  Common roadblocks to this migration away from on-premise services include things like an unbearable migration cost, cost of services (lack of ROI/TCO justifications), lack of trust in certain vendors for various reasons, complex software with large file sizes (e.g. graphic design and 3-D modeling), slow pace of change in government regulations, and the need for in-house-developed software (because the specialized need of the business is not met with any current vendor).

But, as time passes, many of these roadblocks will continue to be mitigated and eventually removed.  I don’t think we have the right combination of industry conditions and services yet to facilitate a widespread exodus away from on-premise data centers or server closets, but I think we are getting close.  If you have not already been seriously talking (hopefully, to your Trivalent Account Manager or vCIO) about ways you could reduce or eliminate your on-premise hardware footprint, you risk falling behind the competition.

3.) In-house-developed or customizable software platforms will see renewed adoption rates. As many large vendors move to only offering subscription-based services, many organizations will deem those solutions as too inflexible, too inconvenient, or too untrustworthy for their business needs.  Since the “big names” will be moving more to subscription-only offerings for their software, SMBs will be forced to change their business practices to conform to the software offering or to move to home-grown solutions or flexible, highly customizable solutions such as FileMaker.

These solutions may come in Platform-as-a-Service subscriptions or as on-premise installed platforms, which, in turn, will increase the demand for software experts in the fields like database administration and design, website administration and design, and expertise in customizable software like FileMaker.  In the SMB space, the effects of this shift this will come in the form of direct hiring of new staff, re-training existing internal IT staff, or hiring consulting firms like CQL (tell them Trivalent sent you!).  One of the areas Trivalent prides itself on is leveraging our partnerships to help you solve your business problems.  Even though Trivalent does not do everything, we have several great local partnerships that we can leverage to bring the best possible solution to you.

4.) Blades will finally begin to make their entrance into the SMB. Although blades have traditionally been aimed at high-density environments, the emergence of specialty and converged platforms such as the Dell VRTX and FX platforms that integrate blades, networking, and storage are coming in at sizes and prices the SMB can utilize.  Despite what I’ve said in my second prediction above, these converged platforms, in combination with subscription services, can sometimes replace the need for a rack-based solution, thus drastically reducing the physical footprint to the point where a dedicated server closet or small data center may no longer be needed (a Dell VRTX on a desk might be sufficient).

5.) Virtual desktops (VDI) and, to a lesser degree, desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) are not going to become mainstream for SMBs anytime soon. To clarify here, I am not referring to special use cases or hybrid environments such as where a “desktop” is offered for users when they are remote in order to replace a VPN.  Rather, I am referring to average, local users that would normally have a PC but instead use a remote desktop for all non-communication, business-related tasks.  I believe the main reason behind this shift toward VDI/DaaS is cost because desktop support takes up a lot of personnel time.

While “renting” servers completely eliminates an organization’s capital costs for servers, with desktops you still need something for the user to access the remote desktop with (usually, a thin client).  It’s no secret that the direct cost savings from using thin clients instead of desktops are often offset on the back-end by the cost of servers, storage, and network infrastructure.  The problem is the average SMB will not see a decrease in administrative burden sufficient to offset the additional (and usually more complicated) server-based software licensing and the more highly trained staff needed to support the virtual desktop environment.

As more business software is offered online, less “power” will be needed in the desktops due to the lack of software running locally.  This means less expensive desktops will be able to run the loads required which will further close the gap in prices between desktops and thin clients.  So, there will be less of a direct cost savings to using thin clients.  There are some notable exceptions to this such as in the medical industry where regulatory concerns can very quickly outweigh the technical costs.