By: Dave Dyson, Chief Communication Strategist
Happy New Year! As we enter a new decade, let’s take a look ahead to what telecom and technology have in store for us this year.
I will elaborate on each point and summarize with a TL;DR-style key takeaway for each in the following fashion:
There is lots of stuff happening in technology, AI, Bots, Cloud, 5G, jargon, buzzword, buzzword, etc.
Key Takeaway: Technology changes fast, Eclipse helps you stay a step ahead.
As always, these predictions are the sole opinion of NostraDaveus and I reserve the right to be completely wrong, and you will most certainly have a hard time getting me to admit it.
Wait, what’s that you say? Something seemed very wrong about the year 2019 and you can’t quite put your finger on it? I may have accidentally missed the deadline to get this post out last year, so there are no 2019 predictions to look back on. Luckily, nothing happened last year so we can all move forward into a great new decade!
I see, you’re one of those people who needs to feel smug about other people being wrong, and you want me to go all the way back to January 2018 to see how I did. I’m OK with that, I am willing to hold myself accountable to my “60% of the time, I’m right every time” guarantee. Just remember these are old predictions, and with enough time, everything old becomes new again. I’m really happy I held onto my skinny ties and colored denim from the 80’s.
For those of you who want to see it, here’s a recap of 2018, feel free to skip ahead to the 2020 predictions if you’re the sort of bold business leader who seeks to grab the new decade by the horns and ride into the future.
2018 Predictions in review
1. NFV is going to arrive on the scene in a big way (2017 double down)
Grade – Right enough that I am not going to predict it again.
I predicted that network function virtualization would accelerate and it has with more and more traditional hardware-based services becoming cloud-based “as a service” with software functions and network appliances continuing to add in additional functionality around security, WAN optimization, and cloud enablement. Where I missed the mark was thinking that this would be led by AT&T and Verizon delivering viable and robust universal CPE. That has been slow to take off and technical challenges to getting several applications working together in a large scale network environment have proven to be a challenge. (Weird, those guys are usually really nimble and quick to execute.)
2. The Thingification of Everything
Grade – So right that I am actively working on my plan to destroy Skynet.
Estimates at the end of 2019 say there are now 26-30 billion connected devices worldwide with that number set to double in the next two years. While it’s easy to joke about the utility and necessity of an Alexa-enabled water faucet or having a fridge that is keeping track of what you eat and drink, 2019 is the year that proved we have opened Pandora’s box. Security and privacy have taken a back seat to innovation and monetization of your movement, habits, and digital attention. Mountains of data are being created about us and our digital footprint is being sold to the highest bidder. What good is it to have your TV spying on you if it isn’t going to tell you to get off the couch and take a walk after a 12-hour Netflix binge watch?
3. The loss of Net Neutrality starts to cause trouble in the enterprise
Grade -Mostly wrong, for now, but holding my conviction here.
There have been inklings of preferential fast lanes to enterprise clouds and applications, and mobile operators and telcos have actively begun to throttle traffic on the consumer side. My sense is that as networks and the providers who sell them get smarter, they will use tools like AI to advantage those who can pay for it. In a world where data is the most valuable commodity there is, people will be willing to pay for the fastest access to it and providers will be more than willing to make money off of it.
4. The promise of 5G continues to sadly be just a promise
I didn’t want to be right, but here we are.
I still believe 5G will be a transformational technology on par with the internet, but the reality is, while we wait for a couple of big spectrum holders to build out the infrastructure, much of the promise and innovation that will come remains on the horizon (think internet in the dial-up days vs. streaming real-time). I would love to see some government investment in a private-public partnership to speed up the deployment and make sure areas of minimal profit to wireless providers (like rural and inner-city) are getting the connections they need to part of this revolution in connectivity, autonomous transportation, and information sharing. In the meantime, we will have lots of marketing and commercials talking about how awesome 5G is in all of the places where you don’t live, so at least there’s that.
5. Hyperscaler Hangover kicks in
Grade- Mostly Right, but Jeff Bezos Still has all of the Money
I have recently been saying that I don’t know who wrote the memo that colocation was sexy again, but in the enterprise, it absolutely is. Turns out it was me who wrote the memo in my January 2018 predictions. I really need to make sure I don’t wait two years before looking back on these! Of course, AWS is still a dominant force and Microsoft Azure has exploded with people looking for AWS alternatives, with Google GCP is coming on strong as well. However, people are rethinking the everything-to-cloud strategies of a couple of years ago and being thoughtful with a hybrid mix of near-to-the-user data centers, hyperscalers, and, yes, even some local premise applications where it still makes sense.
Just as I hoped, the 2018 predictions aged like a case of fine wine where a mere bottle or two turn to vinegar and now we can look forward to 2020!
1. UCaaS Continues to Explode & An Industry Leader Gets Acquired
There is no doubt that the rapid expansion of this space will continue unabated in the new decade. Avaya essentially waving the surrender flag by partnering with Ring Central to be their cloud backbone marks the final nail in the coffin of the premise PBX era. The multi-channel toolkit, resiliency, and constant innovation of UCaaS are being embraced by companies large and small and cost models have rationalized to a point where the largest enterprises can now consider these technologies. It’s not a bold prediction to say that this space will grow in 2020, but it is to say that one of the major leaders in the space will be purchased by either a large telco, a cableco, or an internet powerhouse (Think Google, Facebook, or Amazon. (My money is on Microsoft).
Key Takeaway: UCaaS dominance accelerates, and one of the big names gets acquired.
2. Edge Moves to the Forefront
Edge computing is about to have the start of its moment. The smartest people in networking and data have been working on it for years and it is going to enter the public consciousness this year. As 5G rollouts progress (not as quickly as I would like, see above), edge computing will start to become prevalent. The future of autonomous transportation, smart cities, and augmented reality will rely on compute power living close to the data and the user. Edge computing is the key that will help unlock this future and a tidal wave of innovation we can’t yet imagine.
Key Takeaway: Get ready to explain edge computing to friends and family the way you did for cloud when it started showing up in TV commercials.
3. The Experience Economy Invades IT
This is the year the paradigm shifts for IT teams and those of us who help them deliver technology solutions to their businesses. Technology no longer exists for tech’s sake, it must be an engine to drive revenue and customer satisfaction. IT staffs must partner with the business to provide great customer experience via technology. We tell Eclipse clients that their competitors are not who they traditionally were; it is the companies in all industries who are providing great omni-channel customer experiences that make it easy to do business with them. Technology tools must remove friction from the buying and customer service experience, it’s what customers expect and will soon demand. Data from every sale, web visit, and customer inquiry needs to be used to find the actionable needles in the haystack that drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction.
Key Takeaway: IT will need to reinvent itself as internal technology consultants and innovators that help implement technology to deliver business value and improve customer experience.
4. And, by the way, Employee Engagement will become key as well
The new charge for IT is simple: Give every employee every application and technology they want, make sure it works with every other application and technology in the business, is always available, incredibly easy to use and keeps all of the company data completely secure. So simple, it’s a wonder everyone doesn’t want to work in technology! Today, every company is a technology company. New technology initiatives are no longer if or when, but how soon. How do we engage and inform all employees, including non-knowledge workers? How do we give millennials and Gen Z the tools they want and need to be effective in their jobs and feel satisfied? How do we use tech to improve the power of interpersonal communication within the company? Enlightened companies will start using technology to attract and retain the next generation of talent.
Key Takeaway: Technology should be easy to use and make people better at their job. What is this world coming to?
5. SD-WAN Roars and a Few Players Separate from the Pack
Similar to UCaaS, we have been watching SD-WAN from its infancy, through the early growing pains, to its arrival as a dominant networking technology. As legacy MPLS and VPN contract cycles end, many enterprise networks will convert to SD-WAN technology. Much like UCaaS, many providers entered the fray of a fast-growing market, and like UCaaS a couple will pull ahead and start to become the big names in the space. If there is one major difference from UCaaS, it’s that many of the vendors who had early success sold out quickly rather than go the IPO or long-term private equity-backed route. As a result, those who pull away seem likely to be the very large companies that acquired good platforms early and have the sales and marketing heft to propel them forward (VM Ware/ Velocloud, Cisco/ Viptela, Oracle/ Talari). Though, I hope that of those who have chosen to stay relatively independent for now one or two rises to the top of the heap as well, there seems to be plenty of space for that to occur. One thing is certain SD-WAN is here to stay and poised to grow exponentially, even as it continues its rapid evolution
Key Takeaway: SD-WAN starts its domination of the new decade and a few providers start to stand out from the pack.
Thanks for taking the time, I would love to hear what you think is coming in the year ahead. Throw your own prediction into the comments section of this article if you have one.
To a successful, healthy, and love-filled new decade!