Tech trends: What to expect in 2017

From AI and machine learning to industry-focused clouds, the latest tech is going to have a profound impact on the network. Here’s a look at what’s ahead, and how to plan accordingly.

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If 2016 was the year of IoT, 2017 is shaping up to be all about AI.

The technology sages focused their predictions for 2016 on the Internet of Things and its interconnectedness. Looking ahead to 2017, they’re fixating on intelligence, as in artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, machine learning and natural language processing.

Let’s peer into the crystal ball to see how AI and other key tech trends could affect enterprise networks and the professionals who manage them in 2017.

Everything gets smarter

“AI and machine learning have reached a critical tipping point and will increasingly augment and extend virtually every technology enabled service, thing or application,” Gartner suggests in its list of top 10 strategic tech trends for 2017.

Gartner says this will play out in scenarios like bank fraud detection, virtual personal assistant apps, conversational chat bots, autonomous vehicles and drones. If you want a number (and what forecaster doesn’t enjoy dabbling in a few stats?), IDC estimates that by 2018, 75 per cent of developer teams will include AI/cognitive computing functionality in one or more applications and services they create.

… and cloudier

Cloud is pretty much ubiquitous by now and, in 2017, it’s going to get both more complicated and more focused. IDC says that rather than just being cloud consumers, businesses of all stripes will become cloud providers by offering their own cloud-based products and services to their customers. At the same time, IDC sees industry-specific clouds forming around verticals like retail and finance.

In his outlook for the coming year, Cisco’s Jeff Reed expects more network security functions to head to the cloud. By adding machine learning (there’s that AI again) to cloud-based security, “we’ll see much better and faster diagnosis and remediation,” predicts Reed, who leads Cisco’s enterprise infrastructure and solutions group.


IDC thinks augmented reality is poised to go social and mobile, particularly on Facebook. IDC sees mobile AR apps blowing past the 400 million mark for monthly users sometime in 2018. Gartner similarly advises enterprises to capitalize on the coming wave by “look(ing) for targeted applications of VR and AR through 2020.”

Let’s get physical

IDC used its 2017 predictions webcast to unveil its fourth platform called augmented reality. This phenomenon will literally mesh IT systems with the human body, from implanted brain chips to skin tattoos that control our mobile devices. Gartner alludes to this in its own trends forecast by suggesting “over time, AR and VR (will) expand beyond visual immersion to include all human senses.” Far out.


Taking advantage of all these trends, of course, requires money and people. According to the global outlook from Spiceworks, however, IT budgets and staffing levels will both stay flat in 2017. Yet another year of doing more with less? Pretty much.

Network impact

These trends are going to put networks through their paces, so admins are planning accordingly. Reed notes more enterprises are embracing network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) to help with provisioning, scale branching, automation and end-to-end programmability.

Looking at AI and automation, both those trends may start to have a profound impact on what IT pros do and the skills they need to have. As Gartner puts it, AI means systems can “learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously rather than simply execute predefined instructions.” Reed predicts that as programmability comes to the network, network admins will start to morph into network programmers.

If IDC’s augmented humanity prediction comes true, will IT need to add biomedical specialists to its teams as well as programmers and developers?

Relax. Since IDC doesn’t foresee augmented humanity reaching early adoption until 2021, you’ve still got a few more years to grapple with that one.

Image: Free Digital Photos

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