Emerging Technology (Enhancing, Engaging, Connecting)

What to Watch in IT

Technology trends and predictions are abundant, but a smaller number represent thoughtful analysis. Here are five trends likely to represent substantial changes for our institutions in 2016 and beyond.

Software-Defined, Adaptive Security

Recent major security breaches have made it clear that traditional methods of protecting information assets are no longer effective in preventing advanced attacks. Many networking and security companies, as well as industry analysts (including Gartner), are pushing an emerging generation of security measures that are not based primarily on physical devices. Rather, the new architecture is software-based and can be deployed rapidly and updated in seconds based on developing threats.

Another aspect of the emerging architectures is that they are adaptive, monitoring the environment and learning from it, so that suspected anomalies can be identified and responded to faster. These new systems utilize machine intelligence to identify behaviors that do not align with those that are predicted, so that rapid alert and interdiction can occur without human intervention.

A related development involves the sharing of threat data in real time across organizations in the public and private sectors. The new machine-learning cybersecurity systems are being linked into global networks, creating a much stronger force for good.

The Cloud Is the New Normal

The cloud has evolved
technologically, commercially and in acceptance. Fears over security have largely proven unfounded, particularly when compared to breaches in traditional, premise-based systems.

The cloud has become the new normal. IDC recently predicted that by 2018, half of IT spending will be spent on cloud-based systems and services. For higher education, moving systems to cloud-based services will mean three things: more rapid deployment, lower deployment costs and realignment in technology spending from CapEx to OpEx. In the end, however, selecting an effective and high-value cloud provider will translate to technologies that are consistently more up-do-date, as well as more cost effective in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO).

Windows 10 (Microsoft is Back)

No, Windows 10 hasn’t seen a tsunami of adoption yet. But as companies and consumers evaluate other options, staying with Windows will likely prove favorable. This also means that Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint and other backend products will likely expand.

In Windows 10, Microsoft is also getting closer to a viable cross-platform OS. I use an Android smartphone and tablet; my wife a Windows PC and iPad. For anything beyond Amazon or Audible, information sharing devolves to the lowest common denominator of email. In 2016, that’s a pathetic reality. While standardizing on a single OS across all devices causes me some concern, the concern pales in comparison to the problems of playing “Where’s Waldo?” with my information and digital media.

If Microsoft elevates its game with regard a cross-platform OS and integration with its OneDrive cloud strategy, then Windows 10 will likely move beyond an operational development and represent a differentiator and competitive advantage over commodity cloud services such as Google and Amazon.

Next-Generation Administrative Systems

Most student, financial, human resource and similar systems have been around and evolving for years, though I would argue painfully slowly. New generation systems like Workday are beginning to appear that do not represent slow evolutionary change based on previous increments, but rather sudden quantum leaps over competitors. I suspect we will see more of this soon, which will substantially change the landscape for administrative systems in higher education — and in very positive ways.

Sensors Everywhere (and Producing Mountains of Data)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting enormous buzz, but some of that is deserved. Essentially, the IoT means processors, chips and sensors are showing up in every part of our daily lives, and are connected together on the Internet. Most importantly, they are producing mountains of data that are being mined to track and predict our every action and decision. This is a commercial coup, but may also represent a troubling intrusion and loss of privacy.

It is predicted that by 2018 there may be 22 billion IoT devices. For higher education, students have long been a tremendous population of highly desired consumers. There is little doubt that the IoT will require significant thought concerning ethical questions, commercial ventures and policy development.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

David W. Dodd is vice president of Information Technology and CIO at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He can be reached at 201/216-5491 or david.dodd@stevens.edu.

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