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Make this your most modern IT year yet

No one sticks with their New Year's resolution -- where is that gym card anyway? -- but you can pick up seven modern habits and feel good about fit, healthy IT ops.

Industry analysts like to make outlandish predictions at the start of every new year. But since I focus already on predicting the next big thing, I've decided to adopt another New Year's tradition: making resolutions. But I have a problem with that too. I only have a few bad habits and am intent on keeping them.

Instead, I'm going to suggest some resolutions for organizations to adopt modern IT:

  1. Do something predictive with big data. Don't even worry about the big data part if "big" doesn't come naturally to the top of your pile of opportunities. You can always grow into bigger data efforts. But do look for a starter project to leverage the power of prediction. Commit to a project that embeds predictive algorithms or machine learning to get accustomed to what it is, what it can and can't do, and how to approach it profitably. Some areas to consider might be to explore inherent clusters in your customer or client base, to estimate which client or transaction will succeed or fail, or to identify the most likely root causes of support issues.
  2. Reduce opex through hyperconvergence. Converged infrastructure is clearly a natural evolution under the ever-present pressure to reduce total cost of ownership. Hyperconvergence, which offers a single building block of data center infrastructure that bakes in server, storage and networking resources all into one scale-out unit, takes this process to the extreme. While it might not solve every problem, there is no doubt that a large portion of do-it-yourself data center architecture could profitably migrate onto hyperconverged platforms. If you aren't ready to completely convert, at least resolve to evaluate hyperconverged solutions for new projects. And if that is too big a leap, at least deploy some software-defined storage this year to get comfortable with this potential "new order" for modern IT.
  3. Accelerate your infrastructure. Several acceleration technologies, like caching and in-memory processing, can easily drop into an IT environment with little effort, cost or risk. Although downstream users may complain about poor performance, they rarely ask if acceptable service could be accelerated 10x or 100x or more. Resolve to improve on the "satisfactory," not just oiling the squeaky wheels, because acceleration technologies can spur noticeable improvements in quality of service. They can also lead to huge productivity gains for many, if not all, applications, to the point of creating competitive differentiation or even new sources of revenue.
  4. Nudge facilities closer to IT management. If you have a data center, you might have noticed that facilities management is maturing along with IT application and infrastructure management. There are now important crossover points between them that can be exploited to great advantage. For example, learn which applications place the greatest demand on power and cooling, and where and when they are actually physically hosted. Cabling is also evolving into a more modern solution, with software-defined networks controlling full optical switching, and self-aware physical cable connectors dynamically optimized with application-level insight and intelligence.
  5. Learn to love the cloud. This is the year of broader enterprise cloud usage. Instead of requiring deliberate wholesale IT adoption, which has been difficult for a number of reasons, major infrastructure and storage vendors will ship cloud-enabled solutions as simply part of traditional IT resources. You can still ignore those cloud-friendly features for compliance, risk and other business concerns, but not for a technical excuse. Small and medium businesses in particular will exploit the public cloud for backup, archive and disaster recovery as a service in droves in 2015, while enterprises may opt to build out larger private clouds for multiple use cases. If you have been shy about anything cloud, now is the time to stop avoiding it. At the very least, commit to giving your users a good secure cloud-enabled file sharing/sync and collaboration solution and you'll be off on the right foot.
  6. Prepare for the Internet of things (IoT). Imagine a world in which just about everything you touch or interact with includes a sensor gathering analyzable data. Many of these things will also become dynamically controllable, and some key things may come to contain their own driving intelligence. This is a bright future for those of us in IT. In the data center, many things are becoming trackable data sources, including physical infrastructure (like cables), resources (e.g. virtual storage) and you (i.e., your badge). Instead of waiting for the IoT world to come to you, resolve to look at the world differently and try to incorporate some new sources of data that didn't even exist last year. At the same time, begin to formulate policies for what potential new data is fair to collect, analyze and retain (and what isn't).
  7. Learn a new "language." Commit to learning how to walk and talk about a new technical area of expertise or business domain. Whether it's a new programming language (e.g., Ruby, Python or Scala), a paradigm or platform for data analysis (e.g., Hadoop, Spark, Pentaho…) or going deeper into one of your important customer verticals, actively stretch your skills and perspectives. You'll benefit from the cross-fertilization of ideas -- most creative innovation comes from straddling multiple areas of knowledge.

The results of resolutions are somewhat intangible, but think of these goals as part of a proactive, forward-looking strategy. If you want to improve yourself, resolve to improve something from the above list. I'm sure that if you stick with some of these IT resolutions, you'll be better off come 2016.

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