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Emerging Tech: Reducing Complexity Is 'Fundamental' For Solution Providers

Forrester Research Vice President Glenn O'Donnell told XChange 2018 attendees that the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and zero-trust security technologies continue to provide major opportunities for growth.

Whether it's emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, zero-trust security or even blockchain, the job of solution providers is the same: to "hide the complexity" from end customers, according to Glenn O'Donnell, vice president and research director at Forrester Research.

Speaking to a packed session at XChange 2018, O'Donnell offered his views on how far along a variety of emerging technologies have come—and where some of the hottest opportunities are for solution providers.

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But the unifying factor in all areas is that solution providers can add the most value by assembling, and ultimately simplifying, the cutting-edge technologies that customers are asking for, he said.

"Your fundamental responsibility is to simplify the technology—hide the complexity from them," O'Donnell told solution providers at XChange 2018, being held this week in San Antonio and hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company. "If you can help hide the complexity, people will beat a path to your door because that's the hardest part about technology."

Some of those technologies that offer tremendous opportunity, but also major complexity, include IoT and AI, he said.

The deployment of IoT has "slowed" to some degree as a result of the massive learning curve that the industry has been facing with the wiring of "billions and trillions" of devices together, O'Donnell said.

"I really believe that nothing is going to transform the world like IoT," he said, but added that IoT is "very much a vertical play," while many vendors have been attempting to attack the market horizontally.

Companies that are building vertically focused IoT systems, such as systems focused on health care or retail, will be the biggest winners in the market, O'Donnell said.

AI, meanwhile, offers enormous opportunities, particularly when it comes to the ability of machine-learning technologies to sift through data and extract insights, he said.

"We're swimming in data. Big deal. It doesn't mean anything until you apply the context," O'Donnell said.

Technologies such as machine learning are giving businesses "the ability to find a needle in a haystack, in an automated way," he said.

In the ever-crucial area of security, zero-trust security holds a lot of promise, O'Donnell said.

"We always build bigger walls," he said, but that approach is no longer effective.

Zero-trust security brings a "microsegmentation" approach to "build a tiny little wall around every little piece of data," O'Donnell said. "You can't get there if you don't have the keys to get there."

As for blockchain, it’s “the hottest thing in the world right now," he said, but it's much more nascent.

"Blockchain is clearly something that is going to be transformative," O'Donnell said, "if we can ever figure out how to do it, and what to use it for."

David Cox, director of operations at G6 Communications, a Bluffton, Indiana-based solution provider, said that his biggest takeaway from O'Donnell's talk was that "it's our job to master the complexity."

"As much emerging technology is out there, there's always more right around the corner," Cox said. "It's up to us to figure it out and be able to translate that to our clients. That's the biggest challenge."

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