10 Technologies CIOs Will Be Buzzing About In 2014

It's the start of a new year and a number of technology trends will continue to blossom and flourish in 2014. Keeping an eye on trends will ultimately help VARs to modify and improve their sales, marketing strategies and focus.

Cloud and managed services provider Logicalis has conducted its fifth annual study on the top 10 tech trends to watch. According to Lisa Dreher, vice president of marketing and business development of the New York-based company, the data was compiled by looking at various social media conversations from CIOs, CTOs, IT analysts and reporters.

CRN spoke to various VARs, specializing in different industries, to find out why they think each trend is hot for 2014. So turn the page to find out what they had to say.

According to Ian Keininger, CEO of Chicago-based Avant Communications, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is the natural progression of the software-defined data center. Currently, the cloud and connectivity-focused services provider is enabling clients to pay for only the resources they use, said Keininger.

"With Infrastructure-as-a-Service, the provider is responsible for the maintenance of the environment: the power, cooling, hardware, network, etc. This allows IT to focus on driving meaningful projects for business, instead of chasing the red blinking lights in the data center, or worrying about hardware obsolescence," said Keininger. "IaaS providers continue to improve their offerings, and in the future we will see more trust and acceptance, just as we saw with server virtualization."

Hybrid cloud conveys "the best of both worlds" by providing the security and function of private clouds, and the flexibility and scalability of public clouds, said Keininger.

"One of cloud’s biggest advantages [in a hybrid environment] is the ability to dedicate resources for relatively static workloads and 'burst' into shared resources as needed," said Keininger. "The potential to provision and manage all of a company’s IT resources -- whether on-premises or in providers' public or private clouds -- from one single console, and migrate workloads between them at will, is the future of IT."

Advanced Infrastructure is an area of interest rather than a "hot" trend for 2014, said Kieninger.

"Advanced Infrastructure, as I understand it, is a means to better plan, build, support and manage infrastructure, leveraging IT to do so," said Kieninger. "I think every company has some interest in this, but it appeals most to larger companies looking to increase their bottom line through more efficiently managing operations."

On the other hand, Advanced Infrastructure is seen as a forward and futuristic technology, said Lisa Dreher, vice president of marketing and development at Logicalis.

"There is a lot of discussion in the marketplace about 3-D printing and some of the applications that will be impacted and make things possible like never before," said Dreher. "This is probably early in that curve, but I think that it's focused, it's a priority to understanding what is important to your customers. I think that IT transformation and optimization are two key themes: how do we transform the way we are delivering IT and how do we optimize that, not only optimize the environment, but the experience."

Brian Dagan, senior systems support engineer of Connected WorkPlace Solutions (CWPS), said that there is power in Mobility as executives and employees continue to bring their own devices.

"From our perspective, the SMB market is very much looking at mobile BYOD as the buzzword of the year, and there is a lot of interest in that area," said Dagan. "Part of it is the 'cool' factor that you can wirelessly take a presentation and throw it on a projector. Another part of it is that it is distributed more as the means to work where you need to work, wherever."

For VARs focused on Mobility for 2014, the sandbox approach to BYOD is the correct solution as opposed to the device management approach, said Dagan.

"I would say to VARs, 'Evaluate the solutions that are out there as humanely as possible, settle on one, and make sure your folks want to adopt it.' Once they are happy and have the 'gee-wiz' factors, they can turn around and sell this processing power."

Don Fergus, CTO of Frederick, Md.-based Patriot Technologies, said that VARs must establish privacy and security as data will continue to be generated.

"Basically, in times of economic ups or downs, security has to be on top. The whole notion of guaranteed security is a falsehood [because] there is no such thing as no risk or zero risk. It always exists," said Fergus. "Security has got to be considered at the designing stage, not at the implementing stage."

More importantly, a strong level of trust must be implemented whether it has to deal with intellectual property, financial or privacy health information, said Fergus.

"Trust must be established whether it's a commercial organization or public sector. We have to make sure that it's all about the data and how it's got to be secured," said Fergus. "Especially as we start embracing things like IoT [Internet of Things] and putting more network intelligence out to the end points, we're generating more and more data and it can impact privacy. Obviously, we have to ensure a level of trust whoever the provider is, whoever is manipulating, storing, transmitting that information, that the information won't be abused or used for any malicious purpose."

According to Logicalis, enterprise organizations are questioning whether to choose between capital expenditure or operational expenditure. The As-a-Service concept will continue to grow as business clients expect immediate results with technology, said Logicalis' Dreher.

"There is a lot of desire to move to a cost basis that is predictable and to pay for things when you need it, of what you need," said Dreher. "There is a need for that positive end-user experience as users are expecting for instantaneous results from applications, quickly and efficiently. Because of that demand, organizations want As-a-Service models, and software providers are being pushed and pulled to offer their applications as a service to the end-user community."

Darren Basch, director of sales and marketing at machine-to-machine (M2M) systems integrator DH Wireless, a Battle Creek, Mich.-based company, believes the future is here with the Internet of Things (IoT).

"[IoT is] very hot right now and will continue to get hotter. We have just seen the parallel of machine-to-machine; it's all about getting information immediately and being able to access, relay and make smart, strategy-based decisions," said Basch. "[IoT] gives immediate gratification, peace of mind, and the solutions based on this current data are good for the average consumer to be connected, be in the know, save time and plan strategies based on current information, and that’s huge."

For VARs interested in this area, the most important thing is to focus on educating customers, said Basch.

"There are a lot of people out there [that] know about M2M and IoT, but they are not sure exactly how to do it," said Basch. "They need to know what is available to implement them, how it makes their lives easier and, of course, how it saves money."

As the health-care arena is constantly changing with new rules and regulations, Health-care IT is a big area of interest for 2014, said Bill Monachino, president of Indianapolis-based MMY Consulting, a health-care, public sector and cloud IT-focused company.

"There is no doubt that Healthcare IT is a hot area and there are a number of mandated changes -- in addition to [being] just a much more competitive business -- that are driving changes within health care," said Monachino. "Because health care is behind in other industries in leveraging IT to help improve business, it's important they are able to effectively implement it. It will improve outcomes, patient health, reduce adverse events and readmittance issues, and have that value proposition because it can impact and greatly improve business."

While international hospitals are presently ICD-10 compliant, the U.S. is focusing on moving from ICD-9 to becoming ICD-10 compliant by October 2014, mandated by the government, said Monachino.

"We are also the only country that uses it for billing purposes, so if a hospital incorrectly codes it they won't be reimbursed, or it could be rejected. It’s a huge impact to cash flow, so the ICD-10 mandates by October are creating tons of work."

Organizations will continue to find the real value behind Big Data, especially in foreseeing trends and reacting to change, said Logicalis' Dreher.

"There are a lot of things that aren’t surprising and this is one of them," said Dreher. "The whole idea is that there is so much structure and unstructured data, and both can be beneficial. Obviously, when you're looking at enterprises, there is an enormous amount of data they collect, and they are not using that data to make smart business decisions. Now they have the means to do it cost-effectively more so than in the past, and quickly too."

Top of mind for many CIOs in 2014 will be fear of losing control over the technology decisions made within their organizations, according to Logicalis. As line-of-business mangers, sales and marketing departments continue to make an increasing number of tech decisions for themselves, it becomes more difficult for CIOs to maintain and implement their overall vision. Cloud computing and BYOD have altered the function of technology for businesses, making it even easier for employees to push tech agendas of their own within the organization.

"With all the changes occurring and opportunities that come from new ways of delivering technology, it's really shifting the way it is delivered," said Dreher. "A lot of solutions like cloud that are in the marketplace have been around for a while, and people are becoming more comfortable in leveraging those technologies. There is a push and pull happening, where the push is happening from the users themselves."