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The IT Year in Review 2015: Takin’ Care of Business
Ryan Arsenault
DEC 18, 2015 12:54 PM
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The IT Year in Review 2015: Takin’ Care of Business

by Ryan Arsenault         

“Business” was a word that came up quite a bit in the 2015 IT world. There was plenty of unassuming business being taken care of on the Information Technology side, business (sadly) not being taken care of on the IT security side, and a major, earth-shattering business deal primed to shake up the world of IT as we know it.

But before we get into some of these major events encompassing the past year, for the first time in our year-end reviews, we felt it prudent to talk to our expert Aberdeen Group analysts for their own personal reflections on 2015 in IT infrastructure, and IT security, respectively.


Jim Rapoza, Senior Research Analyst, Information Technology, Aberdeen Group:

The biggest IT Infrastructure news of 2015 wasn’t a big new product announcement or technology innovation. There were no groundbreaking smartwatches or software-defined innovations. To me, the biggest technology story of 2015 was the sheer practicality of the year. Elvis Presley would have loved 2015 because it was all about TCB (or Taking Care of Business).

While attending tech shows and talking to vendors and companies, again and again I saw useful and practical implementations of the technologies that we’ve all been talking about the last few years, from software-defined networking (SDN) to the Internet of Things (IoT) to cloud to Big Data. This is actually very good news. While everyone likes splashy new announcements and innovations, it’s the day-to-day stuff that makes business run.


Derek Brink, Vice President, Research Fellow, IT Security, Aberdeen Group:

In the realm of information security, it’s tempting to look back on 2015 and think about the many high-profile data breaches, and the ever-shifting state of play between attackers, defenders, regulators, and consumers. It’s also tempting to remark on the rise of an intelligence-driven, “big data” approach to security, as a complement to traditional, prevention-oriented controls.

But on reflection, my personal takeaway is actually a much greater appreciation for the dimension of time in these matters. For example, we know empirically that attackers are quick to identify and exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to enterprise systems, and quick to begin exfiltrating sensitive data – and that defenders are trying desperately to be faster to detect, respond, and recover. We know that time can be the single biggest driver of business impact, in scenarios involving disruption of services. We know that user behaviors, made in an instant, represent the last, under-funded mile of defense. We know that the incredible rate of change in information technology has led to such complexity in our networks and systems that most organizations lack the capabilities and resources to keep up. And we know that the regulatory and legal responses to these issues are literally years behind.

My point is that time is the thread that ties together everything else you’ll read and hear about threats, vulnerabilities, exploits, and information security technologies. Time is currently working in favor of the attackers – and time is the strategic advantage that the defenders need to regain.


Notable Highlights of 2015 in IT

While Derek and Jim have made more holistic, insightful observations on the nature of IT and IT Security in 2015, there were still nonetheless some notable moments in 2015 we’d be foolish not to touch upon.


EMCell or DellMC

OK, so we’re obviously going with the IT equivalent of celebrity power couple names with the Dell acquisition of EMC (think Kimye or Brangelina). But whatever this IT behemoth’s name ultimately becomes, the new Dell has the klout to do some serious damage within the world of IT.

Dell now becomes the biggest security vendor in the world by acquiring RSA (part of EMC), and becomes a huge player in the virtualization space with the VMware acquisition (80% owned by EMC). Although, as of late, the plot has thickened on the latter’s front, so it’s anyone’s best guess at this point what will become of VMware when — and if — the Dell-EMC deal is finalized.

And that ‘if’ is the biggest asterik hanging over this bold and huge acquisiton — as of press time, the deal has still not been finalized. Dell is reportedly looking to trim down some fat before getting bigger with EMC.


Microsoft: “I’m the King of the World!

If Apple had their time in the sun in 2014, Microsoft had the entire sun to themselves in 2015. The revitalized IT and consumer giant aimed to out-Apple Apple this year, with the introduction of its first-ever laptop, the Surface Book, a laptop that turns the Surface “tablet that you can use as a laptop” around by being a “laptop that you can use as a tablet.”

But it wasn’t just the hardware showdown with Apple that kept Microsoft in the spotlight — software is still the bread-and-butter of MSFT’s business, and the introduction of Windows 10 didn’t disappoint. In fact, Aberdeen’s Jim Rapoza told organizations looking at new systems that “moving to Windows 10 is a no-brainer.”


The Apple Has Fallen Far From the Tree

Let’s be honest here for a moment: For years, when you thought of innovation in hardware, you’d get laughed at if you suggested Microsoft as a pioneer here (and if you owned a Zune, quite frankly, you should be laughed at). Apple has been the “cool kid” in this department for a while now.

So you know we’re in Bizzaro hardware world when Apple is now following Microsoft’s lead with its devices announced in 2015, the iPad Pro and new MacBook, designed to take on the wildly improved recent Surfaces released by Microsoft.

And then there was the Watch. What was much-ballyhooed, ended up becoming a device that didn’t quite live up to expectations. Apple has revolutionized almost every device category that it has decided to play in (see iPod, iPhone, iPad), but the Watch has yet to catch on with anyone other than power users and Apple loyalists, and many complain about abysmal battery life for something that’s supposed to be on your wrist every hour you’re awake. The Watch is also currently being deeply discounted, in anticipation of the new version likely being launched in early 2016.

Count Jim Rapoza as one of those looking forward to what Apple has next with the Watch 2. He already totally burned the Apple Watch earlier in this same article by noting that “there were no groundbreaking smartwatches” in 2015. Ouch. The Apple indeed has fallen far from the tree.


Should Android be the “A” in Google’s Alphabet?

In what was one of the more confusing announcements of 2015, Google announced a new umbrella company called Alphabet, run by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Underneath this umbrella was smart home vendor Nest, life sciences division Calico, the high-speed broadband fiber group, investment divisions, and the Google X extreme labs. And of course Google itself (including Gmail, search, and YouTube). Got that?

However, Aberdeen analyst Jim Rapoza said that with this announcement, Google may have missed a golden opportunity to spin Android off out of Google, as its own company. He argued that as a new company related to, but not controlled by Google, Android could potentially be free to make new and better arrangements that would be in the best interest of Android, and not necessarily Google. Time will tell if this hot take becomes a reality.


The Rise of the IoT…Services

Despite the technology in and of itself still being in its infancy, it didn’t stop vendors from trying their hand at services for Internet of Things devices. In fact, GE announced its IoT-powered cloud earlier in the year, Predix, “the only cloud offering designed specifically for industrial data and analytics across industries like aviation, healthcare, oil & gas, and transportation.”

Additionally, on the IoT services front, security became a focus for the first time — and why not? IoT devices are still riddled with security questions. Dojo Labs announced their first product, a connected device meant to watch over the security of other connected devices. With the introduction of IoT security services, 2015 took steps toward a brand-new era of IT security.


Take Your Data Breach Apologies and…

2015 saw an all-too-familiar (and unfortunate) trend continue in a big way, with several high-profile consumer data breaches including 15 million T-Mobile customers seeing their personal information stolen, and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts just now coming to a resolution with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on a data breach that occurred seven years ago.

Consumers thus didn’t see a whole heck of a lot of improvement in protection of their personal assets by retailers. Rather, they got a whole lot of after-the-fact apologies once again. Derek Brink had a simple solution (a challenge, if you will) for retailers:

“What consumers want — and deserve — is not another two years of free credit monitoring and identity resolution services layered on top of the others that have been provided in the wake of other breaches. Consumers want — and deserve — that the organizations we trust actually invest in what it takes to secure our personal information that they store on their servers.”


What Will the 2016 Year in IT look like?

We’ve given you enough to digest for 2015, so we won’t keep you much longer. Besides, you’ll have even more to digest after that turkey dinner over the holidays. But before we go, we’re still left with some important questions.

Will retailers finally wisen up and invest in what it actually takes to secure personal information on their servers? Will the Dell-EMC megadeal waiting in the wings finally be finalized and bring sweeping changes to IT? Will Apple have a comeback year with a revolutionary Watch 2?

Perhaps the answers to some of these questions will be the centerpiece of our 2016 IT Year in Review. Until then, have a Happy Holidays, everyone. You too, Zune supporters — your favorite company has had the last laugh this year.


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