So it’s 2013, which for those of us who grew up reading 2000AD still seems an impossibly futuristic-looking date. And yet most of us are still failing to fly to work in our cars, own holiday homes on the moon, or pop to the shops using our personal jetpacks. Those are all retro-future predictions that have still to see a drawing board, let alone the light of day. But attempting to gaze decades into the future is always going to risk wild inaccuracy, so let’s tune our crystal ball to this very year, and what’s likely to develop in enterprise IT.
Most experts are predicting more of the same for 2013, with an increase in targeted cyber attacks, as opposed to the blunderbuss approach of flinging malware out over the entire internet and seeing where it sticks. We’ve seen state-sponsored attacks in recent years - like the Stuxnet worm, which damaged Iran’s nuclear programme in 2010 - and we’re likely to see more in future. This means that the protection of critical national infrastructure is an increasingly vital task for governments.
Since Anonymous attacked Paypal, Visa and Mastercard in December 2010 in response to the firms’ decision to stop processing payments to whistleblowing website Wikileaks, hacktivism has become a mainstream news story. Although there have been some arrests, most prominently among members of the Anonymous splinter group, Lulzsec, hacktivists have been emboldened by the perceived successes of 2012, which included the high-profile takedowns of websites belonging to the CIA and parts of the UK government.
This year is likely to see more aggressive hacktivism, with prominent government and commercial websites falling victim to DDoS attacks. Governments around the world will be forced to take these threats seriously, and not dismiss them like the senior Cabinet Office spokesperson who recently told Computing that DDoS is “just an inconvenience”.
Hackers will continue to find more ingenious ways to ensure their malware evades detection, and security firms will likewise respond with new tools to combat them. In this game of cat and mouse, the only losers are users, who have to keep forking out for new security solutions.
Finally, with mobile devices becoming increasingly critical to businesses, and with CRM and business intelligence (BI) apps dragging ever more sensitive data onto mobile platforms, malware targeting these devices will increase. Android will continue to be the most vulnerable. Some experts predict that 2013 will see the first global consumer brand go bankrupt as a consequence of a cyber attack.
With cloud beginning to gain traction, and software vendors struggling to accommodate it in their complicated pricing strategies, resource-squeezed enterprise software buyers will find themselves facing larger demands for both software licences and associated support packages. This trend has been gathering pace for a number of years, but will reach a head following swingeing new price increases introduced by Microsoft at the beginning of December.
The price increases for Microsoft's Office 2013 suite are explicitly intended to make its cloud-based service offerings more attractive. The cost of its cloud subscriptions, which had been criticised for being uncompetitive, were cut at the same time as the Office price hike.
But it is not just Microsoft licensing practices that have been criticised, but also those vendors across the board - especially SAP and Oracle. They have responded by paying big for cloud-service providers, but one of the fastest growing, Workday, which was founded by PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield, remains independent.
How organisations react will be key. Already, more and more are resorting to third-party suppliers to provide support - especially for older software, where vendors are keen to push customers into upgrades that customers themselves often see little value in. Third-party support suppliers can cut support costs in half for some software, although merely mentioning their name can help secure big discounts from rapacious vendors, too.
Public-sector IT leaders needed to adapt to a number of changes throughout 2012, with new schemes such as G-Cloud and gov.uk affecting the way Whitehall departments and other public-sector bodies liaise with suppliers and users. This year will see more of the same as the government pushes its Digital by Default strategy.
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