Software is quickly evolving to deliver just-in-time services with frequent updates. Our mobile devices get updates to the OS and applications almost every single day, which is seamless to the users.

Everything from our phones to our computers, thermostats, cars, servers and SaaS apps have all adopted this method to constantly keep software up-to-date. This constant update model allows vendors to quickly release fixes and deliver new functionality.

Software is what drives innovation and allows changes to happen much faster than in the past. In the coming year, there will be some areas to watch as they grow in adoption and allow the delivery of services even faster. These trends have something in common — the cloud — which is the platform that makes these services possible and will continue to grow.

Here are the four biggest trends I see for 2017.

1. Security from the Cloud

One of the biggest challenges with ensuring that your data and users are kept secure is knowing what to look for. Threats are constantly evolving; attackers take advantage of exploits before the security vendors are able to release updated definitions or tools. Many of today’s successful attacks are very complex, using a combination of methods in order to gain entry. Once in the network, the attacker takes their time looking for vulnerabilities and sensitive information.
The best method to combat these threats is to gather information from numerous sources including audit logs, network traffic, authentication requests, application tracking, etc.

All of this data, when combined and analyzed, provides a landscape view of possible threats and unusual behavior. The tools available today are unable to process the massive amounts of data required to identify threat patterns and look for anomalies.

The only way to effectively process this amount of data in a timely manner (allowing it to be acted upon), would be to use a cloud platform. Cloud platforms have the ability to scale resources as needed to consume, process, analyze and report on potential security threats. The cloud also has many other services that most people are unable to afford nor maintain, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data warehousing and behavioral detection.

Many cloud platforms provide these services at an affordable cost. In addition, many security services are already available which are easy to consume, such as Azure Security Center, Advanced Threat Protection and Information Protection.

2. Containers Will Matter

Containers will be huge; they are already growing rapidly and show no end in sight. A container is a way to package up an application and all of its dependencies in one…well, container. Containers are like virtual machines, but for an application. This package is portable and doesn’t rely on other files, registries, data or executables to operate. You can move a container from one server to another with little to no interruption of service.

They can autoscale; as demand increases just add more containers. There are several standard container formats available with Docker being one of the most popular. Docker containers can run in the cloud on Azure or on-premises with Windows Server 2016.

3. Bots – Artificial Intelligence

Accessing the right information has gotten more difficult, even though devices and internet access are almost everywhere. Tapping into the endless services and data is not a matter of what but how. People still prefer calling a number to talk with a real person that can understand their needs and get them to the right place quickly. Bots offer the opportunity to be that interface, a means to connect people with the right services and information quickly and easily using natural language they understand.

Bots are becoming integrated into some of the most common collaborative tools — Twitter, Skype, Slack, Messenger and Kik — just to name a few. These are services that most users are familiar with and use almost daily. Imagine ordering a pizza using Skype chat, using natural language, without having to use a web form or specialized application? It is almost like talking to someone on the phone, but in this case it is a virtual customer service assistant.

Bots are very intelligent — they learn using artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive services and access to enormous amounts of data. They can adapt and understand requests and responses from many languages and formats. Currently, bots are very specialized and usually focused on specific tasks, though this could change quickly as bots gain the ability to interact with other bots, leveraging services or information from multiple sources.

4. Going Data Center-Less

The data center is shrinking. There is less of a need to buy lots of hardware when more applications are being delivered from the cloud. When a SaaS app is deployed, there is usually a large number of servers that are no longer required on-premises. All those servers, storage, networking, cooling and racks are no longer needed — a huge savings of cost and space. This trend is continuing with other applications and servers, moving them to the cloud to save on the capital and operating costs of operating a data center.

The data center-less trend is gaining momentum, especially for organizations that are highly mobile, growing very fast, or those that just don’t have the space or facilities to host a data center. Cloud services have evolved to the point that very few, if any, servers are required to manage the IT needs of an organization. Servers or IaaS are needed to run applications and legacy services such as DNS, authentication, proprietary applications, etc. As more services are added to Azure and other cloud providers, the need to deploy an actual server is becoming unnecessary. This further reduces the costs by removing the need to purchase software to operate the server, including the operating system, monitoring and management tools, and security.

Read a case study on how CDW helped an organization deploy its private cloud.