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The real and virtual worlds are integrating at a steadily increased pace, the Internet of Things is pushing the evolutionary journey towards the fourth industrial revolution with various far-reaching consequences.

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Opinion piece: 2018 – the year that the Cloud comes into its own

By Nick Wonfor, Enterprise Account Manager at Commvault South Africa

While organisations have been slowly migrating more and more of their ICT assets to Cloud architectures over recent years, in 2018 we’ll start to truly see the fruits of all this labour. Cloud-based data management enables us to quickly embrace new data science tools and competencies – powering innovation, expansion and transformation strategies.

As we realise that the thorniest business challenges can only be solved by the likes of machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), deep learning and cognitive computing, the advantages of a Cloud-first data strategy become clear.

This year, we’ll see the Cloud positioned at the centre of business activity, thrust into the limelight by a number of key trends…

GDPR and POPI hit home

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect in May, as well as South Africa’s incoming Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI), will force South African businesses to more seriously consider how they store, process and use data.

Complying with POPI (as well as GDPR) mandates that companies process data in a fair and secure manner, ensure the integrity and accuracy of personal data, and take strong measures to protect data against theft or leaks.

In terms of GDPR specifically in 2018, expect at least one high-profile global company to experience a breach of data and fall foul of this regulation. Coordinated action by ‘GDPR activists’ and a swell of activity by individuals looking to exercise their rights, will place pressure on EU member states to meter out punishment to firms contravening GDPR.

Blockchain-fuelled business transformation

The increasing ubiquity of Cloud-based architectures will enable businesses to capture new opportunities in the arena of distributed ledgers – as the blockchain matures from a being merely a digital currency infrastructure, into a platform for digital transformation.

The blockchain hype may have begun in Financial Services, but in 2018 we’ll see organisations in all sectors apply the blockchain to simplify value chains and logistics, verify information, form smart contracts, and create entirely new digital services to their users.

IoT everywhere

Cloud-based and real-time data analytics will also propel the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution forward, as we start to consider the myriad ways in which we can interact intelligently with various devices on a network.

For businesses creating physical consumer goods, 2018 will be a year of embedding smart sensor technology into products, to analyse consumer usage patterns, likes and dislikes, and continually refine products to ensure their best suited to consumers’ needs. Getting this right will require organisations to scale out their Cloud capacities to handle the influx of data.

The rise of 5G

We’re currently standing on the cusp of the 5th major iteration of global networking infrastructure and standards, as businesses and individuals gear up for the release of 5G networks within the next couple of years – promising speeds hundreds of times faster than 4G.

Visionary services like connected cars and smart cities will certainly require powerful Cloud platforms that can handle vast amounts of data. But it’s in the data-crunching tools atop the Cloud platform that 5G will really come into its own: delivering high-velocity data transfer from the edge of a network at absolutely lightning speed.

New, immersive realities

Our world is increasingly digital, but the way that we interact with this world is set to change radically over the coming years. Perhaps one of the most life-changing events of the Cloud Computing era will be the rise of virtual and augmented reality.

In 2018 we can expect to see businesses considering practical ways in which staff can become more productive and creative, through Augmented Reality-powered design, training and visualisation processes. New customer services on high-end smartphones and specialised VR headsets will spring up in 2018, as consumers start to see the possibilities of an immersive digital realm.

The scene of the ‘cyber arms race’

The Cloud will also become the battlefield in which the ongoing ‘cyber arms race’ will continue to play out – as businesses and security vendors turn to AI to bolster defences against the relentless attacks of cyber-criminals.

With security so top-of-mind, 2018 may also be the year in which the currency of ‘trust’ becomes more valuable than any other brand attribute. In an increasingly cynical society, brands than can transcend the scepticism and mistrust of governments, fake news and exploitative ‘big business’ will both retain and win more customers.

Cloud-enabled digital transformation will therefore be increasingly focused on ensuring bullet-proof security and maintaining high levels of consumer trust.

2018 is set to be a year of never-ending change, uncertainty and excitement for businesses in virtually every sector. And while we certainly can’t predict the types of disruptive strategies, tools and products that will emerge, we can be sure that the Cloud will have some role to play.

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