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Media Insights: John Dix of Network World

2nd November 2017

As 2017 draws to a close and the promise of new year looms large, Grayling decided to sit down with some of our favorite journalists to discuss technology, trends, and get their thoughts on the most over-hyped stories of the year.

First up is veteran enterprise writer, John Dix. John is perhaps best known for his 30-year stint at Network World, where he rose to the role of Editor in Chief. As EIC, he set the publication’s editorial direction and oversaw newsroom operations. What many people don’t know about John, however, is that before shifting into journalist, John spent many years working as a technology consultant for the giant analyst firm, IDC.

What do you think were the top enterprise technology trends of 2017?

Cloud, Internet of Things and analytics top the list of things enterprises have been focusing on this year. Cloud is still front and center for most shops because the potential benefits are so compelling: a rare chance to modernize and simplify, while shifting to an elastic environment that also makes you more agile.

Cloud spending is still a drop in the bucket compared to total IT spending, but growing at almost five times the rate. This is thanks in part to companies putting in place cloud-first policies that require cloud options to be considered before capital is committed to any new infrastructure or big software initiatives. And what’s more, now that companies have had a taste of the key benefits, they are starting the process of migrating core systems to the cloud.  

IoT and analytics are both important endeavors on their own, but often tightly coupled. For example, the goal might be to network more of the “things” sold to customers in order to offer better preventative maintenance support, but you need advanced analytic skills in place to extract that intelligence out of the extra data that is now flowing in. 

We keep hearing about “digital transformation.” What will this mean to companies in 2018?

Digital transformation is driving many enterprise development efforts and can involve investment in a slew of different types of technologies, everything from basic web stuff to networking upgrades and IoT. Typically, the goal is to increase customer engagement. For example, if the things being instrumented in the example above were pumps, and you now enable them to phone home information about flow and cycle rates and vibration stats, that could make it possible to alert customers of impending failures, which will help cement you as a favored supplier. Given the potential value of digital transformation, we can expect interest in 2018 -- and, indeed, for some years to come -- to remain high. 

What do you think was the most overhyped technology of 2017?

Hyperconvergence. Buying a compute stack that comes with pre-integrated storage and networking can save time and effort if, for example, the goal is to stand up something fast to support a virtual desktop initiative or a new virtual machine farm for a given application. But, unless the plan is to scale out these hyperconverged environments to support the bulk of IT workloads, these new stacks represent just another silo at a time when buyers should be marching away from vendor-specific silos.

What trends will be you watching for in 2018?

  • Increased reliance on machine learning. Given the complexity of the IT world today, efforts to orchestrate and automate as much as possible remains a high priority. Cisco, for example, is now focused on “intent based networking,” where you spell out what you want the network to do and machine learning and other automation tools take care of the heavy lifting. Machine learning -- and AI in general -- will be critical to support our ever-increasing reliance on IT. 
  • Cognitive advances. IBM’s Watson might be exaggerated for the advertising campaign, but consumers are getting used to posing verbal questions to things like Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri, and will start to expect professional tools to be able to interact with them on a more personal level. This will be years in the making, but it has already started.
  • Block chain, the technology underlying Bitcoin, will start to find real use in mainstream applications, everything from healthcare to finance.

The idea of “the consumerization of the enterprise” seemed to lose steam in 2017. Thoughts on whether it could re-emerge?

Consumerization as a trend is done because it is simply now a requirement. Because consumers are tech savvy, no company can afford to put forward half-baked tools with crummy interfaces and expect to keep customers, or expect employees to come to work and use tools that don’t measure up to what they have at home. But as I mentioned in the Echo example, as consumer technologies get more sophisticated, the pressure picks up on the suppliers of professional tools.

Venture capital in enterprise software has bounced back from 2013/2014 lows. What do you think is driving this, and will it continue?

There will always be a need to improve the tools we use to get work done, and, as they say, software is eating the world, so the short answer: Yes, enterprise software will always be advancing and will often lead to investment opportunities. It is just that the consumption model – i.e., the cloud – is changing the game.

Enterprise IPOs are also back in fashion. Do you see this continuing?

IPOs are cyclical, swinging up and down as technology cycles ripple through and as the markets gyrate this way and that, so I can virtually guarantee they will keep going in and out of fashion.

If you had a million dollars to invest in one company, which one would you choose? And why?

It is hard to bet against any of the big three cloud guys at this point, Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That is the future and they hold the bulk of the cards, even though the next wave of cloud migration, the movement of the top tier applications, might require more specialized players that better understand the demands of those types of environments.

Blockchain, IoT, VR/AR – which one do you think is likely to make the most impact to the enterprise?

IoT, for the reasons outlined above. The more things we network, the more data we can collect, and the more we correlate that data across the organization and the more creative ways we analyze that data and make it available to customers, the faster we win.

Media has gone through its own “digital transformation” over the past few years. How do you think the media landscape will change over the next 12 months?

Publishing companies are constantly trying to learn more about their audiences — who they are, what they control, what they need and where they stand in the buying process — then try to deliver buckets of those buyers to advertisers. It is a messy affair because the buyers don’t want to pony up information for fear of getting spammed, and the advertisers have unrealistic expectations about what their digital ad dollars should return in the form of leads. That has led to a reduction in paid advertising, causing the contraction of the independent technology media, which, in turn, has reduced the opportunity for earned media mentions and driven advertisers to owned media, all the content marketing efforts afoot today. I don’t see that trend changing any time soon.

John Dix spoke to Elliott Suthers. Follow John: @JDNWW

Grayling Team

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