By Paul Parker, SolarWinds Federal & National Government Chief Technologist


There’s a lot of attention being paid to innovative and groundbreaking new technologies like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain. But does the reality surrounding these technologies match the hype?


That’s one of the key questions featured in the Public Sector version of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018: The Intersection of Hype and Performance. We surveyed more than 100 IT practitioners, managers, and directors from public sector organizations. Our goal was to gauge their perspectives on the technologies that are making the biggest differences for their agencies.


Below are some of the top findings from this year’s report. Complete details can be found here.


Hybrid IT and Cloud Remain Top Priorities


Despite the excitement surrounding emerging technologies, IT professionals are continuing to prioritize investments related to hybrid IT and cloud computing. In fact:


  • 97 percent of survey respondents listed hybrid IT/cloud among the top five most important technologies to their organization’s IT strategies
  • 50 percent listed hybrid IT/cloud as their most important technologies


Automation, the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Software-Defined “Everything” are Gaining Steam


According to the respondents, the rest of the top five most important tools include:


  • Automation (#2)
  • Big data analytics (#3)
  • The Internet of Things (#4)
  • Software-defined everything (#5)


Automation and big data analytics scored highly in the category “most important technologies needed for digital transformation over the next three to five years.”  Respondents were also bullish on the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation and big data analytics, as well as their potential to deliver a high ROI. Still, hybrid IT/cloud continued to set the pace as the top spot in all categories.


Reality Hasn’t Caught Up with the Hype around AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain, and Robotics


While there’s been a great deal of media attention and interest in these four technologies, the reality is, for now, IT professionals are focusing their attention on proven technologies that can deliver an immediate value in their predominantly complex hybrid IT environments. Respondents do not deny the importance of AI, machine learning, blockchain, and robotics technologies. They are simply not designating them as “mission critical”—at least, not yet.


However, these solutions are expected to gain increasing prominence over the next few years. Namely:


  • 34 percent of respondents believe that AI will be the primary technology priority over the next three to five years
  • 36 percent feel the same about machine learning
  • Other technologies mentioned include robotics (by 14 percent of respondents) and blockchain (7 percent)


Can’t Contain Containers


Conversely, open source containers turned out to be big movers this year. Forty-four percent of respondents ranked containers as one of their most important technology priorities today. That’s a huge jump over last year’s report, in which just 16 percent of IT professionals indicated they were working on developing containerization skills 2017 IT Trends Report.


Containers can help organizations increase agility while addressing some challenges introduced by hybrid IT/cloud environments. As noted by respondents, those challenges include:


  • Environments that are not optimized for peak performance (46 percent of respondents)
  • Significant time spent reactively maintaining and troubleshooting IT environments (45 percent of respondents)


Technology Adoption Barriers Remain


Survey respondents also identified some key challenges standing in the way of technology adoption. In addition to IT environments not operating at optimal levels, many IT professionals cite a lack of organizational strategy and inadequate investment in areas like user training.


  • 44 percent of respondents ranked inadequate organizational strategy as one of the top three obstacles to better optimization
  • User and technology training was also considered a barrier by 43 percent of respondents


More information on the SolarWinds annual IT Trends Report and the complete public sector results can be found here.


Are these findings consistent with what you’re seeing in your organization? Or, are you experiencing something completely different? Share your perspective in the comments.