SolarWinds 2018 Public Sector IT Trends Report: Separating Hype From Reality

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.

  • Definitely not surprised by the results.  Rarely does the hype and reality align.. Wish executives understood that. emoticons_wink.png

  • "reality hasn't caught up to the hype" So often that's the way it is. Many IT shops still play catch up every day just to keep the "wheels on the bus." Let alone adopting radically new technologies. Sometimes it's busyness, sometimes it's budget, sometimes just "that's how we do it." The challenge is similar to scripting processes - yes it takes a while to build the script, but in the long run, it may be worth the effort. So with the new tech, sometimes the learning curve appears daunting, but it may be worth the effort. However, on the other side, sometimes it's just the next "cool toy" and doesn't bring the business value that is expected.

  • I take some comfort knowing that the Feds aren't on the bleeding edge of technology, but are near the cutting edge. My time contracting for the feds, pre Y2K, I saw a lot of obsolescence. And it was concerning at the time.

  • Lots of folks talk like we can become Amazon or Google or Microsoft, treat routers & switches and firewalls like cheap commodity boxes and simply make everything interchangeable and quickly replaceable or upgradeable in case of failure or growth.

    It might work for those big companies, but we're challenged to match their expertise and resources here in the medium-sized network environment.  I like the sound of it, but am not seeing a parallel to VMware in Network routers and switches--YET.  ISE and PRIME and ACI might bundle together and get close  to that automatic device configuration.  There could be ways that are safe and secure that install VLANs and pre-configure ports for special devices to use the proper subnets through NAC.

    I haven't seen them yet.  And certainly haven't heard of anything beyond vaporware that could do all this affordably.

    Hello?  Future?  Are you out there?