CIO Top Stories of 2016: Cloud, Emerging Technology in Era of Digital Business

CIO Top Stories of 2016: Cloud, Emerging Technology in Era of Digital Business

The cloud shift continues. Cloud computing remained a hot topic in 2016, as a growing number of firms moved more aggressively to unplug their own data centers and shift operating software and infrastructure to the cloud.

Companies like General Electric and Netflix in 2016 decided to drastically reduce or eliminate their data centers, and others are following suit. Stuart McGuigan, chief information officer of Johnson & Johnson, told CIO Journal in July that the health care and medical devices giant was aiming to have 85% of its applications in the cloud by 2018. American Airlines also began a cloud shift, choosing International Business Machines to supply cloud services for “select” enterprise applications.

There’s no sign of the push to cloud slowing down. Researcher Gartner Inc. predicted in April that global spending on cloud services would grow 16% to $204.2 billion this year. A September report from consulting group McKinsey & Co. found the shift to cloud was about to accelerate significantly, with the biggest gains coming from large enterprises.

A lingering question for CIOs remains what mix of public and private cloud services to use, and which apps should go where. Many companies have embraced a “hybrid” cloud model, and more vendors in 2016 rolled out hybrid services.

Blockchain breaks into the enterprise. The distributed ledger technology has moved beyond its bitcoin roots and taken on its own identity across industries from banking to agriculture. Companies in 2016 saw the opportunity to use blockchain to track the movement and ownership of assets or electronically initiate and enforce contracts, developments aimed at saving time and money while lowering the risk of fraud. Blockchain landed on the World Economic Forum’s 2016 list of 10 emerging technologies likely to impact the world.

Many questions remain about how blockchain technology will be deployed in the enterprise. CIO Journal’s blockchain explainer tried to answer some basic questions about how the technology works.

In July, International Business Machines Corp. announced plans to launch one of the largest blockchain implementations to date, to help its financing unit resolve disputes with customers and partners. It provided some insight into what enterprise blockchain implementations (there still have been very few) might look like.

Corporate AI experiments begin in earnest. More companies began experimenting with machine learning and artificial intelligence tools in 2016 as they sought to determine where the technology could provide business value. The corporate uses have run the gamut: workers at AT&T built software bots to automate the repetitive parts of their jobs, while companies like MasterCard furthered their use of machine learning to detect fraud. SAP SE Chief Executive Bill McDermott said this year he wants the company to become “the world-wide machine learning leader for corporate businesses, hands down.”

But with all the talk of what artificial intelligence and automation can add to a business, there’s also been healthy discussion about what it could take away. Columnist Irving Wladawsky-Berger spent some time digging into our “automation anxieties.”

A STEM crisis? CIOs noted a continued shortage of talent in key technology areas, furthering the discussion about about the state of science, technology, math, engineering and mathematics education in the United States. Mr. Wladawsky-Berger looked at competing arguments in the field, finding that whether there’s a STEM crisis or a surplus largely depends on who you ask, and when.

Emerging technologies make landfall inside companies. GE announced plans to roll out sensors, software and tablets while tapping augmented reality in some of its supply chains to help factory workers assemble complex machine components. The conglomerate also said it was taking some employees off its corporate network and allowing them to access any work app over the internet. GE said it hoped the move would improve user experience and guard against potential network threats.

Software containers also continued to make inroads in the enterprise. Goldman Sachs Group detailed a yearlong project to shift about 90% of its computing to containers, including nearly 5,000 applications that run on the bank’s internal cloud.

Also on the IT horizon: so-called serverless computing, a setup in which application developers no longer have to manage physical and virtual servers.’s Amazon Web Services and Pivotal Software Inc. have already joined the fray.

Source: Wall Street Journal on