The start of 2017 has come and gone. Many things have changed, while some things remain the same. A perfect case in point is the mounting pressure facing today’s IT architects, which comes from a variety of sources.

Security breaches and cyber threats, for example, are on the rise, while budgets remain tight. Just as important, movement of existing workloads into the cloud continues to increase, as does deployment of new workloads into the cloud—whether public, private or hybrid. With the cloud promising to redefine enterprise computing to help establish IT as a critical facilitator of business growth, it’s no wonder the cloud’s popularity is on the rise. But for IT architects, dealing with the cloud’s proliferation, while also working to enable greater agility and performance so that superior services can be delivered to the business, is no easy task.

Some of today’s emerging IT trends aim to bring those goals closer into focus, while others will only complicate matters. All, however, promise to play a key role in the ongoing evolution of the cloud. In this first installment of a two-part blog, we’ll take a closer look at five of the top 10 trends every IT architect should have on his or her radar in 2017.

1. Increased Adoption of Containers

Containers continue to be a hot topic of discussion in the IT world. This year will be no different, in part because of the many benefits they offer. This year, the discussion will evolve to focus more on containerization and microservices—a pervasive architecture for developing scalable software systems.

Running microservices on containers makes product development more agile and efficient, but it also makes product deployment and operation agile as well. That’s why many point to microservices as the solution for quickly updating, scaling and adjusting cloud infrastructure to meet changing business and customer needs. It’s also why containers are expected to become a key tool for application developers. However, this vision will only become a reality if the infrastructure and operations support to run containers is in place, and if appropriate workload management (e.g., orchestration and automation) is used.

2. Growth of the IoT

These days market research firms project the number of connected IoT devices will reach 20 to 30 billion by the year 2020. Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of devices and it’s sure to put a hefty strain on existing IT infrastructure. That means that in 2017, IT architects will have to give some serious thought to how exactly they plan to manage those IoT devices, whether they’re used by employees in the office environment or by customers interacting with the business on a grander scale.

Moving forward, IT architects will need to address the impact of the IoT on a number of fronts, including: increased network complexity and resource demand, competing IoT ecosystems, emerging standards, and which platforms/specifications to utilize for their IoT implementation. End-point security also has to be addressed, perhaps by using an adaptive security architecture with flexible security measures in place to protect the business’s information.

The other factor that’s become clear here is that to work, the IoT needs the cloud. And, the more that relationship intertwines, the more the cloud will need to evolve to better serve the IoT. Moreover, as the IoT proliferates and the amount of data IoT devices generates goes up, the ability for businesses to automate and fine tune their operations will too.

3. Confronting the Challenge of Big Data Analytics

According to one estimate, 2.5 exabytes of data is created on a daily basis. By 2020, there will be 44 zetabytes of data in the world. That’s a lot of data. It’s not all that surprising that “big data” is such a hot trend for 2017. More and more, IT architects will have to address the growing complexity of big data analytics. After all, it’s not really the data, but what you do with it that truly makes or breaks a business.

When it comes to big data analytics, is the fact that traditional solutions require many different systems to be able to deal with the needs of different data processing tasks. These systems don’t necessarily talk and transferring data in and out of them is challenging at best. Addressing the complexity of big data analytics, especially in a cloud dominated environment, will require new data architectures that can streamline the existing situation.

One solution might be implementing a platform architecture with some sort of interface between the consuming applications and the different systems. Additionally, IT architects might begin gravitating toward streaming databases, which are able to handle continuous data flows. Streaming data processing can be especially beneficial in enriching insight in big data use cases where new, dynamic data is generated on a continual basis.

4. Capacity Optimization

Resources are costly and when budgets are tight, it falls to the IT architect to make sure all available resources are used appropriately. That might mean dealing with underused servers that draw power without actually doing anything. Or, it might mean addressing inefficient power distribution by measuring power usage effectiveness (PUE). Moving existing workloads or deploying new workloads in the cloud will help by allowing businesses to quickly access the resources they need on demand. But the cloud alone is not the answer.

To truly optimize cost, IT architects will need to focus on capacity. More specifically, identifying and dealing with stranded or wasted capacity. There is no one single solution for addressing that task, but there are a number of different techniques that could be employed and IT architects will need to keep all of them in their toolkits if they hope to make a substantive impact. Some of these techniques include optimizing available resources and preventing potentially unsustainable consumption by throttling poorly utilized ones and, repurposing orphaned resources using open-source tools.

Utilization of tags to monitor and track workload cycles should also be considered, as should data centers with a “pay for what you use model.” With this model, IT architects can increase or decrease capacity as needed to meet business needs, bringing costs down and driving efficiencies up

5. Making Peace With Shadow IT

Shadow IT—what happens when a person inside of a business uses a cloud-based solution or external service without the knowledge or explicit approval of the business—is another hot topic of late. Usually, the discussion focuses on how its presence opens businesses up to unknown and unplanned risks. It essentially creates a huge security issue and because of that, IT architects generally fight to rid it from their businesses. But this year marks a transition away from that way of thinking as IT architects consider embracing, rather than eliminating it.

The reason for this transition is simple. Shadow IT offers a way for businesses to solve problems that can’t be addressed with their existing IT solutions. That makes shadow IT a strategic business asset and it’s prompting some to see the potential for using it as a sort of proof-of-concept for projects. Shadow IT is essentially brought out of the shadows so that it can be tracked and properly assessed. If the project performance is deemed a success, then the shadow IT ceases to operate in the shadows and is instead folded into the business. Couple this with the flexibility, scalability and speed of the cloud and today’s IT architects gain a fast, agile way to address critical business needs.

2017 promises to be a challenging year for IT architects, regardless of whether that challenge comes from the cloud, container use, the IoT, big data, the need to optimize capacity or shadow IT. Understanding these trends is just the first step in confronting these emerging challenges head on.