Today’s businesses see digital technologies that need to be seamlessly integrated with legacy IT infrastructures to optimize business processes, agility and scale.

They anticipate an increasing number of connected-devices at the edge generating mountains of data that will expand their organization’s threat landscape, while data security and compliance requirements continue to increase.

As business and technology leaders move closer to another year of high stakes digital transformations and the big IT decisions that power them, let’s take a look at the technologies that will make the biggest digital business impact in 2019.

Prediction #1: Paving a Path to the Promise of 5G

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Tomorrow’s high-speed wireless networks will accelerate today’s network transformation

Nearly every industry has the potential to benefit from the endless possibilities of 5G. 5G is not only about faster data connections and better online experiences, it’s about rethinking what’s possible. Futuristic visions of smart cities, driverless cars and remote, robotic surgeries suddenly seem within reach.

McKinsey doesn’t expect large-scale 5G deployment until early 2020. We anticipate that companies will increase 5G investments significantly in 2019 to repurpose their existing cellular infrastructures and build new edge architectures for hosting 5G networks, which will include cloud radio networks. Performance and cost optimization will be critical to set the stage for 5G and we see network carriers starting to capitalize on disaggregated, open-source-based commodity networking hardware and virtual wireless networking stacks.

Prediction #2: Riding the Rise of Distributed Artificial Intelligence Architectures

Next-gen artificial intelligence (AI) architectures will break free from centralized locations

AI will continue to make its way into our business and personal lives, driving productivity in unprecedented ways.

As more data gets generated, processed and analyzed at the edge, we expect to see a direct impact on AI architectures. In 2019, we expect to see more distributed and federated AI applications at local edge locations, where large amounts of data are being generated.

Enterprises will need to access more external data to improve the accuracy of their AI model predictions, which will lead to buying and selling data in more secure data marketplaces. Enterprises will also resist getting locked into a single cloud by leveraging AI innovation in multiple public clouds. Ultimately, enterprises using next-generation AI architectures will have to transition to the distributed model of multiple data centers.

Prediction #3: “Un-Blocking” the Chain

A “network of networks” will mature blockchain for greater business security and monetization

In 2018, private blockchain networks made significant headway as enterprises began attempting to capitalize on their speed, low cost and security benefits. The relentless surge of data breaches made this innovative approach to verifying identity and protecting privacy a game changer—especially in the financial services industry.

More of the world’s largest clouds, consulting companies and enterprises are moving ahead to solve real business problems using blockchain. By 2022, IDC predicts that blockchain technology investments will reach $11.7 billion.

In 2019, we expect to see more enterprises joining multiple blockchain networks, particularly from the supply chain, finance, government and healthcare industries. Ultimately, this convergence will create a “network of networks” that spurs new opportunities and demands for business and IT leaders. They will be looking for ways to leverage blockchain networks when business-critical application performance and real-time transaction updates are non-negotiable. They will need to integrate multiple blockchain networks with their legacy applications, making blockchain gateways increasingly common in 2019.

Prediction #4: Maneuvering the Data Privacy Maze

Changing data protection laws and heightened privacy concerns will inspire more progressive and distributed security processes

Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) put sweeping data privacy restrictions into law this year, many other countries’ government agencies have followed Europe’s lead in crafting stricter data privacy regulations. We’re seeing more enterprises and SaaS providers deploying mini-clouds in multiple regions to maintain local data residence and compliance regulations. At the same time, they’ll require distributed data management architectures that support global network and data fabrics to coherently manage these distributed cloud environments and integrate them into existing IT infrastructures.

In 2019, we predict enterprises will focus on new data management techniques such as homomorphic encryption that allows computations to be done on encrypted data without requiring access to the data security key.

And new approaches that allow consumers to bring algorithms (e.g., financial, risk, security analytics) to where the provider’s data is located (private or neutral colocation data centers) and apply them against the data without unencrypting it will also enter the market in 2019.

Prediction #5: Tapping Interconnection to Tame Cloud Complexity

Hybrid multicloud environments will increase the relevance of interconnection

Private cloud providers are taking some pages out of the public cloud playbook and working to ease cloud deployment and management, while making it more advantageous for enterprises to deploy these solutions in third-party locations. At the same time, the maturation of virtualization/container technology and the standardization of container formats (e.g., Docker) and orchestration technology (e.g., Kubernetes) are increasing hybrid/multicloud environments as the enterprise architecture of choice.

To maintain flexibility and choose the right cloud for the right job, enterprises are increasingly avoiding single cloud provider lock-in. Hybrid/multicloud infrastructures are also driving the demand for greater private interconnection between enterprises and cloud and IT providers, with Interconnection Bandwidth projected to grow 98% annually between 2017 and 2021, according to the Global Interconnection Index, a market study published by Equinix.

As more enterprises explore SaaS, IaaS and PaaS solutions from multiple cloud providers, their cloud architectures are becoming infinitely more complex. And with greater complexity comes greater concerns about the security, integration and management of hybrid/multicloud architectures, particularly at the edge.

Looking forward to a more interconnected future

Rapid technology advances will continue to open the door to greater digital business speed, efficiency, security, intelligence and scale. But without proper IT infrastructures that are conceived and built to leverage interconnection to simplify complexity and integrate digital technologies from the start, organizations will not be able to realize their full benefits.