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2016's top trends in enterprise computing: Containers, bots, AI, and more

Blair Hanley Frank | Dec. 22, 2016
It's been a year of change in the enterprise software market.

Major vendors get behind low-code development

Low-code app development tools, designed to enable easier creation of business applications, have experienced a surge in popularity over the past year. Tech titans have thrown their hats into an already crowded ring filled with companies already offering similar functionality.

Tools like Google's App Maker for G Suite customers, Microsoft's PowerApps for Office 365 customers, and Oracle's Project Visual Code are all new tools that are designed to help people automate business processes and bring that functionality to users across an organization.

They join other players like Appian, K2, SkyGiraffe, Salesforce, and Quickbase, which are all competing for that business already. One of the biggest differentiators for Microsoft and Google is that their tools are tied to the productivity suites each company operates.

Looking toward 2017, one of the biggest questions will be whether or not customers will actually end up using these new tools. A Forrester report from the start of 2016 pointed out that few of the low-code platform operators the analysis firm surveyed were able to show examples of non-developer customers using their tools.

At the same time, those tools do make it easier to create apps for end users and can help increase the speed at which technical folks do so.

Bots start coming online

This has been the year of the bot, both for consumer and enterprise users. Automated conversation partners are often portrayed as useful for consumers, but they could also prove useful for enterprise functions like answering common questions or working through repetitive functions.

While bot creation is still largely the domain of developers who have some extra time to work on a passion project, several businesses are trying to simplify it for people who aren't coding experts.

Microsoft just launched its QnA Maker service, which turns FAQ documents into a bot that can handle customer service requests, while Oracle unveiled chatbot support in its Mobile Cloud Service. Salesforce showed off a LiveMessage service that connects users with intelligent bots through its Service Cloud.

Those examples just scratch the surface of the tools available: A number of other companies are offering their services to help create bots, too.

IDC Program Director Al Hilwa said he expects to see bots appear soon in the enterprise through systems designed by software vendors, but more bespoke functionality will be a longer time coming.

"In terms of enterprises developing custom bots, I think we need to see the platforms mature more for this," he said in an email. "I would expect some of these custom bot applications to emerge sometime next year and be somewhat commonplace by the end of the decade."


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