Is software distribution coming out of the dark ages?

You can’t go to a software conference, read a tech blog, or curl up in bed with a good industry report these days without some mention of digital transformation. It’s one of those topics that’s frequently mentioned, but rarely defined. When did it start? What does it mean? How will we know when it’s done? For every company, the answer is something different.

However, despite the fact that everyone talks about digital transformation everywhere and all the time, it’s worth keeping in mind that it will likely be over sooner than you think. Consider one industry that has already come out on the other side of this transition: cameras.

For more than hundred years, cameras were just cameras. Once digital cameras came along, the two technologies–film and digital–co-existed side by side for several years. However, these days it’s impossible to find a film camera at your local big box retailer, one-hour photo kiosks have all been turned into drive-thru coffee stands, and not a single person in your office under the age of 27 has ever owned a film camera. The “digital camera” is now the standard.

It will be the same for almost every facet of business. Right now enterprises undergoing digital transformation have one foot in legacy systems and one foot in the cloud. However, as legacy systems reach their end of life, digital will no longer be a choice. It will be the new normal.

As we were researching our 2018 State of Software Distribution Report, we saw this tension between legacy and digital first hand. Many IT leaders are still struggling to distribute content, files and updates across their networks due to an ungainly infrastructure. Legacy systems, along with legacy processes and mindsets, have made it difficult to keep up with the velocity of digital.

Take Windows as an example. Ever since Windows 95, enterprises have had a system in place that revolves around slow, meticulously planned operating system and patch updates. But with Windows 10, Microsoft will be moving users to a Windows as a Service model. Rather than updating the operating system every few years, IT teams will need to manage a constant, continuous stream of updates to their Windows endpoints.

For enterprises used to lengthy test periods and rolling out a patch months after release, their IT teams are going to soon be bogged down in a backload of updates to distribute. According to our research, 45% of enterprises must wait a month or more to install vital security patches. That’s not sustainable for Windows 10 or all the other applications that are moving to a cloud model.
In a sense, software distribution is still stuck in the dark ages. Talking to IT managers, we found that a third of large business struggle to distribute content, files and updates across their networks, while nearly half of IT teams at enterprises with more than 100,000 endpoints said the same thing. In fact, 13% said they’ve given up on trying to enact and manage a systematic software distribution process. Instead, they leave it up to employees to update their own devices. Knowing that a single data breach on a single device can cost your company millions, can you honestly trust that every last employee is going to keep every last device up-to-date and secure? Even Brad in accounts payable?

The good news is that digital transformation is shifting attitudes around software distribution from the dark ages to a distribution renaissance. While only 18% of IT managers see the adoption of an SD ECDN as a priority in 2018, twice as many recognize that a failure to install updates is their greatest security threat. As trends like the cloud, Windows 10, distributed workforces and large content like live video become more of the norm, SD ECDN provides the most promise for scaling large content deliveries and thus improving the reliability of software distribution.

As we consider the state of software distribution in 2018, it’s worth taking a second to think about what the state of software distribution might be ten years from now. If we were able to get our hands on a copy of the 2028 State of Software Distribution Report, we’d see a world where Windows as a Service is a fact of life, everything is on the cloud, and where IoT devices outnumber humans by a factor of thousands. Automated technologies like peering platforms will keep everything secure by ensuring patch delivery while conserving bandwidth. In this future, software distribution will be constant and nearly instantaneous. I don’t know what issues will worry IT leaders in 2028, but I don’t think patching will be one of them.

While that sounds impossible now, just ask the camera industry–a lot can change in ten years. The golden age of software distribution will be here sooner than you think.

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THE STATE OF SOFTWARE DISTRIBUTION 2018

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