The only thing constant in the world of IT is change. The rapid pace of technological innovation has changed our field more rapidly than just about any other. Think about the difference between the world of managed IT in 2007 and the world of IT now – smartphones were barely being used. The cloud was just a pipe dream. Big data still hadn’t reared its head. When you look back now, it’s nearly unrecognizable – and that was only a decade ago.

This breakneck pace of innovation is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Because of this, it’s crucial that IT professionals stay abreast of the major trends shaping the world of information technology in 2017. To help you keep your knowledge up, we’ve put together this list of the top 5 trends you can expect to see in your workplace – and in the world of IT.

1. Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the physical, cloud-based architecture on which everything else on the cloud runs – both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS) stacks run on an IaaS architecture. In previous years, the actual servers and infrastructure used by SaaS and PaaS companies were inaccessible to companies directly – you couldn’t have direct access to the machines that were running your platforms or software.

However, this has changed. Many cloud companies are now offering IaaS platforms for corporate use. Essentially, this allows IT professionals to outsource their infrastructure – eliminating outdated, slow architecture in the process – yet still maintain close-to-metal, granular control over their machines. The only difference is that these machines are now located in a large datacenter – rather than on-premises.

We can expect IaaS to grow. It offers significant cost savings over on-premises architecture, and an inexpensive way by which small-to-medium-sized businesses can use enterprise-grade resources.

2. Higher Levels Of Cloud Security

The cloud is king – and every king has enemies. Cloud security is more important than ever. As we see companies shift to outsourced IT infrastructure, software, and platforms, more data than ever is being stored on both public and private clouds.

Data is an incredibly valuable asset to every corporation – and criminals have taken note. Hacks and “cyber attacks” have been growing in recent years, especially now that so much data has migrated to the cloud.

We’re going to see both IT companies and cloud providers increase their emphasis on security – on both private and public clouds. SSL, advanced data encryption algorithms, tenant isolation, and other security measures are going to become even more important as hackers seek new and innovative ways to get their hands on your data.

3. More Accessible Big Data Analysis

2014 was deemed the “year of big data” by many major publications – but that was just the beginning. As time goes on, each company compiles more and more data. It’s now estimated that data is the most valuable asset of almost every major company.

But data alone isn’t enough. You need smart software, machine learning, and algorithms to sift through your data, and provide you with meaningful, useful results. In the past, it was difficult for smaller companies to get access to the hardware and software required for big data analytics.

However, today’s cloud-based architecture makes it easier than ever to begin using big data – even smaller companies can afford an Apache Hadoop-based big data platform, and begin enjoying the benefits of big data analytics.

4. Software, Software, Software

If 2014 was the “year of big data”, 2017 could be called “the year of software-defined everything”. Software-defined servers are commonplace, software-defined networking and WAN are growing in popularity, and software-defined storage is going to have a huge impact in 2017.

This increased emphasis on abstraction and virtualization will allow IT infrastructure to become even more flexible and agile – and will lower costs. When IT operations aren’t tied to specific infrastructures and physical servers, they’ll be able to grow and change more effectively.

Software-defined everything isn’t without its risks, however. In the next few years, the software-defined bubble will certainly bring about hundreds of startup companies and software vendors – and your business should avoid getting locked into a contract with a low-quality vendor.

5. Increased Emphasis On Data Mobility

Smartphone market penetration has peaked at around 80% – with 92% of people aged 18-34 owning smartphones. The employees at your organization are mobile – and your IT infrastructure needs to reflect that.

We have already seen an increased emphasis on mobile computing in the last few years. As the cloud has grown, cloud-based applications have provided a seamless, desktop-like mobile computing experience. We will continue to see this trend increase as the cloud continues to grow, and as smartphone users expect businesses to keep up with the consumer market by offering easy, comprehensive mobile experiences.

Understand These Trends – And Prepare For The Future

As we said at the beginning of this article – the only thing constant in the world of technology is change. These 5 trends are certainly going to shape the IT world in 2017 – but it’s entirely possible that, by July, some groundbreaking IT tech will completely revolutionize the industry, and render these predictions moot.

But you can’t plan for things you can’t predict. So, regardless of future innovation, you should understand these 5 trends, and be ready to use them in your organization to prepare for the IT world of tomorrow.