Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

  • January 16, 2021

Here at Gigaom we’re looking at how leading-edge technologies impact the enterprise, and what organizations can do to gear up for the future. Here are some views from several of our analysts about what to watch for in enterprise IT in 2021 and beyond.

A Time for Reflection – Paul Stringfellow

We will see a broad re-assessment of our technology usage, as enterprises that scrambled to make rapid changes in response to global events now look back to assess the work they have done – have they done it correctly, have they placed information at risk? It’s a theme you’ll see repeated among some of the predictions that follow. More positively, organizations will continue to explore the possibilities of how technology investment and change can be used to help them innovate.

The Cost of Failure – Michael Delzer

The year 2020 was many things (few of them good, alas), and among them was a parade of large-dollar security failures. For many organizations reeling from events like the SolarWinds debacle, the new year will be about changing the keys we use and confirming that the locks (security processes and tools) are still working. More ominously, we can expect the fallout from some of these security hacks to impact global GDP as stolen information is weaponized.

Spend Drivers – William McKnight

Corporate technology spend will rise and the majority of that will go toward data and analytics—think, data management, data privacy, data intensive projects, and the like. Cloud computing capabilities will make it possible to rapidly try and deploy these projects like never before, and innovations by hyperconverged vendors will further propel this trend. For example, AWS recently announced EBSio2 Block Express volumes. This is SAN for the cloud. It also announced Gp3 volumes, which let you set SLAs for IOPS. Another big announcement is Automatic Tiering and Replication, which automatically moves data to colder storage tiers.

Vulnerability Management – Iben Rodriguez

2021 will be the year of vulnerability management programs, as it becomes a top concern across all engineering departments and not just for the CyberSec team. Everyone from software developers to site reliability engineers (SRE) to product managers and finance will need to ensure that applications are patched frequently and that scans for vulnerabilities are dealt with in a timely manner. As we’ve seen with recent compromises, one attack vector alone is typically not enough to break in, collect, and exfiltrate sensitive intellectual property. While one system might end up being compromised by a zero-day vulnerability, it’s important to seal the cracks in other systems that have known weaknesses. This includes not just software patches but also policy compliance to ensure that the platform configuration only allows known-good trusted traffic between authorized clients and servers.

Pandemic as Change Agent – Stowe Boyd

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technologies that were popular before but which are now essential. One example has been the combination of work chat tools and video conferring, as exemplified by Microsoft Teams and Slack. Microsoft has seen a dramatic uptick in usage, and the release of Google’s new take on the former GSuite, now known as Google Workspace, which also integrates work chat and video conferencing, represents another challenge for Slack. As the two leaders in what we might think of as “business operating systems,” Google and Microsoft present a difficult challenge for Slack, since companies will not want to pay extra for functionality they already have access to in their communications and file storage platforms. Salesforce acquiring Slack only accelerates the competitive pressures in the space, and may lead Salesforce to additional acquisitions to build out their own business operating system, based on Slack, Quip, and the many pieces of Salesforce tech.

Data-Centric Strategies – Paul Stringfellow

Data-centric strategy will become the norm. Enterprises that have defined their IT strategies around infrastructures and locations are starting to realize that it is crucial to establish data-centric strategies that focus on the use and access to information, and address issues related to portability, security, scale, and agility. This is a subtle shift that looks at data-focused outcomes and will impact the way we design our IT and data platforms to deliver services to our enterprises and customers.

Onramp to Machine Learning – William McKnight

Collaborative ML will begin its multi-year journey as a preferred machine learning (ML) approach. It uses ML as an augmentation to human thought in data-driven decision-making. By combining human expertise and ML, the approach allows organizations to become comfortable with ML solutions and to establish a bridge to greater reliance on ML in future years. Collaborative ML will be mostly evidentiary in customer interaction initiatives in 2021.

DevOps’ Next Step: Automation – Jon Collins

While it may appear that organizations across the board are already full-on DevOps, and doing everything right, the fact remains that most organizations still struggle to scale the core notions of continuous integration, delivery, and deployment. Getting this right requires the automation of core elements of best practice, including review gates and feedback loops, such that pipeline bottlenecks can be unblocked and throughput increased.

Security Gets Smart – Paul Stringfellow

We will see increased use of smart security and management tools as companies adapt traditional security methods and information management to their increasingly distributed workforces. The way we manage the end user experience is no longer suitable—we need to re-imagine our ideas of enterprise IT and understand that our enterprise tech teams cannot be on hand to work with our users. Strategy and processes need to evolve.

DevOps Consolidation – Jon Collins

A welcome evolution of the DevOps space is a vendor move from best-of-breed to consolidation-through-acquisition. While choice is a good thing, current pipelines can be fragmented and complex, and a level of standardization would be very welcome as well as bringing in governance features such as DevSecOps and overall visibility, for example via Value Stream Management.

Detection and Deception – Iben Rodriguez

Detection of compromise will be front and center in 2021. Last year the headlines were full of news about the supply chain attacks made through a trusted software vendor. Organizations now understand that while prevention isn’t always possible, there’s no excuse not to have a comprehensive set of detection controls in place. At a minimum, collecting the system event logs and network flows information for 90 days allows an investigation team to know the extent of any possible compromise. Even better would be using deception technology to dynamically setup honeypots to detect and alert on nefarious network probes and illicit activity from malicious actors.

Work Management’s Future – Stowe Boyd

Keep an eye on standalone work management tools, like Trello and Asana, which are suddenly facing a stiff challenge. Now that Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer similar functionality, why will companies pay for a standalone solution, unless it is vastly better than what is built into the business operating systems they use every day?

Mutual Authentication – Michael Delzer

With the ability to obtain digital certificates quickly, it is high time to stop sharing keys across development groups. Each app should have its own keys and all system-to-system calls should require clients to provide a digital public key and not just the service. Will 2021 be the year of mutual authentication? I certainly hope so.

Terraform-Based Infrastructure as Code Models – Jon Collins

We are seeing increasing numbers of organizations look to Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in general, and Terraform in particular. While this means that vendor-specific features are less available, it also reduces lock-in. The use of IaC is also driving interest in tools that can secure, manage, and control its delivery.

A Return to Normalcy? – Paul Stringfellow

The phrase “return to normalcy,” was coined by US President Warren Harding after World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic, and it will very much apply to 2021. While technical shifts will continue and even accelerate, socially we can expect a broad movement to return to pre-pandemic practices and lifestyles. Yes, remote work and migration to the cloud will continue, but we will also see workers returning to offices and large on-site conferences resuming. Fingers crossed 2021 brings us that choice!

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