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NetFoundry 2021 Predictions: Accelerating towards the future

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Accelerating towards the future

By Brent Doncaster, M.S. - Sr. Director, Marketing, NetFoundry Inc.

Go digital or disappear - this is the lesson from 2020 that will shape the digital ecosystem of the future.

In 2021 we'll see the future getting closer faster than ever, like a looming asteroid in a sci-fi movie. We already know what the future looks like, and though history teaches that we'll get some of it badly wrong, there's a fair amount that appears if not certain, then highly likely.

For all organisations, 2020 brought home that digital agility and flexibility are foundational to everything they do. 

Digitization will continue to accelerate through 2021. We've passed the point where some organizations were digital-savvy and others did what they always did. In fact, many organizations have now passed the milestone where more than 50% of their software workloads are now running in the cloud. Every organization is a software powered organization or it likely disappears.

Industry analysts foresee a strong upward trend in cloud spending as most organizations increase budgets for technology and digital initiatives. Other areas including administration, marketing, and HR are likely to experience budget cuts. 

Some of this increased spend is to consolidate what's working, but some of it is still geared to making the cloud work better. Many organizations are still dragging a heavy burden of legacy technology and technical debt and it's holding them back. They face difficult choices about what to migrate into cloud and where to start again with a clean sheet. 

Digital is an ecosystem and it continues to grow more diverse. Everything will be hybrid: hybrid cloud, hybrid work, hybrid apps, hybrid supply chains and hybrid digital solutions. The challenge, as ever, will be to increase choice and diversity for consumers and businesses without also increasing complexity. 

Paying for progress

The perpetual software licence is dead, long live software-as-a-service. The pandemic will make cost-conscious organizations more determined than ever to pay only for what they really need in every part of the business and IT is no different. Consumption based pricing will continue its strong march forward, powering not just individual organisations but entire economies. Countries that get this right will have a potential economic advantage, because being agile at scale lowers the cost of entry for new companies and new innovation. You no longer need to raise huge bundles of capital to build new enterprises. So, innovation accelerates. 

Now companies will still be cost-conscious, but in new ways. Cutting costs has a short-term impact on the balance sheet and might put a bit more money in the pockets of shareholders, but a more fruitful kind of consciousness will prioritize the areas deemed most essential for digital success. How many businesses truly see IT and software as an investment opportunity and how many are just saying the words? 

Winners and losers

Organizations that are fast and agile will get faster and more agile - the winners will continue to win. Continual reinvention is the key to continuous success. Look at Microsoft or Apple as examples of giants from one era that managed the transition into another while many of their peers became extinct. 

I foresee an economic bifurcation where the big get bigger, the small flourish in the spaces the big can't fit into easily, but there is not so much going on in the middle.  We can see this not just in the cloud arena where the hyperscalers tower above a landscape of smaller, nimbler niche players, but now in the economy at large. It seems that medium size businesses are the most prone to being wiped out in the post-pandemic economic turmoil. What will fill the space left behind remains an interesting question - successful diversification on the part of the giants or the rapid expansion of smaller businesses?

Networking will be transformed (finally) by software abstraction and virtualization. Networking is the last major infrastructure pillar to be transformed. Just as compute and storage infrastructure was abstracted and virtualized into cloud, networking will also be transformed into as-a-service solutions with cloud-enabled capabilities built and deployed in software. 

Network-as-a-service (NaaS) solutions are delivering a new paradigm that unifies networking and zero trust security. NaaS makes network and security services programable, highly agile and scalable. With cloud native orchestration and through the application of automated optimization, organizations can leverage networking to support strategic digital initiatives.   

Keeping it safe

Security systems will continue to evolve to become systems of systems. As much as we think we can simplify security, these systems will grow in complexity, not become simpler. The ongoing task for providers of security solutions will be to hide this complexity or at least make it manageable. We will also see the continuing evolution of security eco-systems where multiple groups and teams (both good and bad actors) collaborate, share information and coordinate attacks as well as counter measures. 

Security will continue to be big business and key focus area for both governments and the private sector. The pandemic created new urgency for enterprises to pay heed to security as they extended existing systems to a newly distributed workforce or embraced new collaborative tools for the first time. The possibilities for rapid global reach created by the cloud also mean new global headaches for corporate security teams. 

On the world stage, while we may not see it out in the open, I expect western security agencies to take the gloves off and go after state sponsored hackers in Russia, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere in a big way.  We have seen some incredibly sophisticated, highly coordinated attacks that are targeting all levels of government and all sectors of business. Even security vendors who fight bad actors every minute of every day have been successfully compromised. 

Realigning the ecosystem

We will see a continuing realignment of ecosystem forces centered around western technology hubs (mainly USA), and Asian technology hubs (mainly China). These eco-systems will seek to consolidate technological superiority in things like semi-conductors, AI and machine learning, blockchain and distributed ledgers, and quantum computing. There will be continuing push-pull regarding access to markets and supply chain orchestration. There will also be dust-ups resulting from attempts to manage these ecosystem alignments by governments, cheered on by industry lobbyists. The obvious example of an attempt to control these alignments is the Huawei situation and interactions of the USA with European countries.   

The new space race

Lastly, we are about to see the cloud move into space. Technology platforms are being deployed now not just for providing rides into space for consumers, fun though that is, but for new IT infrastructure deployed above the Earth's atmosphere by for-profit enterprises.

Can the USA or other countries effectively stimulate private-public collaboration in these space technologies to recreate something with the revolutionary effect of the Apollo space program of the 1960s? The race to put the cloud in space sounds like a meteorological conundrum, but for the winner (or winners) it could establish a new era of technological advancement. 


About the Author

Brent Doncaster 

Brent applies his 15+ years of marketing and communications expertise to build and optimize all product and partner marketing functions as we grow NetFoundry into an industry leading powerhouse. Prior to NetFoundry, Brent worked in Sr. Product and Solutions Marketing roles with VMware, Dell Technologies, and Citrix Systems. Brent is based in Austin Texas and holds a Master of Science (M.S.) degree from Boise State University and undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology. Follow Brent on Twitter: @Brent_BWD

Published Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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