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VMware 2021 Predictions: 5 Enterprise Tech Predictions Following an Unpredictable Year

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

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

5 Enterprise Tech Predictions Following an Unpredictable Year

By Chris Wolf, Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group, Office of the CTO, VMware

Everyone went into 2020 with a plan. Those plans were rendered irrelevant in a matter of mere months. Organizations pivoted to quickly roll out contingency plans and put non-essential initiatives on hold. Yet, amidst all this, organizations deployed inspired solutions that tackled considerable challenges.

With this in mind, here are my observations from 2020 and predictions of what's to come as we gear up for a new year:

1. The Edge Is the New Frontier for Innovation

Amazing things happened at the edge in 2020. For example:

  • When the pandemic first hit, a lab testing company rolled out 400 mobile testing stations across the United States in a matter of weeks.
  • A retailer relocated their entire primary distribution center, which was in a state under stay-at-home orders, to fulfill an influx of e-commerce orders from a new location.

These organizations used existing edge investments to react and innovate with velocity. And in the year ahead, we will continue to see prioritized investment at the edge.

Network reliability and performance directly impacts employee and customer experience. That alone led to expansive SD-WAN rollouts at the edge and in-home offices. Simple SaaS-delivered solutions (inclusive of hardware) will further improve security and user experience wherever employees choose to work. And this will start a trend in which these solutions become the norm.

2. Decentralization of Machine Learning

We are starting to see early uptake in machine learning (ML) area among businesses. Across all industries, organizations are innovating to make better data-driven decisions, while leveraging highly distributed technology footprints.

With compute capacity practically everywhere, federated learning allows organizations to train ML models using local data sets. Open source projects, such as FATE and Kubeflow, are gaining traction. I expect the emergence of intuitive applications on these platforms to further accelerate adoption.

Early ML solutions disproportionately benefited a small percentage of enterprises. These organizations had mature data science practices already in place. ML adoption continues to pick up pace. And that acceleration is driven by turnkey solutions built for "the rest of us." These are enterprises that want to reap the rewards of ML without having to make large investments in data science teams-often a difficult challenge given the industry shortage of data scientists today.

3. Renewed Momentum for Workplace 2.0 Initiatives

The pandemic brought renewed momentum for many Workplace 2.0 initiatives, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR use cases are gaining traction, especially for scenarios like employee training, AR-assisted navigation (such as on corporate campuses), and in online meetings.

However, there's still work to be done to drive mainstream adoption. The biggest gap for VR is that there is not an equivalent to Microsoft PowerPoint for VR. Users want to be able to quickly create 3D content for VR. Yet today, there is no easy productivity tool that will allow anyone to quickly create rich 3D content that takes full advantage of the 360-degree panorama afforded by VR. 2021 will address this and we will see gains in adoption of AR and VR, aided by advancements in enterprise-class technologies that address security, user experience and device management of these solutions.

4. Continued Evolution of Intrinsic Security and Data Protection

Legacy solutions with static protection and recovery approaches will start facing the potential for disruption as the year progresses. Last year, innovations in the security space turned intrinsic security from what some called a marketing buzzword into something real.

In 2021, security will once again be amongst the top technology investments for the year, with both ransomware and security at the edge getting increased attention. Sophisticated ransomware attacks are not just targeting data, but also data and system backups. This creates the potential for even system restores to be compromised.

When we look at the edge, a growing number of technology decisions are also being made by the lines of business-sometimes even at a local level-and not central IT. To that end, we must look at technologies that offer broader discovery of connected systems at the edge and provide adaptive security policy enforcement for those systems. Instead of fighting the battle for control, security leaders must accept there is some degree of chaos and innovate with the expectation of chaos as opposed to outright control.

5. Applying New Technologies to Old Challenges

In 2021, what's old may be new again-at least when taking another look at how new technologies can help solve old challenges.

For example, in sustainable computing, there is a lot of energy efficiency to be gained in the traditional data center. VMware currently has an xLabs project to help our customers optimize hot and cool aisle spaces in their data centers. Early studies reveal a promising amount of energy efficiency can be gained through platform-driven data center heat management.

Additionally, machine learning may soon help improve accessibility. Last month, we announced a project spearheaded by VMware technologists to help developers conduct better automated accessibility testing with machine learning. This project will make it easier for organizations to meet accessibility standards, while reducing costs for the software they build.

2020 was a year of determined progress. Unforeseen challenges taught us to plan and architect with the expectation of change. And we must be resilient to adapt to new ways of living and working.

2021 ushers in hope as we navigate whatever our new normal will be. And I'm excited to see how that new normal will be shaped by advancements in technology.

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About the Author

Chris Wolf 

Chris leads the Advanced Technology Group in the VMware Office of the CTO. The Advanced Technology Group focuses on impactful near-term (1-3 year) co-innovation through better alignment and collaboration with R&D product teams, customers and technology partners, startups, and newly acquired companies. It focuses on incubating emerging technologies with the goal of building differentiated technology solutions and augmenting existing solutions.

Published Thursday, January 14, 2021 7:47 AM by David Marshall
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