There have been many thought pieces this year discussing the transformative impact COVID-19 has had on virtually every pillar of daily life. But in the tech sphere, I would argue COVID-19 didn’t introduce entirely new trends to the enterprise. Rather, it accelerated existing trends, particularly around cloud, digital transformation, and security.
For example, organizations whose only cloud experience was using Office 365 or Google Docs had to become “cloud-driven” overnight, relying on it to ensure business continuity. Businesses previously on the fence about automation suddenly saw it as a crucial efficiency as they were forced to do more with less. And security teams that were slow to adopt tools that could monitor IoT devices and cloud environments needed to quickly make those investments or risk serious vulnerabilities.
In 2020, the overwhelming focus was on continuity; doing what you need to do to keep the lights on. In 2021, that won’t be enough – it will be time to formalize best practices around these core trends and work to optimize, enhance, and elevate IT functions. As the 2020 hangover fades and we begin to realize that distributed workforces are here to stay, enterprises will start to leverage cloud not to support the business, but to fuel it.
With that in mind, here are my top three predictions for enterprise IT in 2021.
The ‘Work from Anywhere’ trend will continue post-COVID. Employees will continue to exercise the flexibility to work from anywhere, be it their parents’ house, within a hotel room, or from an exotic locale. And they will expect the exact same network capabilities and security they would experience on campus. So while much of the cloud adoption in 2020 was around SaaS applications, like Zoom or Slack, enterprises will turn to cloud network solutions to play a deeper role in 2021 in helping manage sprawling, distributed sites. Cloud management – the “next wave of cloud adoption” – will reduce the burden on taxed IT teams, by automatically identifying, onboarding, and securing new devices joining the network. These cloud managed tools can also provide unified management for wireless access points, switches, routers, and network/security policies.
Mounting skepticism of Big Tech companies, the steady cadence of data breaches making headlines, and an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base means data privacy and security will be major themes of 2021. Customers won’t do business with companies they don’t trust, and companies risk extraordinary reputational damage if they fall victim to a data breach. For enterprises, this comes at a tricky time, as the shift to digital work means many businesses are dealing with an exponential increase in customer data and a growing need to provide newly remote workforces with secure access to corporate assets. To help manage an influx of data and accommodate access from non-corporate networks while upholding the highest degree of privacy, enterprises will need to reassess their cloud architectures – and the vendors they work with – to ensure that network data related to users, the design of networks, and all traffic remains confidential. One way to help ensure this is to select vendors that have achieved globally recognized security certifications, such as the ISO/IEC 27001 certification.
In 2021, hybrid cloud offerings will turn into a mandatory requirement. For the last decade, customers had to choose from vendors that offer public cloud solutions with custom cloud networks. Hybrid cloud connectivity offers businesses the flexibility to take the best from each cloud offering. It can be multiple public clouds, multiple virtual or on-premises private clouds, multiple managed or unmanaged clouds or a mix of them all. No longer will this be deemed to be a nice-to-have – it will be a make-or-break customer expectation.
Though we all wish it wasn’t the case, we’re not suddenly going to be “out of the woods” once the calendar flips to 2021. January 1 will come, and the majority of us will still be working from home. The key to successfully navigating the new year will be formalizing the IT and security lessons we learned last year and rallying around how to manage and optimize the infinitely distributed enterprise of the future.
This article was originally published to VMBlogs on December 17, 2020.
This blog was originally authored by Jeevan Patil, Senior Director, Product Management