I was working with one of our customers the other day and they were in the process of planning their IT-strategy for 2021 and asked me, what should we focus on in 2021 or what can you see from the crystal ball on where the technology is taking us in 2021? This question made me reflect a bit on what is going on in the market and where do we see that technology is taking us next year as well, and also looking back at what the vendors have been working on the last year also provide a bit of insight where they want to take us as “customers” the next year.
So what do I see? well from a technology standpoint there are many directions I see that organizations are moving towards so I wanted to highlight some of these directions. Of course many are already good ahead on the different areas below, but many haven’t even started.
Modern Workplace to allow employees to effeciently work from anywhere
In 2020 a lot of organizations has been “plagued” with ransomware attacks, vulnerabilities and the WFH shift because of COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these have required organizations to think differently in terms of how to provide employees with remote access to services and secondly how they should do management.
I believe that in 2021 more organizations will take the shift to a modern workplace where devices are internet managed, using Azure AD and using cloud based services to provide access to services for their employees from anywhere on any device. One important aspect here is that this requires changes to the way an organization delivers applications where they need a more web based approach instead of traditional windows based delivery model. More and more services are moving towards use ot OAuth or SAML which is something that is supported directly from Azure Active Directory and is something organizations should assess on how end-users should be able to access their applications in a simple and secure way.
Software-defined datacenters to provide ease of management and easier scaleability
While a lot of companies because of COVID have started to use Public Cloud more to be able to scale their services properly, a lot of companies also started investing into Private Clouds to provide better scaleability and self-healing datacenters. Microosft is of course investing into more software-defined or hyperconverged infrastructure with their new offering Azure Stack HCI but still Nutanix and VMware are far ahead. Which both provide software-defined storage and networking services in combination with a wide range of automation possibilities and even public cloud integrations.
I believe that in 2021 more organizations will shift from a 3-tier architecture to a software defined solution to provide better ease-of-management, easier to scale out and more automation possibilities.
Zero-Trust based security architecture to reduce risk for ransomware attacks
As mentioned before, in 2020 we have seen an unprecedented level of (high risk) vulnerabilities from many of the largest security vendors in the market, including a high level of ransomware attacks which are still leveraging/exploiting legacy protocols and services such as SMB and Active Directory. Still many of these attacks starts at the endpoint either by drive-by download or by using phising attacks. Many security vendors are pushing their solution for this using a “Zero-Trust” approach. Essentially where a device or a user doesn’t have access to anything before risk is verified which can be done by collecting risk information from the user/device/action.
I believe that in 2021 more will take the shift to a zero-trust based security architecture to hopefully avoid these ransomware attacks and also to be able to support a shift to a modern workplace.
Multi-Cloud and Cloud Native
As many have predicted many have been moving to a multi public cloud ecosystem where organizations are using services from many public cloud vendors at the same time. This can put a lot of strain on a organization, in terms of people, processes and technology. At the same time it is using a combination of the right services to provide the best ecosystem. We also see a big trend where product vendors are creating their own product to support a “multi-cloud” ecosystem both from a security, monitoring, automation perspective. The problem is that most of these products do not provide 100% compability with any cloud provider, hence customers that use multi-cloud products lose access to the innovation.
I hope that 2021 that organizations focus on maintaning and managing each cloud as it’s own ecosystem instead of using so-called multi cloud products.
NOTE: Some multi-cloud tooling make sense, like using automation tools like Pulumi or Terraform.
New Hybrid Services and Cloud at Edge offerings
One increasing trend is that the big cloud providers like Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services are investing heavily into providing cloud services either at edge or within customer datacenters. Hence making more and more standard services which can replace other 3.party services. One example of this is AWS Outposts where AWS provides a full rack of AWS managed servers in combination of AWS services such as S3 at edge. Which I’m sure will be able to compete with other storage vendors in the market and also provide better ease of management. Then we also have PaaS services such as Amazon RDS, Azure Arc and google Anthos.
I belive in 2021 we will see more of these services becoming available to customers and also seeing an increase of customer adoption of these services where it makes sense.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) on optimizing customer networks
With more employees working from home to access services and offices becoming more a floating term since it can anywhere, and also with the adoption of cloud based services it requires that the organization needs to change how their network works and and also how employees access services securely.
This is where SASE comes in which is a new term, but essentially providing both security and optimization of the network. There are already a lot of vendors claiming to provide a SASE product stack which often is a product suite which consists of 4 main components.
- Cloud Access Security Broker
- Secure Web Gateway
- Zero-Trust Network Access
- Firewall as a service
This of course is also part of a zero-trust based network in combination with adopting SaaS based cloud services and modern workplace. Many of the traditional network vendors have the last couple of years aquired SD-WAN vendors like with Aruba and Silverpeak, VMware and Velocloud to enhance their capabilities, are now working on filling the gap to provide a SASE based product offering.
While I belive that many organizations will adopt a similar SASE portfolio to optimize and secure their services. I hope that customers will spend time on evaluating the different vendors in the market. Since many vendors are now just name dropping SASE in most marketing slides. With the other initatives on-going make sure that you are looking at the right vendor (or combination of vendors)
AIOps introduced into Operations
I’ve previosly written about AIOps and as you can see that as a more optimized operations as seen here –> https://msandbu.org/what-is-aiops-and-why-should-i-care/ with the adoption of cloud services this makes service more dispersed and essentially you have more components that can fail for a service with dependencies to your ISP, Network, Cloud Provider and application stack. In 2021 I belive that many organization will enhance their monitoring capabilities with AIOps (or ML) based enhancements to their operations to act either as “noise” filters and to make it easier to find the root cause for service failures.
I belive that we will also see an increase of AIOps tooling (or vendors claming to do AIOps) but what most organizations should be considering is where to put the AIOps functionality. On the Monitoring side, in between or as part of the ITSM product stack?
Automation for everyone
The last years there has been a lot of work that has been done by typical RPA tooling like Blue Prism and UIPath (and others) with all cloud vendors now adding no-code / low-code capabilities into their portfolio with services such as AWS Honeycode, Azure Power Automate, Microsoft Flow, Google Cloud AppSheet. Also with a lot of new 3.party platform being introduced will provide most employees with the ability to create their own automation runbooks or workflows using this built-in functionality while still much of the heavy lifting but still be done with RPA tooling (or as an addition of existing workflows)
I hope that in 2021, organiztions focus on introducing these types of ecosystems/services to their organization so that employees can themselves focus on building automation instead of that being done by an RPA team. So this way more organizations can take benefit from employees automating their own workflows.
With that I would like to thank all of my readers for this year, working with technology it is an never ending race to keep track on all the changes, technology trends and products that are being released.