Getting set for a year of consolidation
There’s no doubt that 2020 will stand out among the handful of extraordinary years that all people experience. Alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, the moon landing, and South Africa’s first democratic elections, 2020 is not likely to be soon forgotten.
Apart from the human and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, the one standout aspect of the year is the role that technology played in keeping the world communicating, companies operating, and people connected in ways that wouldn’t have been considered before.
With 2021 round the corner, one thing appears certain; the trends that defined 2020 aren’t going to fade into the background. In fact, the acceleration in organisations’ digital transformation journeys is unlikely to slow.
Kate Mollett, Regional Manager, Africa at Veeam Software, identifies a number of key trends that she expects to define the coming 12 months.
“Distributed workforces were already growing, but this was supercharged as a result of the global pandemic,” she says. “With many companies extending their work-from-home programmes and some making them permanent, the reliance on cloud-based collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack is only going to increase. With teams leveraging cloud services to store the data that these platforms generate, companies will be focusing their attention on the need for data protection and management.”
IT budgets get realigned
Collaboration was a priority in 2020, but on the whole, IT spend fell. Mollett expects spending to rebound in 2021 with security and hardware top priorities. “Despite the economic turbulence brought on by the pandemic in 2020, we’ll see a 5% to 10% increase in general IT spend in 2021.”
Alongside a focus on security, general system modernisation (backup, applications, cloud migrations, etc) and refreshing hardware, projects that were put on hold are likely to come back into focus. “Those parts of the technology environment that are refreshed on a regular basis, but missed out last year, are likely to be prioritised in 2021.”
The year of software-defined everything
“I expect that 2021 is the year that the appliance as a concept finally loses its lustre,” she comments. “Ten years ago, appliances were these shiny new toys that everyone wanted to get their hands on, but they’ve not had the predicted staying power. We’ve seen a shift towards backup as a service and away from appliances. Part of the reason for this is the dominance of remote work in 2020, and the necessity of software-defined models to enable the flexibility required to support users across multiple connectivity methods.”
Developers take the lead
With more companies looking to modernise their applications, the role of developers will see them take a more active role in companies’ technology directions and data strategies.
Mollett explains that it’s likely we’ll see an aggressive “shift to the left” across all industries, where CIOs will lean more on their development teams
“Historically, development teams have taken a top-down approach in moving their data to the cloud, but this changed with the pandemic and the faster move to cloud-based environments. In 2021, I’m expecting to see DevOps teams have far more say in development of data strategies, with a resultant increase in the mobility of workloads.”
Machine learning steps up
The cloud has already democratised machine learning and organisations are seeing the opportunities that their existing data presents. “Data re-use will be a big trend in 2021, with companies leveraging the power of machine learning to help them do this,” Mollett says. “It’s still in its early stages, but adoption will increase as organisations gain a greater understanding of the potential value.”
Compliance comes into focus
Mollett comments that with the Protection of Personal Information Act coming into force in South Africa, data privacy and privacy regulations will continue to gain traction. “In particular, I expect to see the first proposed federal regulations in the US around privacy in 2021.” She adds that it’s likely that compliance fines will continue on the downward trend they followed in 2020. “We saw a massive jump in compliance fines in 2019, which solidified how seriously GDPR, CCPA and others needed to be taken. Now that the awareness is there, the shift will be more towards more consistency.”
“It’s unlikely that 2021 will be as memorable as this year has been, but we’re going to see a consolidation of the trends that marked 2020 and the re-emergence of some issues that got put on the back-burner. It’s not going to be a year for organisations to take their eye off the ball,” she says.