In this the next of a multi-part report we ask a number of industry executives which sections of IT will gain the most from the changes wrought by the virus.
This is the question we posed: "Having endured the weirdest year any of us could have imagined, what will be different in 2021?"
In his own inimitable fashion, Garrett O'Hara Principal Technical Consultant at Mimecast ANZ sets the scene perfectly. "Let's hope everything will be different in 2021 because 2020 was the year equivalent of those days when you wake up on the sofa after a big night with a kebab stuck to your face while slowly realising two things: 1) it's not your sofa and 2) most of the day will be spent wishing it was the next day."
Vendors who already have the ability to merge on-premise and remote solutions will be in strong demand. As Brent Doncaster, Director of Marketing, NetFoundry suggests, "Everything will be 'hybrid' - hybrid cloud, hybrid work, hybrid apps, hybrid supply chains, etc.
"Digitization will continue to accelerate through 2021 as ALL organisations (especially governments) REALLY REALLY need to make digital agility and flexibility foundational to everything they do > digital is a key enabler, and software drives digital engagement > every organization is a software powered organization - or they disappear."
Recognising that the status quo isn't nearly sufficient, Doncaster suggests that if you haven't started the process to improve agility, you're probably going to be one of the losers. "Organisations that are fast and agile will get even faster and more agile - the 'winners' will continue to win. Stated another way, organisation that figure out how to re-invent themselves continuously will continuously build success - the others - not so much."
To assist this process, Richard Marr, General Manager, APAC, Auth0 suggests that "More enterprises will harness the expertise that specialist vendors introduce. By working with a solutions that gives their development teams the tools to create adaptable rules and extensions, businesses can achieve cost-efficiencies today and future-proof for what comes down the line."
Returning to Doncaster's comparison of winners and losers, "The 'losers', those that cannot re-invent quickly, or do not have the balance sheet/funding to re-invent will become obsolete quickly."
Doncaster also predicts a new area of innovation - space. "Lastly, there is about to be a new wave of innovation in space - meaning the platforms are being deployed now - not just rides into space for consumers - whole new space deployed infrastructure - aka the cloud will move into space. IT will be interesting to see if the USA can effectively balance or create private-public collaboration in these areas… its possible this new wave of innovation could - could establish new foundations for USA technological advances that outpace China, Russia and everyone else - must like what happened post Apollo space program of the 60s."
Similarly, Lynette Clunies-Ross, A/NZ Region Vice President, SAS points out that "New opportunities have emerged for hybrid digital and physical service models in healthcare, education and retail."
Steve Singer, Regional Vice President and Country Manager - Australia and New Zealand, Zscaler makes the very clear observation that cloud vendors are going to be winners. "Australian businesses will continue their mass migration to the cloud in 2021 and this will prove a positive security development. The dividends in production, efficiency, and cost that follow the complete transition to the cloud speak for themselves over time."
What about the people? Glen Maloney, ANZ Regional Sales Manager, ExtraHop casts an eye over the role of CISO. "Historically, a Chief Information Security Officer was the ultimate backroom job. No one outside the IT department was interested in the ins and outs of anti-virus software, firewalls, endpoint protection and all the other products and processes that kept high adversaries at bay.
"That's likely to change in 2021. Cyber-attacks have been a top-line threat for a while but the difference is, now everyone from the boardroom to the mailroom knows about it. As the 'chief of defence' the role of CISO is going to be a very visible one in businesses and organisations around the country - so much so that the CISO acronym may no longer need explaining!"
Mike Hicks, Principal Solutions Analyst at ThousandEyes points to the obvious demand for secure communications infrastructure everywhere that a remote employee may wish to work. "For one, more SD-WAN technology will be rolled out for the home office.
"As remote employees become more of a permanent fixture, the pressure on vendors will increase to provide SD-WAN solutions that are scalable enough to deploy in every employee's home office environment, thereby helping enterprises with centralised solutions to manage and enforce policies that route employee Internet traffic securely and with optimal performance."
Continuing the focus on communication and the necessary security, Daniel Markusson Digital Privacy Expert, NordVPN observes that "The VPN market has exploded and is intending to grow as fast. The global VPN market is predicted to reach $35.73 billion in 2022, and a CAGR of 12% is expected between 2020 and 2026. Big tech players' like Google's and Firefox's interest in the VPN market is a sign of the market's maturity, and we will see more moves from big tech companies in the years to come."
Chris Ellis, APAC Technical Evangelist, Nintex offers a leg-up to newer entrants. "An increasing number of factors blow the winds of change to favour emerging and junior technology companies. Easier access to investment funding and government grants for technology and innovation, and fewer resourcing and infrastructure costs due to cloud technology replacing traditional bricks and mortar mean the barriers of entry have never been lower. However, as these organisations reach critical mass with regard to their capability to scale in an ever-competitive market - or as larger organisations look to diversify into new markets or consolidate market share - we're seeing the news of mergers and acquisitions come through thick and fast."
Brendon Trezise, practice director - digital advisory, Empired agrees with Ellis' final comment. "At the macro level we will see an uptick in mergers and acquisitions (similar to the post-GFC era) where the companies that came through COVID-19 strongly will look to pick up others in distress at bargain prices."
In addition, there is a clear backlog of projects that were halted due to the virus. Ilan Rubin, managing director, Wavelink claims that "We expect a surge in demand for technology upgrades in healthcare (public, private and aged care) to make up for projects delayed in 2020 due to COVID-19 and to support new activities in 2021 such as COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. This encompasses mobility, improved environmental and infection control, staff duress, workflow management and location tracking."
…and finally, we can't forget the bad dudes - they too will be amongst the 'winners!' Ashley Watkins, Managing Director, Commercial, Trend Micro ANZ tells us that "In 2021, the pandemic will continue to disrupt every aspect of our lives, however cybercriminals will go to extreme lengths to maximise return as new developments in the pandemic emerge."
Very gratifying to hear.
There will be further instalments in this series, focussing on Cloud, on AI/ML and on IT security in particular for the coming year. Stay tuned.