6 key tech trends that will shape 2021

By Chris Lehman | Head of Engineering | Google Cloud

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the way in which we live and do business, forcing organizations to spend most of 2020 playing catch-up. When organizations weren’t scrambling to enable and secure remote workforces, they were adjusting their business models on the fly to accommodate sudden and dramatic shifts in the way they interacted with their customers and delivered products and services.

As we approach the end of 2020, we’re also heading towards one year into a world reshaped by COVID-19. In 2020, organizations were in a mad dash to cram years’ worth of digital transformation into a few months. While things aren’t set to slow down in 2021, organizations will shift their focus towards building on the digital foundations laid this year so that they are innovative and agile enough to tackle the next unprecedented macro event.

Here are six key tech trends that SADA predicts will shape 2021: 

1. IT as a business driver, not a cost center

For years, many enterprises viewed their IT departments as a sunk cost, not an investment. COVID-19 utterly demolished that line of thinking by forcing organizations to implement technologies they may have not otherwise invested in, especially cloud-based solutions to secure and enable remote workers and facilitate contactless or contact-light sales. It didn’t take long for corporate decision-makers to see the cost savings, innovation potential, and revenue-driving opportunities inherent in these technologies. While the C-suite isn’t going to start handing out blank checks, IT department budgets are poised to grow throughout 2021.

2. Zero-trust security will replace VPNs

For years, remote workers have used VPNs to connect to corporate resources, but VPNs depend on the existence of a network perimeter, something that no longer exists in our cloud-centric, distributed workforce world. As a result, 70% of organizations report that they are moving towards zero-trust to secure their remote workforces post-pandemic. This migration is fueling significant growth in zero-trust solutions, such as Google’s BeyondCorp Remote Access, which provide remote users with simpler and more secure remote access to internal apps.

3. Hybrid workplaces

Hybrid: It’s not just for clouds anymore. While remote work isn’t going anywhere, and many employees prefer never having to step into the office, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The anticipated arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and other safety measures will enable organizations to grant employees the flexibility to work where they’re most productive, whether that’s remotely, in the office, or a mixture of both. To support these hybrid workplaces, organizations will increase their investments in cloud-based office productivity tools, such as Google Workspace, that enable employees to work and collaborate from anywhere.

4. Confidential computing

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that response and recovery were dependent on the ability of researchers, healthcare organizations, and government agencies to share data and collaborate. For example, Google Cloud partnered with HCA Healthcare and SADA to launch the National Response Portal, which pools hospital metrics on ICU beds, testing results, and patient visits. Initiatives such as this portal required straddling a fine line between enabling authorized parties to access highly sensitive data while also shielding it from cybercriminals.

Confidential computing is a breakthrough technology that enables data to be encrypted in use, while it’s being processed. Google Cloud launched Confidential VMs in beta over the summer, the first service in what will be a full portfolio of confidential computing options for GCP customers. Among other benefits, confidential computing will enable organizations to collaborate without compromising the confidentiality or privacy of data sets.

5. Demand for multi-cloud will continue to increase

With new teams forming with background in diverse platforms and tools, the flurry of innovations coming from all three providers, and the urge for every business to be able to productively, securely, and efficiently leverage the next obvious step in platform evolution, the move to multi-cloud is strong. While impediments like proprietary APIs, incompatible billing and buying constructs, and the basic friction of having to learn/implement/manage in triplicate remain daunting, Kubernetes and the broader OSS effort to deliver a declarative orchestration that works irrespective of the platform it lands on is making huge inroads. With the focus on how to work asynchronously leading companies towards distributed, decomposed architectures, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing microservices on Kubernetes take off.

The next step is for ISVs (most notably those delivering via SaaS) to catch up to the demand of their customers. See Gitlab – able to deploy anywhere you want, or to serve up a managed service irrespective of the infrastructure provider you’re using. Notice Snowflake – works on all three. Observe Elastic – pushing back on weird AWS puffery by simply delivering everywhere. We see this as a key point of requirement by savvy IT buyers: not just “you must be where I want you to be,” but “you must show me you’ll go wherever I might want to go next.”

6. Demand for contactless workplaces will drive IoT innovation & automation

Even after a COVID-19 vaccine arrives, many employees will remain skittish about returning to office settings. They will want to know what their employers are doing to prevent the spread of contagious diseases in the workplace, and organizations will be concerned about potential liability if an office becomes a hotspot. 

Replacing high-touch surfaces with contactless technology is an effective way to prevent the spread of disease in the workplace. High demand for contactless tech will drive innovation for IoT solutions that enable elevator buttons, lights, doors, sinks, and toilets to be activated using smartphone apps, voice commands, or movement sensors.

1https://www.darkreading.com/perimeter/zero-trust-efforts-rise-with-the-tide-of-remote-working/d/d-id/1338343
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