(By Matt Oostveen)
2020 was an unprecedented year in recent history. Humankind has not undergone a global pandemic like COVID-19 in the last hundred years. It has affected almost every aspect of our lives across our planet. The way we live, and work has changed and in the same vein businesses have had to reinvent themselves too. Technology has taken a centerstage and digital transformation has become a necessity than a passing fad. This evolution is set to redefine businesses across industries and sectors. In the coming year, this transformation is expected to gather further momentum. We anticipate the following trends in the coming year.
Customer Experience Becomes the Differentiator in Storage-as-a-Service Market
In 2021, as-a-Service consumption is now table stakes– and enterprise customers are demanding more. It has become clear that ‘as-a-service’ models have to re-justify their value every single day because it is so easy to sign up for a service and then discontinue it in favor of a different one if it doesn’t meet your needs. The coming months will bring greater clarity around the differences between “products on subscription” (i.e. lease) offerings and true “as-a-Service” solutions, which are about buying an outcome (i.e. Service Level Agreements) and having a third-party deliver it. With as-a-Service, you should be able to: start small, grow over time, and have complete transparency over pricing and related KPIs. The customer should never feel like they have bought something and now they are on their own – or locked into a service that offers little benefit compared to a traditional capital purchase.
Containers and Kubernetes – the One-Two Punch of Enterprise Efficiency – Are So Mainstream We’ll Stop Talking about Them in 2021
Containers and Kubernetes are the one-two punch of enterprise efficiency – reinventing how we build and run applications. By 2025, Gartner projects that 85% of global businesses will be running containers in production, up from 35% in 2019. But for digital leaders in the enterprise, these essential building blocks of the microservices that enable organizations to be more agile while still building highly reliable applications, are already mainstream. Agility and resilience are key benefits of microservice architectures and digital native powerhouses like Netflix understood the competitive advantages of microservices early on.
In 2021, look for containers and Kubernetes to remain central to enterprises launching and expanding their long-planned digital transformation projects. Containers will be so mainstream that it will not be the technology that is interesting anymore – but instead the new applications and digital touchpoints that CIOs will be talking about. They’ll understand that their teams have a toolkit of solutions that will allow them to do things at speed and velocity that they could have only dreamed of five or ten years ago – like leveraging streaming data to deliver real-time personalization to 10 million customers worldwide.
Object Gets Smarter: Despite the object renaissance, it’s not a panacea without file
Twenty years ago, the object was treated like a dumb but extraordinarily scalable repository for storing data while all the intelligence, the metadata, and the annotations were held separately in some kind of database. This structure worked well, up to a point, but with the exponential growth of data volumes – with billions of blobs just sitting in an object store – the framework is no longer viable. Increasingly, organizations want to interrogate and analyze their data without the headache of having to keep these two systems aligned. As a result, there is an increasing demand for embedding the crucial metadata into the data objects so that it’s not just about performance, but about being intelligent.
Object storage is well suited to the growth of cloud platforms and the big data environment of the modern world. Ultimately, customers want a scalable, agile system that can handle the challenges of modern, unstructured data. While object storage might be having a renaissance, it is not on its own a panacea. It might be highly scalable, but it cannot mutate individual pieces, i.e. open up an object and write a few bytes out of it. In order to be successful, a full application workflow needs more than just an object-store. While fast file storage is not a new concept, putting files and objects together in the same platform is a creative way to avoid building two different silos and adding more complexity. Unified file and object are the future and 2021 will see this category go mainstream.
2021 Will Be a Foundational Year for the Distributed/Edge Cloud
While distributed/edge cloud architectures are still largely in the planning and testing phase, 2021 will be a foundational year for this emerging and vital cloud model – driven by the rapid expansion in 5G and IoT-connected devices, sharp increases in edge-created data sources, and Kubernetes as the standard for microservices application orchestration. A distributed cloud is described by Gartner as the first cloud model to incorporate the physical location of cloud-delivered services. This model will enable enterprises to manage disparate components across multiple clouds, unlocking the potential to deploy more highly customized IT services with the added benefit of extracting value from data sources in edge locations. Industries such as mining, oil & gas, and utilities – those with high levels of IT/OT convergence and large quantities of data creation occurring in remote and regional locations – will be among the first to derive value from the distributed cloud.
Sustainability: Rising from Supply Chain Trend to Business Imperative
Sustainability has risen beyond being just a key global supply chain trend. In 2021, it will become imperative. In every single buying decision, enterprises will factor in the impact on their carbon footprint goals. And with new efforts led by the World Economic Forum and the EU aimed at standardizing metrics and reducing ‘greenwashing,’ businesses will be held more accountable for their efforts. In the data center, the proliferation of data generation, consumption, and storage has led to unsustainable energy usage. It’s simply no longer just about how much faster we can drive technology, but how we can deliver it sustainably for generations to come.
Innovation has taken the forefront and businesses are no longer reluctant to try out new technologies that will give better results in cost-effective ways in the coming year.
(The author is the Vice President and Field Chief Technology Officer, APJ, Pure Storage)