The Future of Enterprise IT: Four Key Trends

The Future of Enterprise IT: Four Key Trends

Everything is different now.

That’s true for all of us, as we cope with the enduring presence and lingering aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s particularly true for enterprise technologists, who are witnessing a once-in-a-generation set of paradigm shifts that are transforming how companies and other large organizations will deploy technology for decades to come.

I’m old enough to remember the last big shift–this thing called the Internet. I was using it as a young particle physicist (and later) engineer back in the 1980s, and I remember telling my boss at the time that this Internet thing was a really big deal. (Her response: “Don’t be silly, Johna, the Internet’s just for scientists and engineers.”).

Okay, I got that one right. (I’ve gotten a few wrong, too, in my career as a prognosticator.)  But I’m pretty confident when I tell you that these four transformational shifts combine to deliver a game-changing wallop for enterprise technologists.

Let’s take them in order (counterclockwise from top left).

It’s no secret that when it comes to computing workloads, the action’s in the cloud. 2019 was the year that more workloads were in the cloud (54%) than in on-prem data centers and branches. And that trend will only continue. That means a lot of job changes for in-house data center specialists, who will find their skills are less in demand in corporate America (but substantially more in demand from cloud providers).

And it also leads to trend #2: The massive WAN shift from inside-to-inside to outside-to-outside. That is, yesterday’s WAN was architected to transport traffic between a location inside the enterprise (from a branch or headquarters office) to another site inside the enterprise (typically a data center). Yet even prior to Covid-19, that architecture was in decline. In February 2020, the majority of traffic (61%) either initiated outside the enterprise (in a home office or remote worker’s laptop), terminated outside the enterprise (on the cloud) or both. Post Covid-19, the stats are more like 89-90% of all traffic is outside-outside.

This, in turn, has a huge impact on security paradigms (trend #3). You can’t protect the perimeter if nobody’s inside it. As workloads increasingly move to cloud, and end stations increasingly move outside the perimeter, security has to move away from perimeter-based to zero-trust. Specifically, infrastructure security needs to move “up the stack” from firewall-based to cloud-based–and out to the endpoints, where users and their applications need to be effectively authorized and protected.

Moving up the stack means shifting from physical appliances (firewalls) to virtual protection (software-defined perimeter). And, in fact, that’s the theme of trend #4: the virtualization of everything.

But that’s not all. These trends are occurring today, but trends in the near future will accelerate the pace of enterprise technology transformation. First, there’s the convergence of physical, bio, and cyber-security as we collectively move to digitize our office and shared workspaces. Think “fewer, smarter office buildings”. Then there’s the evolution of IoT into tele-robotics (remotely controlled robots) and “cobots”. We’ll see jobs that today can’t be handled as work from home morphing into something that can–anything from manufacturing line work to fast food services and telemedicine. Tomorrow’s manufacturing floor specialist may be working from a La-Z-Boy in the living room.

And as the physical world virtualizes, watch for the rise of digital twinning and mixed reality, as digital models, simulations, and AIs interact with their real-world counterparts.

Want to learn more? Register here for the keynote presentation I’m giving with Gary Sorrentino, Deputy CIO at Zoom. It’s a replay of our Navigator360 conference event in June, but Gary and I will be live to take your questions. I look forward to seeing you there!

Share this post