The evolution of the digital ecosystem in 2021: Predictions for cloud, network edge and beyond

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Predictions for cloud, network edge and beyond

Guest post by Brent Doncaster, Senior Director Marketing at NetFoundry.

For all organisations, the pandemic brought home that digital agility and flexibility are foundational to everything they do. Remote working enabled by videoconferencing and other applications created a big increase in demand for cloud services and raised even bigger questions about how we work in future.

Industry analysts foresee a strong upward trend in cloud spending as most organizations increase budgets for technology and digital initiatives. Other areas including administration, marketing, and HR are likely to experience budget cuts.

Digital is an ecosystem and it continues to grow more diverse. Everything will be hybrid: hybrid cloud, hybrid work, hybrid apps, hybrid supply chains and hybrid digital solutions. The challenge, as ever, will be to increase choice and diversity for consumers and businesses without also increasing complexity.

What about how we pay for it all?

The perpetual software licence is dead, long live software-as-a-service. The pandemic will make cost-conscious organizations more determined than ever to pay only for what they really need in every part of the business and spending on IT and Security will be no different. Consumption based pricing will continue its strong march forward powering not just individual organisations but entire economies. Countries that get this transition to “as-a-service” everything right will have a potential economic advantage, because being agile at scale lowers the cost of entry for new innovative companies. You no longer need to raise huge bundles of capital to build new enterprises. So, innovation accelerates.

And the costs?

Gartner came up with the concept of total cost of ownership in 1987. It was a fantastic way to look at the lifetime costs of IT rather than on a crude actuarial basis, but it did little to link expenditure to business value, perhaps because 30 years ago IT was still nothing more than an operational cost for most organisations. Cutting costs has a short-term impact on the balance sheet and might put a bit more money in the pockets of shareholders, but a more fruitful kind of consciousness will prioritize the areas deemed most essential for digital success. How many businesses truly see IT as an investment opportunity and how many are just saying the words?

Who will be the winners and losers of tomorrow?

I foresee an economic bifurcation where the big get bigger, the small flourish in the spaces they can’t fit into but there is not so much going on in the middle.  Continual reinvention is the key to continuous success. We can see this not just in the cloud arena where the hyperscalers tower above a landscape of smaller, nimbler niche players, but now in the economy at large. Without dwelling on the pandemic, it seems that medium size businesses are the most prone to being wiped out in the economic turmoil. What will fill the space left behind remains an interesting question – successful diversification on the part of the giants or the rapid expansion of smaller businesses?

What about the future of networking?

Networking will be transformed (finally) by software abstraction and virtualization. Networking is the last major infrastructure pillar to be transformed. Just as compute and storage infrastructure was abstracted and virtualized into cloud, networking will also be transformed into as-a-service solutions with cloud enabled capabilities built and deployed in software.

Network-as-a-service (NaaS) solutions are delivering a new paradigm that unifies networking and zero trust security. NaaS makes network and security services programmable, highly agile and scalable with cloud native orchestration and through the application of automated optimization, organizations can leverage networking to support strategic digital initiatives.

What about the future of technology in more general terms?

We will see a continuing re-alignment of ecosystem forces centered around western technology hubs (mainly USA), and Asian technology hubs (mainly China). These ecosystems will seek to consolidate superiority in new technologies in areas including semiconductors, AI and machine learning, blockchain and distributed ledgers, and quantum computing. There will be continuing push-pull regarding access to markets and supply chain orchestration.

Security will continue to be big business. The pandemic created new urgency for enterprises to pay heed to security as they extended existing systems to a newly distributed workforce or embraced new collaborative tools for the first time. Security systems will continue to evolve to become systems of systems. As much as we think we can simplify security, these systems will only grow in complexity. The ongoing task for providers of security solutions will be to hide this complexity or at least make it manageable.

Lastly, we are about to see the cloud move into space. Technology platforms are being deployed now not just for providing rides into space for consumers, fun though that is, but for new IT infrastructure deployed above the Earth’s atmosphere by for profit enterprises.

It will be interesting to see if the USA or other countries can effectively stimulate private-public collaboration in these space technologies to recreate something with the revolutionary effect of the Apollo space program of the 1960s. The race to put the cloud in space sounds like a meteorological conundrum, but for the winner (or winners) it could establish a new era of technological advancement.

About the author

Brent Doncaster is the Senior Director of Marketing for NetFoundry. NetFoundry is a provider of zero trust, high performance, cloud-native networking from edge to cloud. Brent applies his 15+ years of marketing and communications expertise to build and optimize all product and partner marketing functions as we grow NetFoundry into an industry leading powerhouse. Prior to NetFoundry, Brent worked in Sr. Product and Solutions Marketing roles with VMware, Dell Technologies, and Citrix Systems. Brent is based in Austin Texas and holds a Master of Science (M.S.) degree from Boise State University and undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology. Follow Brent on Twitter: @Brent_BWD

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (

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