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A New Decade, Pace of Change Only Quickens: My Crystal Ball

Predictions season has become like Christmas season. It starts too early and by the time the new year begins the fatigue has set in from too many egg nogs and too many expert pundits. I read a lot of the predictions from the technology world. Since we started Actifio 10 years ago, we’ve lived through a decade of fundamental shifts and world-changing innovations like no other. I’d like to begin this new decade with my own crystal ball and touch on some topics that will be top of mind as we all turn this page. 

Here are my 2020 technology predictions

AI will dominate new apps and make data even more important.

While the singularity has not happened yet, we’re approaching it in software development. As data becomes more heavily governed, controlled and collected, machine learning will be a predominant way for it to be leveraged. Gartner says enterprise adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) has tripled in the last year alone, and that 37 percent of organizations have now embraced AI/ML. IDC predicts that by 2025, at least 90% of new enterprise apps will embed AI/ML. Data-powered decisions, including the use of robotic process automation (RPA) will eclipse human-powered decisions in terms of the volume of decisions.

Cloud vendors like Google and IBM have dramatically lowered the barriers to adoption and use of AI/ML, leveling the playing field for organizations of any size to become data-driven. We’ve seen this phenomenon more recently with gene splicing that reduced the cost from millions of dollars to around $20. MIT’s new Schwarzman College of Computing will lay the foundation for computing as a basic skill, just as math is, and further enable exponential adoption of computing in everyday life. 

Similar to the rapid evolution of test data management (TDM) from an esoteric practice more than 10 years ago to a ubiquitous part of every organization today, I see the rise of analytics data management (ADM) as the new process for rapid adoption of AI/ML and improving the accuracy of data-driven decisions.

One thing is certain: all this machine learning will play a major role in making data an even more strategic asset.

There is no containing the growth of containers.

Will Kubernetes be the killer app for edge computing in 2020? That prediction caught my attention because it matches our experience talking to our customers who are relying more and more on containers for developing and testing new applications. This is why we made it easier to clone large production databases using containers in our newest release. Container Journal explained it this way: “The amount of structured data pouring into databases running on containers continues to increase. IT organizations are building more stateful containerized applications that require access to persistent forms of storage. In theory, it should be simple to move databases embedded within containers across platforms assuming DevOps teams have access to tools that enable them to copy the data residing in those databases. Of course, however, actual DevOps mileage will vary depending on the quality of the data management tool employed.”

Digital nationalism and cloud services.

The internet just turned 50 years old and cloud services have emerged as the dominant model for IT and innovation in general. But as politicians and world leaders shift their focus to data as the strategic, scary asset they must control and protect, the rise of digital nationalism will present major complications for multinational companies and technology providers in the new decade. The world is more connected than ever before, and yet more countries are placing tighter controls around data and markets as they institute “data localization” requirements in the name of national security, protectionism or censorship. Forty-five countries now have some version of data localization requirements — and these are no longer limited to authoritarian regimes. Australia, Canada, and South Korea are now among the countries with restrictions on cross-border flow of data. The Indian government has demanded that SAP must house any data on its Indian customers within the country.

Governments aren’t the only ones wanting tighter control of their data. The data leaked from Capital One was on AWS (Amazon Web Services). For a while the cloud was synonymous with the on-demand experience and people paid scant attention to where it’s running. Now, I hear more and more companies saying, “I want my business critical workloads and apps in my private cloud, under my control.” We hear a lot about “cloud repatriation.”

In response, Google Cloud released “Anthos,” Microsoft Azure has “Azure Stack” and AWS has “Outposts.” Michael Dell talks about the growth of the private cloud and believes the largest “cloud vendor” will be the private cloud — within corporate data centers. Companies will become like nation states in this regard.

Cloud-focused platforms that work with both the public and private sectors need to think of themselves like Switzerland. They need to work across all organizations and clouds in order to ensure that everyone – no matter what – has access to their data while adhering to the various government regulations. 2020 will bring about more cloud-agnostic platforms. Digital silos will be broken down in order to give organizations access to the data they need, when they need it.

The wolves and their expensive hardware, in the sheep’s clothing of modern buzzwords.

There is a new generation of deduplication appliance vendors looking to displace monolithic, previous-generation hardware platforms. But they bring some of the same dangers that customers came to regret with the legacy storage vendors of the previous era. The wolves are dressed in the sheep’s clothing of buzzwords like “scale-out” and “software-based” but make no mistake: users are locked in to expensive “certified” hardware. Nothing scales out more than cloud object storage (which is what Actifio leverages for storing backups while still providing instant mount and recoveries). A truly modern data management platform should run on any compute or storage, on-premises or in the cloud, and work with a wide variety of performance and capacity requirements. In 2020, more IT teams will recognize the trap and embrace multi-cloud copy data management and cloud object storage.

Voters and data security:

Hacking, ransomware and data leaks are alleged to have played a central role in the U.S. election process of 2016. Many candidates are back on the campaign trail in 2020, some for the first time and others with legacy election infrastructure. In order to capture and store sensitive donor information, these candidates will need to dig deep into their databases to find the personal identifiable information to reach out. To maintain the best donor experience and the most effective fund-raising and voter turnout operations while improving security and data privacy, campaign managers will turn to software platforms that help them ensure that campaign information stays secure from intrusion, private, up-to-date, and immediately accessible for strategic uses.

In November 2020 we will see if DARPA’s $10 million contract commitment to secure, open-source election system hardware prototypes will have a positive effect. Given the volumes of information that will be stored, it will need to be able to securely and rapidly manage the data — and recover it quickly and efficiently in the case of a breach. Confidence in the integrity of the voting process is the backbone of a functioning democracy.

Ash Ashutosh is co-founder and CEO of Actifio, the pioneer of multi-cloud copy data management.