Covid-19: May you live in interesting times

The pandemic has shaken up an already rapidly changing industry, and everyone will have to transition, and become more agile

The pandemic has shaken up an already rapidly changing industry.

At the end of every year, my inbox fills with press releases offering predictions for a slew of different technology-related areas for the following year. Needless to say, I can’t think of anyone who got it right, as no one saw Covid-19 coming, or could have predicted the rolling lockdowns and insanity that followed.

During the global pandemic, it became painfully clear that those organisations that were mature in their cloud journeys found it much easier to move their entire workforce to home, practically overnight. These companies thrived. Sadly, many that weren't far along their cloud journeys ended up laying off staff, or even closing their doors.

In the semi-aftermath of corona, businesses have realised that becoming cloud-first is critical. It's no longer a 'nice to have', but something that means staying open and viable. This dramatic shift to digital as a result of WFH will spill over into next year as more and more companies shift to cloud environments, digital technologies and collaborative tools in an effort to be ‘new normal’-ready.

Another reality that 2021 will bring is the fact that ‘everything’ is serviceable these days, and practically anything within the ICT sector can be delivered as a service via the cloud. Everything-as-a-Service, or XaaS, began with the SaaS or Software-as-Service deployment model and now includes infrastructure, or IaaS, platform, or PaaS, and even more functionally-specific models, such as Storage-as-a-Service, Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), and Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS).

It also, unfortunately, includes cybercrime-as-a-service. The old adage that crime doesn’t pay has proven woefully inaccurate. Boy, does it pay, and pay well. The black market of buyers and sellers, criminal geniuses and amateurs looking to make a quick buck is thriving, and isn’t going to slow down any time soon. Cybercrime is only going to get worse, and increasingly professional and organised, as ‘productising’ malware is making cybercrime as simple as shopping online, with everything from exploit kits to DDoS attacks available as a service, and even offering customer and after sales service.

Nimble players

Alongside this, cybersecurity, which has topped the agenda for a number of years, is also going to become increasingly critical, as organisations across the board manage the significantly increased attack surface we are now seeing thanks to the coronavirus. I believe that more and more companies will look to a zero-trust approach, in which the concept of trust is taken out the equation, and every user, both in and out of the perimeter, is continually verified.

Next year, I believe AI will become even more pervasive. It’s practically everywhere we look today, from the in-your-face chatbot, to the hidden AI we find in the algorithms that run social media and search engines, that have effectively made us the product. It is being applied in many other areas that we don’t see, including credit card fraud detection and home loan approval, and it will be interesting to see what other applications are on their way next year.

What does all of this mean for the channel? It goes without saying that the industry can only become more competitive. All the top players will need to restructure their operating models and look for new ways to deliver all of this. The pandemic has shaken up an already rapidly changing industry, and everyone will have to transition, and become more agile. There are few pure play vendors left. These heavyweight incumbents have been threatened by the more nimble players we see competing today, and have had to reinvent themselves for this digital world. Everyone is heading in this direction, and channel players will have to find ways to sell digital solutions, and not products, and make sure they have the skills and talent to do this. 

This year was an annus horribilis, and I hope that 2021 is far kinder and gentler on us.


KIRSTEN DOYLE is a consulting editor at ITWeb with a special interest in cyber security. Follow her on Twitter on @KirstenDoyle.