2020 Year in Review

Phew!

We made it!  2020 is going to stack up to being one of those years that we will reference in the future as being a turning point for many things.  From societal changes to tech trends to industry-wide priority changes of remote working, we literally saw it all. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that no amount of planning can protect us from unforeseen circumstances. Despite the nature of the year we’ve all just experienced, one simple fact is perfectly clear: You need to be ready for anything.  And by anything, I mean ANYTHING.

The onset of a worldwide pandemic, TikTok taking over the internet, mail-in voting changing the course of history… 2020 had something for just about everything and everyone, each of which warrant their own post and video in the grand scheme of things.  It would be easy for me to talk about good ol’ infrastructure and storage arrays and virtualization, but we’re gonna stick to these three key things that I’ve personally identified that stood out to me throughout the course of 2020.  I’d love to hear yours in the comments below.  What were some of the big takeaways in tech from 2020 for you? And if you like these kinds of videos from me, be sure to subscribe for more throughout the year!

Today I’m going to focus on Enterprise Tech and how I saw shifts in technology and priorities throughout the year.  If you’d like to discuss any of these with me directly, I do stream on Twitch every Monday/Wednesday and Friday at 1PM Eastern.  You can also come join the Orbital Jigsaw discord where me and a lot of colleagues discuss topics such as this every day as a community, and we can also help you build your next PC, pick out a new microphone, and promote your own content amongst industry peers!

Not since the advent of virtualization has our industry shifted in such a way as it has in the last few years.  The rise of Cloud Computing has brought about change in literally every nook and cranny of how companies and their IT departments will do business going forward.  From deploying infrastructure to coding and deploying new apps to protecting petabytes instead of gigabytes, the last few years have led to this pivotal year of digital transformation.  Backups, project management, social media, even the cars we drive are all affected by this level of transformation.

As a general rule, I truly believe in looking back every year at the previous year because as the great Maya Angelou once said:

If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

So let’s take a look back at 2020. I want to share with you the things that kept me up at night, excited for what the future may bring.

Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing

Throughout the year, we saw massive advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT device usage.  From smart homes using devices to open garage doors and start the laundry, to oil rigs and manufacturing facilities collecting and sending  petabytes of data to the cloud for business modeling, and then using AI/ML to process all of that data using high-powered (and often cloud-based) apps, workflows, and hardware built specifically for those kinds of workloads… the entire spectrum of every vertical is experiencing an AI disruption.

The AI market is expected to grow to $195B by 2025, reaching nearly $60B in 2021. I suspect we’re only seeing the early days and beginning stages of what AI is truly capable of.  Self-driving vehicles, automated deliveries from Amazon, and personal assistants are all things I expect will make great leaps throughout 2021 and beyond.  It is THE top thing being invested in by the VC and startup community, as well as established brands and industries in every vertical.

The next major technology trend I’m seeing is quantum computing. It’s a form of computing that takes advantage of quantum phenomena like superposition and quantum entanglement. Quantum has also been involved over the last year in preventing the spread of coronavirus, as well as developing potential vaccines, thanks to its ability to easily query, monitor, analyze and act on data, regardless of the source. Banking and finance is another field where quantum computing is finding a home, with its ability to manage credit risk, but also for high frequency trading and fraud detection.

Familiarize yourself and keep an eye out for more information on quantum computing, as I think it is THE thing that will allow AI to go to the next level when it comes to complex processes and decision-making compared to the sort of IF-THEN-ELSE nature that it is today.  And yes, I know I’m oversimplifying.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Tying in very closely to AI and Quantum computing … those conversations always lead to the next step which is: “What do we do with all of that AI?”

Well, the answer from a lot of people is SKYNET doomsday grandstanding, but personally, I think it is more likely that we will get more of Tony Stark’s JARVIS than Miles Dyson’s SKYNET.  What IS realistic is that we’re about to see a whole new level of something known as RPA, or Robotic Process Automation.  Think to yourself about all of the mundane tasks that we all do every day, week, and month of the year, and how much time could be freed up by automating them or having some kind of assistant doing them for us.  Whether it’s your Roomba vacuuming the floors for you, Philips Hue adjusting the brightness and temperature of your lights, or Echo adjusting the thermostats on a schedule in the house.  Now with all of that in mind, take it to the next level.  What about a robot butler that could prepare complex meals from the kitchen for the whole family?  What about a robot mechanic that could diagnose and repair your car?  What about a robotic surgeon that could implant chips into our brains seamlessly to allow us to finally interface with computers?!  I’m kidding… or am I?

Point is, RPA is the next evolution of AI and where we’re REALLY going to see it start to interject into our personal lives in meaningful ways. For the most part, we likely don’t even know or realize just how much we already interact with AI.  I assure you, it’s astounding.  And wonderful.

The Cloud

It would be impossible to talk about 2020 without talking about Cloud Computing, or just “the cloud” in general.  Even at NetApp, I witnessed the leading storage array manufacturer I know and love become “a cloud company” in the eyes of the industry, and even Wall Street, underneath my very eyes!  An overhaul of a large Silicon Valley company that manifested as part of a MASSIVE undertaking dating all the way back to 2014 when George Kurian first stood up and said “digital transformation” at Insight.

But that’s just a small portion of the change that happened throughout the year.  Coming out of 2019, AWS made massive announcements at re:invent, Microsoft led off the year with an amazing virtual event at Build, and Google spent NINE WEEKS … yes, NINE WEEKS … putting on their virtual event throughout the summer. Alongside Apple, the Big 3 cloud providers are among the biggest companies in history. And with good reason.  They’ve overhauled and simplified the way companies can do business and opened up the possibilities to accomplish anything they can dream up in the cloud.  Between AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, any company can run ANY workload in ANY cloud.  2020 was the year that this all finally came to fruition.  Where companies big and small finally began believing it was possible.  And while it is still steeped in nuance of cost and performance, companies like NetApp and VMware are stepping up to provide a combination of overlays of their products and services to bring about real enterprise expectations of resilience, performance, and security in all cloud providers.  This has been key, and in my opinion, one of the top inhibitors of Enterprise IT organizations exploring and eventually adopting the cloud.  I’m happy to say the time is finally here, and you can move your datacenter workloads to the cloud with confidence.  Even though I still firmly believe in a well-designed bespoke datacenter or co-location strategy, having a combination of workloads strategically placed in the cloud to supplement those is the key.  Identifying which ones are best suited will be the most difficult up-front step, and an open mind and willingness to re-factor those applications to effectively run in the cloud is paramount to success.

So there you have it!  Those are my top most impactful tech things of 2020 that definitely had an effect on me personally.  I would love to hear some of yours in the comments below!  

And look … it cannot be overstated that a lot happened throughout 2020 that made it a very difficult year to get through.  A lot of which we are still experiencing and living through.  We cannot forget the hundreds of thousands of people we’ve lost in 2020, and I couldn’t get through this without saying something about that.  They will forever be remembered.  As of the recording of this video, here in the U.S., we are having a 9/11 every single day and it is heartbreaking.  

Please stay safe, wear your masks if you must go out, and be kind to one another.

We’ll see you next time!

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