In many ways, 2020 has been a watershed moment for enterprise IT professionals. Regardless of industry, many are tasked with achieving more with fewer resources, rapidly enabling remote work, and accelerating cloud adoption while simultaneously navigating a shifting security and compliance landscape.

While the last past 12 months have been, in most ways, unpredictable, the visible trends have shed light on what is top of mind for CIOs and other IT leaders. Here are my team and mine’s top data management and protection predictions for 2021--based on deep conversations with customers and our own firsthand observations. 

California will become a bellwether in data privacy--for the world: A lot of factors have impacted data privacy in the past year, but with the state recently passing Prop 24, California will shift from being a fast follower to a leader in shaping data privacy policies for both businesses and consumers. Prop 24, which legislates broader consumer protection, will have a significant impact on Silicon Valley and beyond, and we’ll see other geographies turning to California to develop the next wave of privacy regulations. 

We will hear louder calls for banning ransomware payments: The pandemic has seen a huge increase in ransomware attacks, which has increased ransomware education and elevated the importance of security across the board. Moving into next year, security leaders will explore banning ransomware payments to avoid paying attackers in the underground market: the more payments are made the larger the market becomes (and the more sinister the attacks), and we may even see the government step in beyond the ransomware advisories they have already issued.

The AI arms race continues -- in cybersecurity: The cybersecurity arms race between defenders and hackers has always existed, and we’ll see AI push this race to the next level. While AI has been prevalent in cybersecurity for some time, we’ll see continued evolution for both sides. Defenders need to develop an “adversarial mindset” and apply AI to better protect assets, and bad actors will learn to deploy AI in more nefarious ways. The back and forth in attacks and prevention will continue, and in the year ahead, it will increasingly shift to an AI battleground.

2021 will be the year businesses re-architect for the cloud: The idea of being well-architected in the cloud is a new idea for a lot of businesses -- and that will change in 2021. The big three cloud vendors all have similar types of well-architected frameworks to guide cloud implementations, but the frameworks can at times be neglected in favor of accelerated cloud adoption. It’s key to architect applications for the cloud to ensure data security and maximize cloud economics, and we’ll see an increased emphasis on these frameworks in the year ahead. 

Cloud automation takes businesses to the next level of efficiency -- and prevents human error: Mature automation capabilities are required to achieve efficiency in the cloud. As machine learning further penetrates cloud deployments, we’ll see automation elevate efficiency to even greater levels and in the process predict -- and eliminate -- human mistakes to prevent organizations from shooting themselves in the foot. Cloud automation will help businesses remain profitable amidst market uncertainty, and we’ll see it help non-technical workers on a daily basis. 

Democratization of IT becomes democratization of AI: AI and machine learning are reaching a point where a layperson can come up with a cool idea, ask questions, and employ algorithms without knowing complex mathematics. In the year ahead, we’ll see a further “AI-ification” of everything in our lives -- we’re already seeing it applied to cameras, thermostats, and drones, and we’ll see that commoditization benefit the enterprise and IT teams in big ways. In particular, the democratization of AI will lead to massive time savings, with corresponding outputs that can be the difference between making decisions on the fly vs. letting competitors make the first move.

Curious how Rubrik fits into what’s next in 2021? Go under the hood of our innovative solutions.