Why I’m Optimistic About 2021

There's a lot to look forward to as we turn the corner into 2021.

We’ve emerged from 2020 – a year that presented significant challenges while earning us a few new stripes. We learned what it means to be resilient and agile. We adapted to different ways of working and learning. We rallied together even when apart – offering support and encouragement. And quite often, technology was at the center of it all. Keeping us connected, informed and in business.

I’m incredibly optimistic about 2021.

Longstanding technology trends accelerated in response to the pandemic and the economic downturn – and from here, it’s only going to move faster.  We live in a world that is hybrid and highly distributed. We’re on the cusp of widespread connectivity driving real-time, automated and intelligent outcomes at the edge enabled by 5G.

That’s a strong foundation for an economic rebound and growth across the technology sector. Estimates from both IDC and Gartner see IT spending grow mid-single digits in 2021.¹ That includes a rebound in infrastructure growth across servers and storage, and growth in hybrid cloud. Our own 2020 Digital Transformation Maturity Index tells a similar story, with 80% of organizations globally fast-tracking digital transformation programs. What’s clear is organizations of all sizes and segments are investing in the next phase of their transformation.

In that next phase, three IT priorities stand out and will lead growth in the IT sector in 2021.

The stay at home economy is here to stay

The world has embraced the flexibility to work and learn from anywhere – and the PC is rising to the challenge. IDC reported that more than 300 million PCs shipped in 2020. Home use is shifting from one PC per household to one PC per person in that household. And when the workforce does re-enter traditional workspaces, they’ll have outdated PCs needing a refresh to keep up with the demands of a hybrid workforce. Devices that feature intelligent software to personalize and fully-optimize the user experience for new collaboration apps, video conferencing and data-intensive workloads outside of the traditional office. And of course, they’ve got to be secure.

Those PCs bring demands of their own. They contribute to the increased infrastructure spend we’re expecting to support the management and provisioning of apps, services and security in a hybrid world.

We’re living on the Edge

Widespread connectivity is enabling more and more automated, intelligent devices, cars and machines at the edge – accelerating even faster with the rollout of 5G.

For perspective, 10% of data is generated outside of a data center today. But by 2025, 75% of enterprise data will be processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud for more real-time processing and analytics. By 2024, we’ll see an 800% increase in applications at the Edge.² As a result, there will be an estimated $700 billion in cumulative CAPEX spent on edge IT infrastructure and data centers. The edge is where the data and the money are – driving new investments in hybrid-cloud solutions delivered as-a-Service.

You can’t talk about the edge without talking about the telecom industry. The proliferation of 5G requires open, industry-standard software-defined network architectures, requiring telecom network providers to “cloudify” their networks. The digital transformation we’ve seen underway in the enterprise is now alive in telecom – creating a $150 billion market for IT. Sure, it’s early days – but they’re important. The investments made in 2021 will lay the groundwork (quite literally) for the connected digital cities and landscape of the future.

Simple to consume, easier to plan – everything as-a-Service

By 2024, over 75% of infrastructure at edge locations and 50% of data center infrastructure will be consumed as-a-Service.³ And for good reason – IT should be easier to deploy, consume and manage. In 2020, that message was loud and clear when IT priorities and budgets underwent an overnight overhaul. Cloud and as-a-Service experiences have set new expectations for how simple IT can and should be. Organizations need greater control and more choice.  It’s how they free up IT budget for the stay-at-home economy and edge opportunity. And it is why Dell Technologies is committed to delivering our portfolio as-a-Service with Project APEX.

This is my shortlist. There’s a lot to do to be ready for what’s next in the Data Era. And that’s good news for the tech industry. When I think about the rebound ahead and the innovative breakthroughs technology will make possible – including the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine – there is a lot to be optimistic about. My tech optimism is fully grounded in the reality of what promises to be a better year – a better decade – ahead.

¹Based on: IT spending ex Telco forecast from IDC’s January 2021 Worldwide Blackbook and IT spending ex communication services forecast from Gartner’s 4Q20 Market Databook

² IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2020 Predictions, Doc # US45599219, October 2019

³ IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Datacenter 2020 Predictions, Doc # US44747919, October 2019

Jeff Clark

About the Author: Jeff Clarke

Jeff Clarke is vice chairman and co-chief operating officer for Dell Technologies responsible for running day-to-day business operations, shaping the company’s strategic agenda and setting priorities across the Dell Technologies executive leadership team. In partnership with Chuck Whitten, Jeff directs the Infrastructure Solutions Group and the Client Solutions Group, and manages Global Operations including manufacturing, procurement and supply chain. Jeff is also responsible for setting the long-term strategy and leads planning for emerging technology areas such as Cloud, Edge, Telecom and as-a-Service. Jeff joined Dell Technologies in 1987 as a quality engineer. Since then, his remit has grown to lead the company’s biggest transformations that resulted in Dell Technologies No.1 worldwide share positions in many of its core infrastructure and PC products. He’s also passionate about Dell’s social impact agenda and plays an active role in advancing Dell’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, employee resource groups and 2030 moonshot goals. Prior to joining Dell Technologies, Jeff served as a reliability and product engineer at Motorola, Inc. He serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Council for his alma mater, the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1986.