Seemingly endless coronavirus variants and contradictory pandemic advice from experts will create a perfect storm in seven areas of IT.

As we step tentatively into 2022, the path to recovery and growth is not linear. Those who can realize the full potential of new technologies and strengthen business resilience and agility will stand out from the laggards.

The emergence of the Omicron variant in the pandemic has yet introduced a new uncertainty, just when many countries work towards the reopening of their borders, allowing business and social activities to resume a semblance of normality.

With that said, here are seven key opportunities and challenges that organizations can expect and plan for in the new year.

  1. Businesses will rebalance the hybrid cloud
    The pandemic boosted cloud adoption in an unprecedented way, with 89% of respondents to a recent Veritas survey stating that they had accelerated the journey to the cloud over the last 18 months.

    However, having made rapid decisions about what data to host where, many businesses are now ready to make longer-term strategic decisions about what their hybrid cloud will look like. Balancing the cost of different public cloud services against both convenience and the service-level agreements they require, will be a challenge that many businesses will grapple with in 2022. It is also imperative to factor in ransomware resilience and it is clear that balancing the mix of physical, virtual and multi-cloud will be a highly nuanced decision. One thing is clear though: everything will be hybrid.
  2. Ransomware attacks and their legal ramifications for executives
    Over the past year, ransomware attacks have skyrocketed, and have had a dire effect on the economy, social trust and information management.

    This year, the stakes continue to rise. Up until recently, the ramifications of a ransomware attack were typically limited to the business, rather than its individual leaders.

    However, now that human lives are literally on the line, governments are stepping in and upping the ante. In 2022, expect executives to be made to face legal ramifications for potential negligence, in addition to losing their jobs. Because of this, corporate executives will have no choice but to make combatting ransomware their number-one concern and priority.
  3. AI/ML will drive the next-gen ransomware and also protection
    In 2022, we expect AI-powered security and data protection to take center stage for both hackers and the businesses that work to keep them at bay.

    The additional monitoring capacity that bots will be able to provide in 2022 will enable businesses to move from a reactive posture to a proactive approach. As hackers introduce threats that can automatically adapt to avoid detection, organizations will respond by using AI and ML technology to secure infrastructures and protect data with tools that are continually learning and improving all on their own—much faster than humans could hope to update them.
  4. Businesses will need to unify data privacy, risk and discovery to avoid penalties
    Digital transformation and the shift to hybrid work have fractured data across a diverse range of messaging and collaboration tools. As privacy regulations continue to evolve, it is becoming even more challenging to stay on top of compliance.

    While regulators have made a play of showing leniency during the pandemic, we can expect the tolerance to lift as cyberattacks surge in frequency. The plethora of data management, privacy and compliance solutions that many businesses have adopted in order to keep data safe and compliant is quickly getting out of hand.

    In 2022, organizations realize that they do not have the resources to keep expanding and managing their bench of tools, yet cannot fall out of compliance either. This will start to drive a shift to a more unified approach where businesses will be able to manage data archiving, privacy, risk and discovery from a single unified and integrated platform that can simplify management and increase efficiency.
  5. Containerization will start to take flight in mainstream production environments
    2022 will be the year where we really start to see serious deployment of containerization in production environments.

    Just as we went from physical to virtual to cloud, we are now ready to take the next step and go to microservices and containers. This will allow businesses to really achieve the benefits that they were promised when they moved to the cloud.

    Enterprises with diverse applications or large and complex IT infrastructures will be able to realize the scalability and elasticity of the cloud to drive cost savings, as well as boost freedom of movement: from on-premises to the cloud and from cloud-to-cloud.

    We are already starting to see some of the biggest cloud providers offer turnkey Kubernetes solutions, as containers enable ease of data portability. In 2022, expect greater adoption of these by enterprises around the world.
  6. Generative IT will create a new category of data for businesses to manage
    Technologies that take existing content and repurpose and recombine it to create new content are poised for an explosion.

    Gartner predicts that “Generative AI” will grow from creating 1% of all data today, to 10% of all data in the next three-and-a-half years.

    But this will create a whole new category of data for businesses to manage and protect. Setting in place the right classification tools to ensure that its lifecycle is managed and that it is stored in a compliant way will be critical to the early success of these projects. Otherwise, this could become the dark data of the future.
  7. Hybrid working will multiply pressures on IT staff
    The second half of 2021 saw a return of confidence to much of the job market, with pent-up ambitions to meet economic growth creating a perfect storm.

    At the same time, with employees having more time to reevaluate their priorities, the introspection has sparked the “Great Resignation” movement.

    Many companies are realizing that, to retain and attract new staff, they need to offer increased working flexibility so that those who prefer working from home can do just that, while those who favor a return to the office are also empowered with that choice.

    For IT staff, this means more complexity and less predictability. For the already-squeezed IT department to survive and thrive, they will need to abandon point solutions and embrace platforms and portfolios that can support them across their increasingly heterogeneous environments.

    Without this support, they may find themselves drowning in administrative and management burdens in 2022.