Unlocking the Value in Cloud and Collaboration in 2021

Peter Jackson, CEO, Bluescape

Author: Peter Jackson, CEO, Bluescape

The cloud wars are heating up. With AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud already locked in the fray, and players like Oracle and IBM fighting to join the upper echelons, another player is fresh off a competitive move. Salesforce is acquiring Slack for over $27 billion in one of the biggest software deals ever, adding to an already impressive software suite.

If anything is clear, it’s that the cloud computing market, already full of effective solutions, will continue to grow this year as more competitors expand their offerings to claim a piece of the pie. Multi-cloud will continue to grow in popularity as companies seek flexibility and optionality, either through a mix of vendors or a mix of public and private cloud, with security as a core concern. At the same time, companies relying on SaaS for collaboration will increasingly look to consolidated platforms for a central hub of information.

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Here is what companies will want to consider when it comes to the cloud and collaboration in 2021:

Multi-Cloud Security is a Two-Way Street

Security remains a top barrier to cloud migration, as organizations that handle especially sensitive data cannot risk having their data exposed in a public cloud environment that may not meet their security standards. For those that have successfully made the jump to the cloud and are considering multi-cloud, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure maximum security.

First, cloud customers must remember that security is a shared responsibility between both the cloud service provider (CSP) and themselves. While any given CSP is responsible for the overall security of their infrastructure, a cloud customer would be, for example, responsible for choosing and deploying a web application firewall (WAF). This is to protect a given application and environment, along with any other security tools, such as a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution.

With this shared responsibility in mind, cloud customers must ensure that their third-party applications are secure and transparent. For instance, when choosing third party collaboration tools and platforms brought into the customer environment, these applications must have a secure underlying architecture. Customers that bring in a third-party productivity application shouldn’t have to worry if that application might be a pathway to a data breach.

When it comes to deployment, users should always know they are using a highly secure product from both an application and architectural perspective, with proper due diligence performed continually.

This means that employees won’t be held captive to the whims of a large corporation or have to worry about their data from any single app compromised by breaches or government investigations beyond their control. Instead, companies should be able to own their data and know it’s secure – and that starts with democratizing virtual collaboration and emphasizing multi-cloud optionality.

The Consolidated Platform will Rule the Next Phase of Business Collaboration 

As distributed teams suddenly needed tools and platforms that helped them collaborate from their homes, the virtual collaboration software market heated up in 2020. Traditional players like Google and Microsoft upgraded their tools and upstarts like Zoom became a household name virtually overnight.

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Most recently, Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack was further proof that the future of work will be the consolidated platform and central hub of information – not the isolated tool.

The SaaS market for workforce collaboration is big business. It provides employees with the flexibility and autonomy needed for the future of work while meeting them wherever they are in their cloud journey, whether on-prem, private, or public cloud.

And with a recent Slack study revealing that almost three-quarters of workers want a flexible work-from-home model for the long-term, it’s clear that companies must continue perfecting their communication technology, with collaboration at the forefront.

Rather than worry about vendor lock-in from one large corporation, players with open ecosystems that let users choose their favorite collaboration solutions in the cloud environment of their choice will increase in popularity. That’s because employees rely on several tools to meet their daily needs.

And with 71% of workers desiring a centralized place to view and manage their work, it’s clear that having these solutions in one platform, rather than tool sprawl, is especially important.

It’s also important that these centralized virtual work platforms are optimized for multi-cloud to meet the demands of a growing hybrid workforce. Hybrid work enables employees to work in their environment of choice, creating a more flexible and dynamic work environment.

But it can all fall apart if collaboration tools aren’t able to perform in a multi-cloud environment. For example, tools that can only be deployed on-prem or private cloud can only be used by those at a centralized office location, cutting off the employees working from home.

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Hybrid workforces depend on the cloud, meaning virtual collaboration platforms need to be easily deployable and accessible no matter what cloud environment the company relies on.

In 2021, all eyes will be on virtual collaboration. What technology will best help teams stay productive, regardless of their physical location? Is this the beginning of a consolidation of tools to make a complete end to end platform? The answer may not come solely from the major players of today.

Instead, the future of work will be increasingly shaped by secure collaboration platforms versus individual tools, open ecosystems versus closed systems, and multi-cloud flexibility versus vendor lock-in.

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Peter Jackson is a serial entrepreneur and advisor with a broad and deep knowledge of technology, business, and financial markets. Prior to Bluescape, he co-founded Ziploop Inc. (acquired by SNIPP in October 2017), served on the Boards of Eventbrite, DocuSign, and Kanjoya, took Intraware to IPO, and was President/COO of Dataflex following its acquisition of Granite Systems, among other achievements.