Leadership4 min read

2023 Forecast—Where are We Headed? VMware’s Sumit Dhawan, Kit Colbert and Jason Conyard Weigh In

VMware Staff

It’s that time of year again—when many of us take a look ahead and ask—what’s coming for the new year? Predictions abound, and that’s all good, but we think 2022 is the best predictor of industry priorities over the next year and the trends we will see shaping enterprise decisions and IT spending.

We caught up with three of our road-weary execs—Sumit Dhawan, VMware President; Kit Colbert, Chief Technology Officer; and Jason Conyard, Chief Information Officer, all recently back from a busy round of in-person events (that we could not have predicted!). From Explore, held in San Francisco and Barcelona, to a spate of engagements in Singapore, Brazil, India and Japan, our execs were on the road hearing from partners, customers and our own leadership and employees about what’s top of mind. So, we sat down with them and asked for their predictions for the year ahead.

Editor: Let’s start with you, Sumit. What are you hearing, from customers and partners?

Sumit: Many partners and customers are grappling with three core challenges to their businesses – cost savings, cyber security, and energy conservation. 

Editor: And what are the biggest issues enterprises will be navigating in the new year? How can they address them successfully?

Sumit: We are in the midst of a “Great Re-platforming of the Enterprise” – an opportunity to rethink and reshape core operations. But many enterprises are concerned they aren’t moving fast enough. The organisations that succeed will focus on addressing three key roadblocks that have slowed progress: a global-wide gap in critical skills such as software development and cloud operations; the “weight” of existing apps, which have proven to be difficult to modernise and migrate to the cloud; and the fragmented nature of running and securing apps across multiple clouds.

Editor: The mass adoption of cloud computing has been a key driver of many transformative tech trends, such as AI, IoT, and remote and hybrid working. Going forward, what role do you think the cloud will play in becoming an enabler of even more technologies, such as VR/AR, the metaverse, and quantum computing? 

Sumit: The rise of technologies in areas like virtual reality and the metaverse will only further drive the importance of security and ensuring that workloads are secure on clouds. After all, data is only as valuable as its ability to be protected. The distribution and storage of data between organisations and beyond national boundaries has emerged as an obstacle to its protection and utilisation. Organisations will increasingly review their usage of private and public clouds—to unlock the value of their data, to meet complex data sovereignty regulations, and to identify new ways to combat threats to data privacy and security.

Editor: Finally, what top three trends to you see for companies adopting a multi-cloud strategy?

Sumit: I see customers moving from disparate dev, ops and security to accelerated app dev on any cloud. Organisations are facing very complex silos of toolsets and teams across their cloud platforms, and they wish to have them all converged. Second, the trend is away from siloed cloud infrastructure to consistent enterprise infrastructure. Enterprises are increasingly in need of embracing a flexible and consistent operating model across private and public clouds and the edge, with lateral security built in. Finally, customers will prioritise moving from a fragmented app-access experience to a frictionless experience. The pandemic reshaped expectations around agility and flexibility in the workplace. Today, the evolving nature of the workplace requires a more secure, frictionless employee experience.

As Heard at VMware Explore 2022: Tech Predictions

Editor: Thanks. Let’s shift to Kit. As CTO, what are your top 3 predictions for 2023?

Kit: First, we see that IT spending, driven by digital transformation initiatives, will continue apace even as there are potentially broader macroeconomic pullbacks. Even as the economy potentially heads for a recession, consumers and customers have developed strong expectations around amazing digital experiences. Thus, businesses will need to continue investing heavily in IT and digital transformation initiatives, even as they potentially pull back in other areas.

Second, the industry will continue to coalesce around multi-cloud architecture. The vast majority of businesses use more than one public cloud, and most have on-premises data centers as well. They typically have "platform" teams building technology to help standardise and drive consistency across these clouds. In addition, many vendors are beginning to deliver multi-cloud services or services that provide consistent functionality across clouds. How does all this come together, and what does the high-level architecture look like? This is a question that the industry needs to come together on to solve, and we believe the first iteration of this architecture will be sketched in 2023. As this architecture comes into focus, it allows for better integration and interoperability between vendors and platform teams.

Finally, the looming energy crisis will undoubtedly have global implications beyond the obvious consumer-level struggles. This crisis will likely lead to a bolstered focus on near and long-term energy efficiency across the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and beyond. As Europe and other parts of the world brace for much higher energy prices and the potential lack of energy, companies are investigating how to be more energy efficient than ever. And given that the global ICT sector uses approximately 7 percent of the world's annual energy, companies are looking at data centers and networking technologies for optimisations. Expect to see more vendors investing in energy efficiency improvements and actively marketing those improvements.

Editor: Jason, your turn. Priorities and key trends as you see it from the CIO’s vantage point?

Jason: In 2023, we’ll see an industry-wide push to reduce technical and data debt. Over the past decade, businesses have been quick to add powerful technology and cloud-based services to their portfolios. At the same time, they have been much less likely to fully cut the legacy systems these new tools were meant to replace, creating a significant number of redundant applications and systems. The technology that was intended to propel their company forward is now holding them back. Companies will be looking to reduce unnecessary costs and maintenance as well as minimize their attack surface and privacy exposure through technology estate rationalisation.

In 2023, privacy will become the competitive battleground for our customers and employees. No longer thought of as a requirement that must be met, privacy is becoming an innovation differentiator. We're already seeing brands tout customer security and protection commitments in their marketing campaigns. Now with customer expectations rising, consumer control and corporate transparency will be key to maintaining customer trust. We’ll see Privacy Engineering and Operations become part of the product design process, ensuring security is at the forefront of solutions rather than bolted on at the end, where it’s less effective and often compromises employee and customer experience.

Editor: There you have it! A few macro-trends that will drive technology investment as companies continue their journey of digital transformation: 1) a looming energy crisis in many parts of the world heightens demand for cost savings and operational efficiency, 2) economic headwinds add further pressure to manage spending while continuing innovation, and 3) the need to build, manage, run, secure and protect applications in a multi-cloud environment should not only continue, but actually continue more or less unabated as the architecture in fact helps companies solve for the other two top trends.

Thank you, all, and best wishes for an amazing 2023!