With 2016 nearly in the rearview mirror, the editors in the Penton Technology Channel Group are looking ahead to 2017 at some of the ideas, innovations, companies and individuals that we think will influence your world over the next 12 months.

The companies in this list are providing new opportunities for channel partners, or are filling a void in the marketplace with compelling products and services that address the needs of next-generation companies.

We’re hoping you can let us know of other companies we should watch throughout the following year. Have your say in the comments or tag us on Twitter@Talkin_Cloud.

Here are five companies that will be doing big things in 2017…

Rubrik

While it’s not the sexiest segment in technology at the moment, data backup and recovery continues to be a massive trend that touches companies of all sizes. The issue with many solutions is that they are either prohibitively expensive, or they are difficult to use. Rubrikwas launched in 2015 to address this, calling itself the “Time Machine for the enterprise” in pitch meetings with VCs.

“With cloud data management, Rubrik is not only managing the data of today, next week, and throughout its lifecycle over time, but also using the same data for analytics, and other functions beyond production,” Vinod Kholsa, founder of Kholsa Ventures said in August.

“What’s been so impressive about Rubrik is how fast it’s growing. It tells me they have hit the nail on the head of a major need in the marketplace. Or maybe it is because Rubrik has assembled one of the best technical teams I have seen in enterprise in a while,” he said. “When you look at enterprise startups, there are very few that establish a category. The last time a seismic change like this happened was when VMware introduced server virtualization. In networking, we saw a shift with Juniper Networks. Before that, Sun Microsystems changed the paradigm of computing from the data center to distributed. That kind of shift happens when you create a new category, a new need. Rubrik is creating that shift around data by replacing backup and recovery with cloud data management.”

Rubrik raised $61 million in Series C funding led by Kholsa Ventures in August, a few months after it announced its expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa through a team of strategic distributors and reseller partners. The company also added a VP of Federal Sales in December.

Rubrik has raised $112 million to date and CEO Bipul Sinha believes it is on its way to a $10-$15 billion company.​

SecurityScorecard

We’re betting Verizon didn’t use SecurityScorecard before its decision to acquire Yahoo.

Based in New York, SecurityScorecard was launched in 2013 by two former security leaders who came up with the idea based on their experience vetting a product and working on a security assessment.

“It was during this experience we identified the opportunity for SecurityScorecard. We thought: ‘What if we could engineer a way that would allow one company a deep view into another company’s security posture that would be instant, accurate, and independently verifiable without having to ask permission or wait around for weeks for answers to important security questions?’ We strongly believed there were non-intrusive ways to attain a clearer picture of security health of a company which could really help to speed up and complement the vetting process. This experience was an epiphany for us.”

SecurityScorecard says that while awareness of hacking and data breaches is at an “all-time high” most practitioners know that many of these breaches are accomplished by exploiting vulnerabilities at third-party vendors and partners.  

This kind of technology will become more critical as companies continue to rely heavily on third-party partners and vendors to piece together their cloud offerings and portfolios.

Microsoft

Microsoft is expected to invest more in artificial intelligence (AI) in 2017, building on investments in its AI-focused fund, and its partnership with Elon Musk’s AI research group OpenAI, which will use Azure for most of its large-scale experiments. Quantum computing will also be an area to watch as it added several new executives to its division at the end of 2016. 

With 90 percent of its revenue coming from partners, Microsoft released new Azure training opportunities this year, which it will expand in 2017. More partner opportunities will likely be released later in 2017 to align with its Microsoft Inspire event, July 9-13, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

International expansion of its cloud services and partner network could also be expected in 2017 as Microsoft spent more than $1 billion in the past year on cloud infrastructure in Europe. It will be opening data centers in France in 2017. Among public cloud providers in EMEA, Microsoft has 13 percent market share compared to Amazon’s 39 percent so there is definitely improvement to be made in this area next year.

On the private cloud side, Microsoft will release its highly-anticipated Azure Stack in 2017.

IBM

IBM plans to offset some of its layoffs from this year with plans to hire at least 6,000 new employees in the U.S. in 2017. On an international level, IBM is set to boost its presence in the U.K., tripling its data center capacity and adding four new facilities in 2017.

Cloud and Watson performed well in Q3 2016, offsetting some losses in legacy units. Expect to see more investments in these better-performing areas in 2017. In the third quarter, these newer businesses (cloud, Watson, Internet of Things, analytics) represent 40 percent of its sales.

Also in 2016 IBM partnered with Slack to help companies build custom chatbots, an area that is still young but has lots of opportunity.

What will be particularly interesting to watch in 2017 is IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s involvement with President-elect Donald Trump. Like Oracle, IBM has been under firefrom its employees for its cooperation with Trump.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

The growth in Amazon’s cloud computing division has prompted Bloomberg to place Amazon.com on its list of the 50 companies to watch in 2017. Year after year, it continues to release new services that disrupt the cloud industry so it should be no surprise that it made this list, too.

In November and December, AWS launched Lightsail to disrupt VPS hosting, and AWS Managed Services, in a disruption to some of its service provider partners who offer managed services for public cloud.

In 2017, expect AWS to launch new regions, including a new region in France, marking its fourth AWS Region in Europe. In January, the AWS office in Dubai, UAE will open and will support startups, government institutions and enterprises.

The VMware Cloud on AWS Partner Program will launch in 2017 to support APN partners that help customers deploy and operate VMware workloads on AWS.

By the end of 2017 AWS will hit the halfway mark on its commitment to having all of itsdata centers powered by renewable energy sources. 

“The cloud’s growing popularity is a major boon for Amazon, which finally became profitable off the backs of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure platform. AWS’s revenue rate has grown by 55 percent and reached $13 billion, all while traditional data centers have seen their numbers decline,” Alex Newman writes on Investing.com. “If there is any one tech company which investors should pay attention to, it is Amazon. Amazon’s commanding share in both cloud technology and online retail will make it a great stock for 2017. Also pay attention to other companies focusing on the cloud like IBM (NYSE:IBM).”