How have the pandemic and digital transformation shaped recent Cloud trends?

In the last 12 months, the adoption of cloud technologies and services has skyrocketed, and with the spend on worldwide public cloud services in 2021 estimated at $332 billion, we’re looking at the new normal for businesses. 

Throughout this piece, we share our thoughts on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the rate of cloud adoption, as well as its link with successful digital transformation.

We’ll also take a brief look at some of the cloud trends we believe will be a focus in 2021.

The pandemic’s role in cloud adoption

Whether it was part of the original roadmap, or a step thrust upon them, the adoption of cloud technologies has become essential feature for almost all businesses. In fact, 9 out of 10 businesses accelerated their cloud usage quicker than planned in response to COVID-19 according to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report.

Continuity was the key focus last year during the height of the pandemic, and cloud usage and the adoption of new technologies played significant roles in ensuring that businesses were able to both survive and thrive.

The pandemic served as a catalyst for highlighting the value and flexibility of the cloud to businesses, and businesses turned to it for various reasons.

Whereas prior conversations about cloud technologies were around quicker innovation and faster time to market, the pandemic shifted the focus on how it could help businesses remain resilient, manage a remote workforce and be agile to their consumers’ ever-changing needs.

Similarly, cloud-based services were adopted across the education and public sector to ensure learning could continue as best as possible, and governments were able to tackle the pandemic, through global collaboration, information sharing, and communication.

Now, as businesses continue to navigate their way through 2021, cloud represents the future of work, and as companies begin to design their return-to-work policies, we’ll see it playing a big part in enabling businesses to do this successfully.

Cloud adoption is essential to digital transformation

Yes, there’s a valid argument that the rate at which many businesses have implemented cloud technologies has been accelerated by COVID-19, but cloud technologies have played an important part in businesses adopting a digital-first approach for many years.

The sophistication in the cloud has increased rapidly, and businesses see cloud-based operations as a longer-term strategy; one that facilitates better online productivity, improves collaboration, and really drives revenue growth across their organisations.

As such, there’s a strong link between the cloud and successful digital transformation, with a multi-cloud strategy the preferred approach.

Many businesses are adopting this strategy to improve resilience and to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions. Likewise, businesses are adopting multi-cloud strategies in an effort to reduce business continuity risks even further and increase security and remote work efficiency.

Using this approach isn’t without its challenges, however, and the complexities surrounding increased infrastructure management make adding a multi-cloud strategy to the approach to digital transformation tricky.

Those who have successfully integrated cloud into their digital transformation have utilised cloud management and automation solutions to manage multiple cloud environments, be more agile, upskill their teams and deliver their products or services in new ways.

The rate of change and innovation will continue

While no one could have predicted at the start of 2020 the rate at which businesses have adopted cloud-based technology globally, it’s fair to say that this adoption trend has been on the up for some time.

Here are a few more trends we’re seeing within the cloud technology world that we think will have a big impact on businesses during the course of this year:

  1. Controlling costs will be a priority

By 2022, the estimated worldwide spend on public cloud services looks set to top over $397 billion, so for businesses, making sure they have a handle on their own spend is important.

Different cloud and hybrid services have different pricing models, and with varying monthly costs, understanding and managing where their spend is going could be a challenge for businesses.

Third-party solutions who can provided businesses with insight into the provider’s they’re using and provide unified management of costs will be in high demand this year and next.

  1. The strength of hybrid and multi-cloud adoption

As outlined previously, businesses looking to the cloud to meet their business transformation needs are preferring the hybrid or multi-cloud approach.

We will start to see traditional IT vendors such as IBM, Cisco and Dell EMC start to develop integrations with public cloud as they try to protect their enterprise marketshare and private cloud offerings.

Likewise, we’re likely to see startups drive change and innovation by creating products and services that simplify the process of operating across multiple clouds, both private and public, simultaneously.

This innovation, coupled with more transparency and easier management of costs, could prove a popular adoption strategy for businesses.

  1. Tech on-demand continuing to rise

Cloud providers will seek to push out innovation that is accessible to a wide audience that requires minimal learning. Businesses will take advantage of these solutions to meet their industry challenges and reap the rewards without the need for teams with highly specific skills.

For example, without the need for a data science team, businesses will start to see the benefits of machine learning, AI and automation delivered through new cloud innovations, and in tangible ways that deliver against their business goals.

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