For many years, tech experts have focused on the trend of enterprises making the initial move to the cloud. But Flexera’s 2021 “State of the Cloud Report” tells a slightly different story, with 92% of enterprises already operating on a multicloud strategy and 82% operating on a hybrid cloud strategy.
So if most users already work on some kind of cloud, how is their cloud experience transforming right now?
See below our top trends in cloud computing, which range from diversifying cloud infrastructure to considering how cloud use impacts the greater global environment:
Cloud Computing: 5 Trends to Watch
- Growing hybrid and multicloud setups
- Tightening internal and external security
- Emphasis on Kubernetes and containerization
- Cloud-native advances
- Sustainability efforts
Most major enterprises migrated data and operations to the cloud over the past several years, but during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies learned the importance of a distributed, flexible infrastructure.
Enterprise leaders are quickly recognizing that not all clouds work for all of their needs, and some of their legacy systems and applications work better on their existing on-premises infrastructure. These realizations, and a growing need for both flexibility and reliable security, have ushered in a period of growth for hybrid and multicloud setups.
Kaushik Joshi, global managing director for strategic alliances at Equinix, a digital infrastructure and integration company, explained why hybrid and multicloud setups are taking off:
“The past year has seen a significant shift from private and public cloud-only deployments to hybrid and multicloud strategies,” Joshi said.
He went on to share Equinix’s recent Global Tech Trends Survey – which polled more than 2,600 global IT decision-makers globally – and highlighted that hybrid cloud is now the most common choice, with 46% of respondents now using a hybrid cloud (a 12% increase since their previous survey).
“Hybrid cloud architectures represent the best path to engage with a rapidly changing infrastructure landscape, because it enables enterprises to more easily manage legacy, data-intensive processes, while simultaneously embracing new born-in-the-cloud applications.”
As more organizations recognize the different strengths of private clouds, public clouds, industry-specific clouds, and legacy on-premises setups, more cloud and data center vendors are working hard to create hybrid cloud and multicloud connections among the disparate systems.
More on hybrid cloud: Hybrid Cloud and Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)
Security is a hot-button topic in the cloud computing world, with some users believing that cloud computing is more secure, while others believe it is less secure than their on-premises security infrastructure.
The truth that many of them are discovering is that managed vendor clouds and on-premises solutions alike need additional security support to combat a growing number of major data breaches and ransomware attacks.
Instead of relying on embedded, native security features, tech experts are advocating for the increased use of managed security service providers (MSSPs) and a better organizational policy for user access management. Organizations are recognizing that security incidents can come from both internal accidents and external actors, so it’s important that all users are trained and compliant with an organization’s security policies.
Amit Bareket, CEO and co-founder of Perimeter81, a cybersecurity firm, believes that zero-trust security is the answer to growing cloud security concerns:
“Organizations are coming to realize they should not automatically trust anything inside or outside their perimeter,” Bareket said. “That perimeter is more or less erased. So, now, we are seeing companies verifying everything trying to connect to their IT systems.
“With zero-rust security, policy enforcement and protection are easily implemented by isolating applications and segmenting network access based on user permissions, authentication, and verification. By implementing the ZTNA model for secure network access, IT teams can have full control over who is granted access, enters, and leaves the network at all times. This model has gained much more recognition since being mandated in President Biden’s executive order.”
A large number of enterprise cloud users are moving toward Kubernetes, containerization, and other custom cloud efforts for cloud-native application development.
Simply having a cloud or several clouds is not enough. Dividing those clouds up into containers makes it possible for companies to develop microservices and applications that require different storage, security, and configuration features.
Anthony Cusimano, solutions evangelist at Veritas Technologies, an enterprise backup and recovery software company, explained that many users are leaning into containerization for the cost and efficiency benefits as well:
“The entire world is starting to shift its attention to Kubernetes and the orchestration of containers,” Cusimano said. “It’s the next iterative shift — we went from physical to virtual to cloud, and now we’re going to microservices and containers.
“They make the hybrid cloud more cost effective and improve performance across the board. That’s why you’re starting to see some of the biggest cloud providers offering turnkey Kubernetes solutions.”
Most of the top cloud vendors in the market offer separate advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, but a growing number of them are offering these features as cloud-native technology.
Tapan Patel, senior manager of AI and cloud at SAS, a major analytics software company, explained what expanding containerization and cloud-native features will mean for enterprises:
“Cloud-native technologies will usher in a new era of distributed enterprise analytics software designed to run wherever containers and a Kubernetes platform is available,” Patel said. “Cloud-native technologies will also lead and help companies to build, migrate, and modernize customer-facing and analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) apps more easily and at scale.”
Patel also explained that customers will be able to test out new analytics and AI operations when they adopt clouds with cloud-native features.
“Customers can get a taste of new and emerging analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities delivered in the cloud to attract new use cases and new users,” Patel said. “Analytics in the cloud can be used as an ‘ideation sandbox,’ which allows a lot of new users to build prototypes. Each phase of machine learning projects (build, train, deploy) requires a different infrastructure and deployment considerations. Because the cloud is elastic, it provides the right level of scalability and availability.”
Sustainability and climate care efforts are growing across industries, including technology and the cloud market. The technology industry is known for consuming a large amount of energy, and although cloud is typically more energy efficient than on-premises infrastructure, the growth of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) is causing cloud technology to work harder than ever.
Ali Fenn, president of ITRenew, an expert in giving data center infrastructure a second life, explained that the circular cloud, a circular economic model of cloud asset recycling, is the next answer to sustainability concerns:
“Sustainability is a massive trend in IT – from enterprises seeking to ensure cloud providers leverage renewable energy in data centers to enterprises increasingly seeking to minimize their own supply carbon footprint via sustainably sourced, circular IT solutions,” Fenn said.
“Not only is this circular model good for sustainability goals, but it also makes a lasting impact on the bottom line. IT and business leaders are starting to realize they don’t need to allocate additional money, time, and resources — or compromise performance — to have a more sustainable cloud computing model.
“Coupled with an unstable supply chain, the circular cloud saves more than just the cost of supplies with its closed-loop supply chain that eliminates delays and constraints associated with inventory and shipment (a pain point for providers since pre-pandemic times).”
Although few cloud vendors have adopted the circular model, most are changing their business models to emphasize more renewable energy use, carbon offsets, and data center efficiency boosts.
Read next: Data Analytics Market Trends 2021