The public cloud market, nearly non-existent at the turn of the century, has grown to become a vital resource in a global technology environment that relies on quick access to immense data stores.
Consumers, organizations, and governmental bodies contract with public cloud providers to power mobile apps, deliver immediate access to personal assets like bank accounts and to support an overarching 21st-century need for constant connectivity.
While the earliest origins of the public cloud concept were in the making some five decades ago, it wasn’t until Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its public cloud services in 2002 that its usage became widespread. BCS, “the Chartered Institute for IT,” identifies two distinct generations of cloud infrastructures that have emerged following the AWS release and speculates that we’ve yet to reach the full potential or “golden era” of public cloud capabilities.
Today, organizations and individuals have myriad choices available to them within the public cloud market.
See below to learn about the public cloud market, including a look at annual revenue, expected future growth, the top 10 public cloud providers, public cloud benefits, and prominent public cloud use cases.
The Public Cloud Today
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes the public cloud infrastructure as:
- Available for open use by the general public
- Owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization or some combination of them
- Existing on the premises of the cloud provider
By contrast, private cloud infrastructures, NIST says, are exclusive to specific organizations, and the physical servers can exist on or off the organization’s premises.
NIST also identifies two other cloud infrastructures:
- Community cloud: used exclusively by specific communities of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns
- Hybrid cloud: describes an infrastructure where two or more distinct cloud infrastructures are bound together to deliver benefits like better data portability and stronger security features versus a single cloud solution
Public cloud market
The public cloud market grew more than 24% year over year in 2020 and brought in revenues around $312 billion across four categories, according to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker:
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): $67.2 billion
- System infrastructure software as a service (SISaaS): $49.2 billion
- Platform as a service (PaaS): $47.6 billion
- Software as a service (SaaS): $148.4 billion
Gartner forecasts that public cloud market end-user spend will grow by 23% in 2021. The company identifies several key catalysts for this expected growth. Primarily, Gartner anticipates that the public cloud market will grow due to increased adoption of:
- Edge computing
These evolving technologies rely on robust public cloud services offerings.
Primary industries and geographic regions
Many organizations contract with public cloud providers, including those within these top industries:
- Health care
Gartner considers eight countries as leading on public cloud adoption:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
The company identifies nine countries as lagging behind when it comes to public cloud adoption and spend:
- South Korea
At the bottom of the pack, Gartner considers these three countries to be “resisting” public cloud adoption:
See more: Cloud Migration Market 2021
Public cloud providers
Leading public cloud providers include:
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud
- Alibaba Cloud
- IBM Cloud
- Dell Technologies/VMware
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Benefits of public cloud
The public cloud market includes providers that offer organizations a wide range of benefits, including cost savings driven by the reduction of on-premises data storage, pay-as-you-go revenue models, and other infrastructure costs. Additional benefits include:
- Access to mobility features like web-based email and communications
- Improved security (depending on the reliability of the service provider)
- Increased deployment speeds
- Virtual collaboration features
- More streamlined disaster recovery after a breach or infrastructure failure
- Environmental benefits due to decreased reliance on energy-inefficient physical infrastructure
- Regulatory compliance features
Public cloud use cases
Typical public cloud use cases include:
- E-commerce applications (improved latency over on-premises solutions, more efficiency, reduced resource usage, ability to scale up and down to reflect sales cycle fluctuations)
- Launching global startups (greatly reduced time to market, less reliance on on-premises IT resources)
- Critical services redundancies (secondary infrastructure can be activated amidst disaster recovery scenarios)
- Web-based QA testing
- Cold data storage (storing historical data that doesn’t need to be accessed frequently)
Another prominent use case is utilizing the public cloud as part of a hybrid cloud solution, where some resources are stored on private cloud networks and others are kept on the public cloud. Private cloud networks afford organizations more security, which is vital for select data types, including proprietary data and highly regulated personal identifying information.
However, private cloud resources are significantly more expensive compared with public cloud options. Many data types can be safely stored in the somewhat less secure public cloud.
See more: Public Cloud Computing Providers