Editor’s note: This story is part of the CIO Dive Outlook on 2021, a series on the trends that will shape the industry in 2021. For a look at the business trends affecting other industries, see the Dive Outlook on 2021.
Cloud migrations are often messy. Toss in a pandemic and a quick shift to remote work, and 2021 becomes the year of clean up.
"Looking towards 2021, there will be a significant uptick in cloud infrastructure deployments and spending to allow new remote workers to function efficiently outside the traditional office environment," said Andrew Doherty, CIO at Babel Street, in a statement to CIO Dive.
The move to the cloud isn't slowing down, but businesses are tidying strategies to take full advantage of a hot cloud moment. Meanwhile, vendors reap the benefits. For SaaS providers, mass scale remote work led to a cloud market boom as companies pivoted toward digital.
For the second year in a row, cloud is in businesses' top three IT investment priorities, according to a Flexera survey of 474 IT executives and high-level managers. With business continuity taking precedence in 2020, other priorities fell to the wayside but will regain attention this year.
In 2021, businesses are preparing for the cloud to trickle into every department. Here are four cloud trends to watch:
Scrapping unnecessary cloud workloads
The "lift and shift" model of bringing an entire application to the cloud in one push brings along outdated, burdensome data.
As of June, 40% of businesses were accelerating cloud adoption plans, according to a MariaDB survey of 559 enterprise engineering and IT professionals. But a stampede to the cloud leaves loose ends untied. Of hundreds of cloud deployments reviewed by Accurics in August, 93% featured misconfigured cloud storage services.
Reconfiguring the cloud to maximize benefits, minimize costs and reduce burden will be crucial to long-term cloud success. Tossing cash at a single public cloud vendor may have enabled business continuity in 2020, but moving forward business leaders are considering other models such as hybrid cloud as ideal for operations.
And it's not just IT departments weighing cloud pros and cons anymore. As cloud knowledge becomes more mainstream, the C-suite and other members of business leadership watch closely to ensure cloud decisions benefit their departments, too.
Relitigating cloud governance to stay secure
Looking to strengthen cloud strategy, businesses may rethink governance efforts to prioritize security.
Returning to clouds' foundations and developing a strong governance plan will help businesses bolster security infrastructure to correct hasty adoption, according to David Wright, research director at Gartner, speaking at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference last month.
IT departments are working to shore up cloud security. Nearly all — 96% — of the 3,500 respondents to a Sophos survey in July expressed concerns about cloud security.
"Everybody thought VPN will do," Jennifer Curry, senior vice president of product and technology at INAP, told CIO Dive previously. "It'll do until you put your entire workforce at home on varying laptops and varying networks."
Financial services is among the sectors looking to cloud to secure workloads. Sophisticated cyberattacks pushed businesses to shape up cloud security strategies to avoid becoming the next Equifax. Hybrid cloud is a popular approach as a way to balance security and cost.
More cloud money to the same top vendors
As businesses take cloud largely back to the basics, vendors are stepping up to share the wealth.
This year, the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion, according to Dave Bartoletti, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. Cloud business had a banner year in 2020, with a growing market for their services.
“The outlook is clearly ramped-up acquisitions to help companies accelerate their repositioning into SaaS, or to capitalize on the new ways of working and living in a COVID-influenced world," said Marc Suidan, U.S. technology, media and telecommunications leader at PwC in PwC's Technology Deals Insights: 2021 Outlook.
The most recent COVID-19 legislation, signed into law in December, provides small businesses with the resources to continue cloud investments, sustaining more market growth. Updates to the Paycheck Protection Program include allowances for software and cloud upgrades for qualified companies.
But it's the megavendors who will continue their reign. More than half of respondents to the Flexera survey expect to increase investments in Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Google or other cloud services this year with Microsoft Azure ruling as the top choice.
Workforce training to up innovation
While vendors grow, the cloud computing companies are investing in spreading the tech knowledge with free training opportunities.
"Throughout 2021, we’ll start seeing more multicloud strategies paired with broader training initiatives from both enterprises and the cloud providers themselves," as businesses look to train cloud architects and professionals from within, said Katie Bullard, president at A Cloud Guru.
AWS and Microsoft both set out to train over 20 million people on the cloud, boosting the entry level cloud knowledge in the near future — while making way for advanced cloud technologists to rise and innovate.
With the cloud boom paving the way for transformation, edge computing will likely be on the rise. In the near future, this cloud innovation means "while core data centers will remain essential, volume will increasingly focus on edge devices operating on AI," said Brandon Ebken, CTO at Insight Enterprises.