The global pandemic had a significant and unprecedented impact on businesses’ cloud computing usage and spending for 2020. These impacts will continue to reverberate well into 2021.
Cloud Adoption Key to Pandemic Recovery; Adoption to Accelerate
In 2020, businesses that were reluctant to embrace cloud soon realized that cloud was a necessity – not an option – for the livelihood of their organizations. With businesses having to close their offices and facilities, as well as having their employees work from home, many found that they needed to quickly adjust how they operate and find the right infrastructure and tools to move forward. At the same time, businesses also needed to minimize IT operations costs, save cash, and operate as efficiently as possible.
2020 reinforced that cloud computing was a critical and necessary tool in helping businesses adapt to a new and unknown “normal.” The pandemic forced businesses to reexamine their relationship with cloud – whether to finally commit to adopt, accelerate existing adoption plans, or re-examine their proposed cloud use cases completely. According to the 2020 State of the Cloud Report survey by IT software management firm Flexera, more than 50% of the survey’s respondents indicated that their cloud usage will increase or significantly increase due to the pandemic.
While we are closer to finding viable vaccines for the COVID-19 virus, it remains uncertain when businesses may be able to partially or completely return to their normal operations. Until then, businesses will adopt cloud on a much faster timetable.
Increased Public Cloud Usage
Businesses, in the past, have been reluctant to use public cloud platforms. Of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) deployment models, public cloud offers them the most cost-effective cloud services, as resources are pooled together for everyone to use. But public cloud offers businesses the least amount of administrative and operational control than private cloud. With public cloud, service providers retain the ownership and responsibility for the underlying infrastructure and security of their platforms, giving pause to some businesses on how secure their infrastructure, applications, and data will be, and whether resources will be available when needed.
Over time, however, major cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM have demonstrated to the market that their public cloud offerings are secure and have a high degree of service reliability. Each of the cloud providers mentioned state service uptimes (amount of time that a service will be up and operational) of at least 99.9% in their basic cloud service level agreements.
In addition, public cloud has allowed businesses with limited budgets and other constraints to spin up services as needs arise, or to experiment with cloud services, without needing to make a long-term commitment or investment. For 2021, IT research and advisory company Gartner predicts that public cloud spending by businesses will grow 18.4% for a total of $304.9 billion.
Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud: The New Norm for Cloud Deployment
While more businesses are embracing cloud usage, they are not just using one cloud provider. And in some cases, they may be using clouds connected to their existing physical infrastructures. According to a study conducted by the IT research company IDG, 55% of respondents were using more than one cloud provider in 2020, with 34% using two, 10% using three, and 11% using more than three providers. Additionally, 38% of respondents indicated that they had adopted a hybrid cloud strategy approach for their organizations.
Multi-cloud is the usage of multiple cloud environments to create a single architecture. Rather than rely on a single cloud provider, companies are using multiple providers for their needs. Hybrid cloud utilizes both cloud platforms and traditional on-premises resources to comprise a single, unified architecture. For businesses, multi-cloud offers many advantages – they have the ability to utilize a cloud provider’s key offerings and capabilities, like artificial intelligence or advanced security features. It also helps diminish the likelihood of vendor lock-in or the inability to use another cloud provider because it would be too cost-prohibitive to switch. Adopting a hybrid cloud strategy allows businesses greater control over infrastructure and application security, reliability, and costs.
Increased Focus on Cloud Security
Cloud security encompasses the policies, procedures, and tools a business uses to protect data, applications, infrastructure, and networks in cloud environments. As the adoption of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud architectures increases, cloud security threats and risks grow exponentially. Using several platforms hinders the ability to have complete architectural visibility. Without that visibility, gaps in security, data leaks, noncompliance with industry regulations, and other problems can go unidentified. IT security firm Nominet reported in a 2019 study that businesses that use a multi-cloud approach are both more likely to experience a security breach and to experience multiple breaches.
Adding more complexity to cloud security is the shared responsibility model of cloud services. As described by NIST, both businesses and cloud providers are responsible for ensuring the security of the cloud environment. The level of responsibility, as well as control, shifts depending on the service model in question. Not understanding who is responsible for what in these models can also lead to unintended security risks.
For example, the provider of a Software as a Service (SaaS) word processing application is responsible for the application’s underlying application and infrastructure security. When a business decides to use a virtual server, which would be classified as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), the cloud provider is responsible for the infrastructure security. Everything else, like any applications and other middleware installed, is the business’s responsibility to secure.
Businesses realize that security threats are becoming more sophisticated, and that the operational, financial, and reputational risks from not having a comprehensive cloud security program are too great to bear. IT research and advisory firm Forrester expects cloud security will leverage serverless in the coming year. spending to increase to $3.5 billion for 2021.
Cloud Native — Microservices, Container, and Serverless Adoption to Grow
Cloud native has become a popular approach to software application development. Here, cloud resources are exclusively used to build and deliver applications. This gives software development teams the tools to quickly create scalable and resilient applications, without burdening them with administrative or operational tasks.
One of the most common characteristics of cloud native applications is the use of microservices and containers. Microservices is a software development architectural style where development teams create an application through a series of loosely linked, small services, rather than one large monolithic application. The approach allows teams to upgrade or add new capabilities to an application as necessary, without having to take an application completely offline. If one or more parts of an application fail, the application would still have the ability to run the other services unaffected. Should an application experience a high period of demand, the application will automatically scale to the demand, rather than time out completely.
Containers are a key component in developing microservice applications. At a very high level, containers hold the minimum level of application files and configurations within them, so that they can be easily moved and deployed to almost any environment. For more complex applications, particularly ones that have several hundreds or thousands of containers, container orchestration and management tools, like Kubernetes, become crucial for containerized application management and deployment.
Given the unique advantages cloud native can offer, Forrester predicts that adoption of cloud native technologies in 2021 will increase by 60%, and container adoption to increase by 28%. Kubernetes, the popular, open-source container orchestration tool on the market (now six years old), will continue to be adopted by businesses now that there are established enterprise use cases and success stories.
Serverless is also helping to accelerate cloud native adoption. Serverless computing allows businesses to create, start, and gracefully shut and tear down cloud resources, like virtual servers and storage, through the use of code. Serverless emphasizes business’s need for speed, efficiency, and automation.
The benefits of this approach for businesses are using services only when you need them – usually with compute and storage resources, you are committing to using them for a fixed unit of time, perhaps hourly or monthly. There is also nothing for businesses to continually manage, as the code will instruct when to build a resource and when to take down the resource. Finally, there is the potential for cost savings. With serverless, businesses are only charged for the actual time that a resource was up and running. If a user provisions a virtual server to run for 10 minutes and then completely spin down, then the user is only charged for 10 minutes of run time vs. a full hour or month.
Edge Computing on the Rise
The goal of edge computing is to process data and compute resources as close to end users, rather than having the processing take place in a centralized and distant location. With edge computing, data would no longer have to travel great distances for processing and analysis; end users would be able to access real-time data quickly and as their needs arise. For Internet of Things (IoT) devices (like sensors or internet-enabled devices and appliances), and resources that utilize machine learning/artificial intelligence, the need for real-time data is essential. As data is traveling shorter distances, and no longer in a centralized location, data is less likely to be intercepted and stolen, adding to security benefits. Edge computing also has the capacity to increase overall network speed and reliability. While the major cloud providers have been heavily investing in edge computing the past few years, the space also has telecommunications and networking giants like Cisco and Juniper Networks, technology companies like Hewlett Packard and Intel, and a considerable number edge computing startups. Forrester predicts that the business desire for edge computing will grow considerably from now through 2027.
Serverless was cited as one of the fastest-growing Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud services for 2020, according to the 2020 State of the Cloud report, while Forrester cites that 25% of enterprise application development teams IT research and advisory firm Forrester expects cloud security will leverage serverless in the coming year.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily experience multiple breaches.