Forecasting for 2021 and beyond: what’s next for the cloud?

Was cloud computing set to take off before the pandemic or is the pandemic responsible for its rise in popularity? It’s like the question of which came first: the chicken or the egg? The difference is, for the cloud, we know the answer. Cloud adoption was growing before the pandemic and the unique circumstances of the last year have proved its value.

The public health response to COVID-19 catalyzed a radical shift in the way we work. Never before have we seen such a large swath of the population working outside of the office (and probably from their bed). Cloud computing largely made this transition possible. 

By design, the cloud was created to enable fast-paced change and is scalable and flexible. It does not require employees to be in a specific location to do their jobs. It enables secure remote collaboration and access to company data. For a world where offices closed overnight, cloud technology was a godsend. 

It is safe to say that we as a society have adopted lots of new habits and practices because of the pandemic. Two of those are not going away: remote work and cloud computing. 

In the last year, we collectively witnessed a large-scale work from home (WFH) experiment. Many companies found that working from home works. Past fears about lower productivity or weakened company culture are not so scary anymore. We now have the data to prove that remote work is possible, and can even be beneficial. On top of that, most companies now have the cloud infrastructure to support remote employees. With the experience and infrastructure to justify their decisions, companies are hopping onto the WFH train. Large companies like Spotify and Salesforce have announced that they will permanently allow employees to choose from a variety of working models: remote, hybrid, or in-office. 

These announcements follow similar ones from Facebook and Twitter last summer, and there will surely be more to follow. A PWC survey found that less than 1 out of every 5 executives want to return to the way we worked before. Executives are not alone in this either. A PEW study found that over half of Americans want to continue working remotely once the pandemic ends. Another third said that they would prefer a hybrid working model over returning to the office full-time. With the demand at all levels of the corporate ladder, it is clear that remote working is here to stay, along with the cloud technology that powers it.

Business’ reliance on the cloud is not going anywhere. When you look at the numbers, our collective confidence in the power and reliability of the cloud is clear. Forrester predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion in 2021. Research from Gartner reports that 70% of organizations that currently use cloud services plan to increase their cloud spending after the pandemic ends. Of the organizations that had already adopted the cloud before the pandemic, the majority had migrated less than 40% of their workloads, leaving ample room to grow their cloud usage. All signs are leading to growth for the cloud computing industry. 

As we look ahead and plan for a post-pandemic world, we also need to think about the in-between. President Biden has promised widespread vaccine access to Americans by July 2021. Even after full vaccination, there will likely be a transition period as companies decide on a permanent working model. There will also be plenty of back and forth between tight and loose restrictions to control potential outbreaks. Public health experts cannot give us guaranteed timelines, so we must be flexible and continue working with new information as it comes.

With an unpredictable forecast for the next year, the cloud’s flexible and scalable nature offers reliability. Solutions like digital workspaces ensure that employees’ online experiences are consistent from wherever they work. New innovations like 5G and edge computing allow for increased global access, even for the most remote of your remote workers. Cloud technologies offer our workforce a consistent and accessible work experience, regardless of their work setting. 

So what’s our cloud forecast for 2021? Partly sunny with a 100% chance that the cloud is here to stay.

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