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25 cloud trends for 2021 and beyond

10-minute read

March 4, 2021

“Data is currency.” Over the past decade, this phrase has permeated corporate culture from Silicon Valley to Stockholm to Sydney. Unlike Wall Street, data is traded on and through the cloud; tethering your ability to leverage your data to your cloud capabilities. Since 92 percent of organizations already are at least somewhat in the cloud, we’ve compiled an exhaustive list of cloud trends for 2021 and beyond to help you to make the most of this technology.

Since 2010, the global cloud services industry has risen year over year to reach a $370 billion valuation in 2020, marking a growth of over 380 percent in ten short years. However, when put into context with the fact that 90 percent of the world’s data in 2013 was created between 2011 and 2012, it's inevitable that more data would invite the need for more data storage. At the end of 2020, the virtual weight of all the information in the world was 44 zettabytes (trillion gigabytes), a figure featuring 21 zeroes. Not surprisingly, around 50 percent of all corporate data is stored in the cloud, as of 2020.

The cloud is more than an efficient storage solution—it’s a unique platform for generating data and innovative solutions to leverage that data. This intense focus on adaptability has facilitated a form of service-oriented thinking previously thought to be unattainable. The ability to specialize has expanded, allowing organizations to innovate their business models and processes in pursuit of their core competencies and business goals without compromising on agility.

2020 has been a pivotal year for the cloud as it played a lead role in facilitating remote work solutions. It allowed organizations to fuse existing organizational processes with novel cloud technologies to allow for greater flexibility during these uncertain times. COVID-19 has facilitated a focus on cloud capabilities as companies compete to thrive in this new remote work environment. The cloud has become an essential part of continuing business and is the key to unlocking organizational growth. Worldwide spending on public cloud services is even forecast to grow 18.4 percent in 2021.


Worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 18.4 percent in 2021. [Source: Gartner]

As we move closer to a cloud-based world, organizations looking to create an advantage for themselves must understand the ebbs and flows of the cloud services industry. We have compiled a list of 25 trends that we believe will help you contextualize your existing cloud capabilities and identify areas that could lead to future growth.

Table of contents

  1. Sustainable cloud
  2. Cloud costs
  3. Edge computing
  4. Multicloud
  5. Hybrid cloud
  6. Public cloud
  7. As a service
  8. Cloud security
  9. Cloud coalitions
  10. Cloud automation
  11. Private cloud
  12. Cloud agnosticism
  13. Containerization
  14. Artificial intelligence
  15. Data fabrics
  16. Serverless solutions
  17. Industry-optimized cloud
  18. Human cloud
  19. Cloud reality
  20. Blockcloud
  21. Cloud monitoring
  22. Cloud-native applications
  23. Application mobility
  24. Distributed cloud
  25. Open source cloud

01. Sustainable cloud

2020 has made it clear that consumers don’t just view organizations as a catalog of their top goods or services, but also as a representation of values. Your approach to the environment will strongly determine how customers view your business. In fact, 80 percent of consumers list sustainability as the most important issue to consider when evaluating organizations—out of nine potential areas of concern. Creating value at the expense of values will antagonize you to a large subset of your audience, half of whom do not hesitate to abandon brands that violate their personal ethics.

Our research indicates that higher environmental, social and governance performances endowed organizations with lower volatility and 4.7 times higher margins. 44 percent of CEOs are already planning net-zero futures for their organizations with this in mind, so it is going to be increasingly important for you to take advantage of the efficient cloud operations available to you.

Companies we partner with have seen their energy consumption fall by up to 65 percent while simultaneously reducing their carbon emissions by up to 84 percent, simply by migrating areas of their infrastructure to the public cloud. Focusing your resources on your essential processes will significantly reduce your server requirements and consequently, your energy wastage.

Public cloud migrations can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 59 million tons per year—the equivalent of having 22 million fewer cars on the road! This is an important cloud trend that will only become more important in years to come

02. Cloud costs

In 2011, the cloud expenditure of an average company was roughly $6,500. In 2020, this number has risen to $10,000—per month. This is, in fact, a conservative estimate, as 33 percent of organizations had an annual cloud budget spanning between $2.4 million and $12 million. Internet of Things, Container-as-a-Service and artificial intelligence are the fastest-growing cloud services, corroborating IT professionals’ claim that cloud optimization is the primary focus of their organizations.

With 30 percent of cloud budgets being wasted, organizations are looking to streamline cloud costs and optimize cloud services. While some of the onus falls on cloud providers to deliver more cost-efficient architectural solutions, third-party optimization tools and services can expect to see significant investment as well. Nonetheless, your focus must remain on developing and strengthening your native optimization capabilities as you cannot leverage the array of solutions at your disposal without an analytical understanding of your priorities, prospects and deficiencies. The essential first step to optimization is configuring your unique baseline to your organizational terms.

This is the step most businesses seem to be struggling with, on average under-budgeting their cloud requirements by 23 percent. With greater fluency in cloud operations, however, organizations will learn to plan and manage their budgets better.

03. Edge computing

One weak point of current cloud computing is that it’s handled by a limited number of providers who dominate the space. These large, centralized data-processing centers tie your computing and storage ability to the proximity, bandwidth and resources provided. With 127 new IoT devices connecting to the Internet every second, issues of latency, bandwidth, and security are inevitable. Intelligent technologies like AI and robotics require greater speed and processing power and edge computing is the answer to capitalizing on these advancements and shaping them in the years ahead.

Edge computing is an emerging cloud trend that involves building localized data centers for computation and storage at or near where they are needed. This offsets the load on the cloud and improves the deployment and running of a wide array of applications. Instead of relying on centralized networks, computing and management are handled locally.

By bringing active management and data storage closer to the source, edge computing relieves the latency issues associated with communicating with a central server. It also increases bandwidth by storing locally and only connecting to the cloud when necessary. For businesses dealing with privacy and compliance issues, a locally managed data center means a higher level of information security. As connected devices and IoT developments continue to advance, edge computing will become essential to harnessing and managing these technologies.

04. Multicloud

While most organizations do not make the jump from on-premises to multi-vendor deployments in one go, 93 percent of enterprises have built up to a multicloud strategy. As more workloads are migrated to the cloud, the industry is becoming more sensitive to the unique requirements of different processes. An average of 3.4 public clouds and 3.9 private clouds are being deployed or tested per organization, allowing them to tailor their cloud capabilities to their cloud requirements.

More organizations will develop entirely cloud-native applications with little to no architectural dependence on a specific cloud provider.

Moving forward, more organizations will develop entirely cloud-native applications with little to no architectural dependence on a specific cloud provider. Cultivating a firmer understanding of their cloud needs and the cloud industry will teach organizations to develop with clearer intent than before. However, this paradigm shift is also dependent on the evolution of cloud capabilities, as time-to-market is steeply improving and the ability to integrate changing workloads enables organizations to take advantage of even the smallest trends.

Tailoring cloud solutions to your individual processes is an ongoing process, but one that requires consistent governance and investment to translate into savings. Though this approach alone will not resolve your application portability issue, multi-cloud strategies focused on risk mitigation, functionality and feature acquisition will significantly improve your cyber posture.

05. Hybrid cloud

While a multi-cloud approach leverages the differing allowances of different providers—regardless of public or private cloud, a hybrid cloud approach categorically focuses on taking advantage of both, the private and the public cloud.

A well-integrated and balanced hybrid strategy gives businesses the best of both worlds. They can scale further and faster at the behest of the public cloud’s innovative and flexible services without losing out on the higher cost efficiency, reaction speed and regulatory compliance that go hand in hand with the capabilities of the private cloud.

To keep pace with the development of cloud technologies, 87 percent of enterprises have already adopted hybrid cloud strategies and an estimated growth rate of 17 percent has the hybrid cloud industry pegged to inflate from a valuation of $44.6 billion in 2018 to almost $100 billion by 2023. Over that period, a major development will be the introduction of more hybrid technologies like Red Hat’s Openshift that enables compatible working across platforms and clouds. The distinction between clouds could then shift from 'private' and 'public', to 'dedicated' and 'shared'.

06. Public cloud

Our research finds that migrating areas of your business to the public cloud can cut your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by as much as 40 percent. That number will only increase as top public cloud providers AWS, Azure and Google improve their services and prices to strengthen their competitive posture.

However, harsher competition could be detrimental to the trend of interoperability, as cloud providers might look to create an edge for themselves by driving their customers to commit fully to their services. This would force businesses to compromise on certain capabilities by picking the provider that fits their key operations the best. Alternatively, public cloud providers could strengthen their existing capabilities and allow a greater range of choice to promote customer loyalty.

Either way, the public cloud will evolve as the industry and its interaction with enterprises become more prevalent. 1 in 2 businesses has spent over $1 million for public cloud services to capitalize on this potential. Even migrating workloads that complement your key services will allow you to significantly improve your time to value by leveraging flexibility and machine learning. The industry’s 24 percent annual growth rate suggests that commitment to the public cloud is only growing.

07. As a Service

For organizations, one of the easiest points of entry into cloud use is the ‘as a service’ model. With the ease, flexibility, and choice of applications, employing the cloud as a service can greatly impact your organization and its goals. By enabling companies to provide new services and create applications faster, the cloud as a service helps you keep up with customer demand.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, we’ve seen growth in key ‘as a service’ offerings as well as the emergence of some new applications. As business continues to adjust to hybrid work environments in 2021, these applications will only expand.  

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is also known as cloud application infrastructure services and includes hardware and software tools. Its use has been steadily rising as organizations invest in modernizing their ‘old school’ applications with cloud-native capabilities. The PaaS market is expected to grow 26.6 percent in 2021, Gartner forecasts, stating that the growth is driven by remote workers needing access to ‘to high performing, content-rich and scalable infrastructure to perform their duties’.

This area is only expected to grow as more organizations migrate their IT functions to the cloud in response to COVID-19. Enterprise adoption of platforms like Azure or Google Drive has skyrocketed as teams look for solutions to storing information and collaborating from a distance. In fact, 59 percent of enterprises expect cloud usage to exceed prior plans due to COVID-19

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) is one of the first and most successful ‘as a service’ cloud offerings. It includes all of the services and software offered through a third party on the internet, trading subscriptions for licensing fees. As one of the biggest cloud application services, SaaS now contributes $20 billion to the quarterly revenues of software vendors. The number is expected to grow by 32 percent each year.

Competition between SaaS companies has led to a wide array of inexpensive solutions that ensure public cloud services will dominate the market for years to come. The next generation of SaaS offerings will also include machine learning as part of their services. While some applications may be better than others, rest assured, in the near future you’ll be hard-pressed to find a SaaS product that is not labeled ‘intelligent’.

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Disaster Relief as a Service (DRaaS)

As organizations continue to operate more digitally, the cost of downtime has hit a premium. The average cost of cybercrime for an organization is around $13.0 million, while the average cost of IT downtime is close to $5,600 per minute. For e-commerce companies, this downtime can be disastrous as sales depend on online access. At the same time, stricter regulations are holding organizations legally responsible for the protection and care of customer data.

This increased risk of operating online has caused some organizations to reevaluate their disaster relief strategies and look into Disaster Relief as a Service (DRaaS). This includes an automated disaster relief strategy that can respond to issues and breaches faster, reducing costs and liability. With the instability perpetuated by 2020, it’s no surprise that this rapidly growing market is expected to reach $4.5 billion at the end of 2020 with a 15.4 percent through 2023.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has been around since the beginning of cloud services, but its potential is yet to be fully actualized. Organizations have been slow to adopt this technology, owing to a reported skill gap in the cloud migration process. However, thanks to an uptick in cloud education and understanding borne out of necessity, this up-and-coming cloud solution is expected to eventually outgrow SaaS in revenue.

IaaS refers to pay-as-you-go services that organizations use for storage, networking, and virtualization. Many companies have taken the path of least resistance by adopting the ‘lift and shift’ approach to cloud migration, not adapting their workflows to get the most out of the cloud. In order to compete, organizations have discovered they must take a different approach – modernizing processes, investing in cloud-native development, and refactoring apps to achieve true cloud optimization.

Workstation as a Service (WaaS)

Traditionally, an employee receives a company laptop over which they have full control, but which can only be used in its full capacity for part of the workday. The use of this computer is dependent on on-premise applications like servers, workstations, and software. In response to this limitation, Workstation as a Service (WaaS) has emerged as a quickly growing cloud application.

WaaS is a type of desktop that gives employees full access to their information and office applications at any time, from any device. It has everything needed to carry out office tasks including anti-virus software, backup capabilities, productivity apps, and accounting—already licensed and updated automatically. This gives employees freedom from physically connecting to their workstations, allowing them easy access to their work from wherever they are in the world. With the massive shift to remote work environments we've witnessed in 2020, this will undoubtfully remain an expanding area of cloud services.

08. Cloud security

Between January and April of 2020, cybercrime saw a sharp increase by 630 percent as new ways of working created new vulnerabilities to exploit. Spreading workloads between various cloud providers presents organizations with a considerable issue of governance. No surprise that we found that 65 percent of senior IT executives believe security and compliance risk are the greatest barriers to realizing the benefits of cloud.

Generating and acting on insights across platforms requires a proactive approach equipped with sensitivity to potential blind spots. This explains why 28 percent of enterprises consider security to be the most important criterion when picking a cloud vendor. Although the cloud’s efficiency in terms of time and money is its most popular feature, organizations are realizing that cutting corners on the cloud can render their organizational processes opaque; opening a plethora of discreet entry-points for cybercriminals.

A growing response to these concerns has been the acquisition of cloud security access brokers (CASBs). They provide software that operates between cloud users and platforms to enforce centralized security measures, implementing a consistent system of governance. Unfortunately, over 50 percent of organizations do not have the appropriate security management systems in place for their cloud applications, creating an adverse effect on their overall security infrastructure. Providers are tackling this through a series of security acquisitions aimed at protecting their clients and their own competitive posture. 

09. Cloud coalitions

Enterprise cloud use rose close to 50 percent following the onset of the coronavirus as businesses scrambled to migrate their workloads. This also exerted significant pressure on the capacities of cloud providers who are attempting to satisfy this new demand through strategic partnerships. Such partnerships function to strengthen the existing capabilities of cloud providers and provide novel solutions to the dynamic threat landscape of the cloud.

Since most organizational processes now require the ability to accommodate distances between employees and resources, enterprise solutions are expected to consolidate onto one platform over time. Strategic cloud-based partnerships serve to improve the competitive position of major providers by increasing the array of services on a provider’s portfolio and furthering their ability to manage larger workloads.

10. Cloud automation

The governance issues endemic to a multicloud approach have turned many enterprises onto automation as a means of simplifying the management of their public, private and hybrid cloud environments. Cloud agnostic tools like Terraform allow organizations the unique opportunity to develop identical infrastructure securely across platforms.

Moving forward, functions like dashboards can be accommodated by such tools as technologists would benefit from the ability to view all of their splintered cloud services in one window. Such a provision would also open more avenues for machine learning.

Especially in a multicloud or hybrid cloud environment, organizations are looking for analytics to help them compare the performance of their clouds. Operating without a clear understanding of their efficiency also renders your organization more vulnerable to the threat landscape. Leveraging machine learning capabilities can create more contingent data for your organization, allowing you to be better prepared for existing and potential threats.

11. Private cloud

As interactions between the cloud and enterprises proliferate, a more organizational understanding of cloud capabilities is being developed. The lack of this expertise has been one of the biggest drivers of public cloud adoption as it was easier for businesses to outsource the services they could not manage or develop themselves. However, as this wealth of knowledge grows in abundance, more organizations will opt for their own private clouds to maintain greater control over their processes without trading in future flexibility.

Although the private cloud industry saw no significant growth in 2020, we attribute this to the heightened ability of public providers to navigate organizations through the novel demands of the year. Moving forward, the power dynamic between the public and private clouds is likely to equalize to some extent. This will create a more democratic cloud industry guided by organizational needs rather than industrial fixtures.

12. Cloud agnosticism

In 2020, we've seen several major cloud outages. On average, downtime resulting from these server issues is 117 minutes or almost two hours. The majority of surveyed organizations suffer, 98 percent, say that a single hour of downtime per year costs their company over $100,000. Bear in mind, those are only average statistics as 40 percent of enterprises even indicated to lose between $1 and $5 million in just one hour of downtime—exclusive of any legal fees, fines or penalties..

CIOs are channeling their skepticism into contingencies, with hybrid cloud services being the most widely adopted solution. Even with the introduction of DraaS, organizations are recognizing that the key to cloud success is a cloud-neutral strategy. Splintering core business services across cloud providers mitigates the risk of downtime from prolonged outages and optimizes your ROI. This is why decision-makers in the IT sector consider flexibility to be one of the most important considerations when choosing a provider.

13. Containerization

When shipping containers were introduced in the 1950s, they revolutionized the global economy. Finally, there was a standardized way to package loose items and transport them from one location to another. Fast forward 70 years and containerization is all the rage again, only this time it’s on the cloud.

Containerization involves packaging an application and all its dependencies in a lightweight, uniform set of libraries and APIs. It’s a standardized way to store and ship all components, ensuring an app runs quickly and reliably in multiple computing environments. Because each container is only tens of MBs in size, a single server can host multiple applications—saving costs toward hardware and maintenance.

Container applications are offered by many cloud providers as part of their consumable services and can be deployed by DevOps directly on top of the cloud application layer. Because each app is wrapped separately in a standardized configuration, this approach significantly improves security, scalability, and load times.

It also allows applications to be easily transported between platforms. This sleek, efficient alternative to virtual machines has garnered the interest of organizations as the answer to the complex deployment and operational challenges of the hybrid cloud. So much so that Gartner predicts that by 2023, 70 percent of global organizations will be running more than two containerized applications in production, up from less than 20 percent in 2019.

14. Artificial intelligence

Cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) have a symbiotic relationship. While AI powers cloud computing – managing data, revealing insights, and optimizing workflows – cloud computing increases the impact and scope of AI. By 2025, the global market value of AI is estimated to surpass $89 billion annually, meaning that organizations that don’t embrace this trend will find themselves lagging behind their competition.

Cloud services are democratizing AI, making it accessible to organizations who struggle with the high barrier to entry. Traditionally, investing in AI requires top technical skill, computing power, and a massive amount of capital. However, with AI offered via cloud services, companies are able to implement and benefit from the technology without making a large upfront investment.

Combining AI and cloud services enables businesses to get the most out of both applications. The cloud provides a cost-effective solution to the expensive on-site hardware and software while constant data backup and recovery in a virtual environment makes it a reliable alternative to traditional setups. At the same time, AI helps the cloud manage data as well as gain insights into information that can then be distributed as system-wide learnings.

15. Data fabrics

One of the key implications of cloud adoption is the desegregation of Information Technology as security, optimization and interpretative services increasingly require interoperability. This separates the term ‘data fabrics’ from its analytical roots and recontextualizes it as a key prospect for the cloud industry. Simply put, a data fabric is a string that functions to connect separated locations, types and sources of data while simultaneously serving as an access point.

By 2022, information will be a critical organizational asset for 90 percent of organizations, solidifying analytics into a core competency. Data fabrics employ APIs to dissolve siloes down to their fundamental cores, offering organizations consolidated data access, management and security across cloud providers. Such centralized data management frameworks reduce vendor lock-in and allow organizations to leverage their distributed services for a unified insight into their operations.

16. Serverless, eventful

The exponential rate of growth for enterprise cloud use is likely to become an entry barrier for SMEs, but solutions are already available. Start-ups and smaller organizations looking to create a competitive advantage can leverage serverless architectural solutions to achieve rapid growth without significant capital investment. Not only do serverless infrastructures scale fast automatically, but they only incur costs based on usage, allowing businesses that use them to spend for the exact cloud services they require.

Between 2020 and 2025, this demand is expected to grow the serverless industry by 25 percent. Another key component of its appeal is the ability of serverless architecture to provide safe sandboxes for organizations to implement their code. Eliminating the risk of severe back-end failure allows developers the freedom to experiment with their cloud services and develop contingencies for potential events. Event-based architecture only functions when triggered by specific occurrences, requiring little to no human feedback in case of emergency. Our clients have saved millions by outsourcing alert outage system costs and adopting event-driven serverless architecture.

17. Industry-optimized cloud

Cloud providers drive their value proposition on the laurels of their ability to provide tailored services to organizations. However, businesses in sectors such as healthcare, legislation, and finance face stricter regulations and privacy restrictions, limiting their ability to leverage traditional cloud services. Hundreds of cloud vendors have responded to this challenge by optimizing their cloud capabilities to comply with the regulatory requirements of these high-value industries.

These migrations encompass public, private and hybrid cloud environments, with the healthcare cloud market alone accounting for over $22 billion in 2019. Administrative and clinical data’s automation enables healthcare providers to optimize their intake and discharge procedures—a cloud trend we can all benefit from.

18. Human cloud

The so-called ‘human cloud’ consists of talent platforms that provide enterprises with on-demand access to a flexible workforce. In 2019, this industry generated $178.5 billion in revenue by connecting dispersed, skilled workers to various roles and organizations. The human cloud endemically develops crowd-based networks of workers and recruiters, providing an organization with multiple resources at low overhead cost. Supported by staffing curators, these cloud-based platforms can offer greater labor compliance, quality, and customer service than traditional staffing methods.

Moving forward, the online job marketplace is likely to integrate deeper into the cloud, offering workers and organizations a clearer, more synthesized view of the skillsets, opportunities and projects available.

19. Cloud reality

Despite the tremendous potential of virtual and augmented realities, their dependency on source computing devices has limited their penetration into the market. In combination with 5G networks, the cloud can bypass the hardware requirements of AR/VR to allow applications to be rendered, executed and distributed through the cloud to a larger audience. High capacity, low latency broadband networks will be the key to unlocking real-time displays, renders, feedback and delivery, maximizing the potential of both, cloud and AR/VR solutions.

The AR Cloud is developing digital replicas of the world to visualize information as quickly and conveniently as possible; it’s only a matter of time before technological innovation accommodates this revolution.

20. Blockcloud

The centralization of major cloud servers presents a security challenge. Widely exposed data prone to unauthorized access leaves organizations vulnerable to the threat landscape. This is why senior executives consider cloud computing to be the greatest emerging threat to organizations. With the rise of new regulations like GDPR, compliance on public servers is expected to increase cloud costs and reduce cloud control.

Recognizing this threat, developers are redefining the infrastructure of cloud computing with solutions like edge computing. Many CIOs expect blockchain to fundamentally alter the cloud industry by offering information permanence, a guarantee that the current cloud capabilities cannot make. Certainty regarding the location and access of your information will allow you to develop contingencies with greater certainty, improving your overall cybersecurity.

The endemic reward mechanism of blockchain systems was a significant factor in the success of cryptocurrency. Such an affordance in the cloud industry would enable the implementation of more sweeping data security and management. In order to position themselves to maximize this potential, ‘57 percent of respondents investing in blockchain technology agreed that their organization should adopt blockchain technology to remain competitive’.

21. Cloud monitoring

Trends like cloud coalitions, machine learning, and data fabrics enable the cloud industry to hone one of its key components: monitoring. Facing pressure to quickly migrate workloads to the cloud, companies are now challenged by the task of consolidating metrics on their various cloud servers to generate monetizable insights. This pursuit is expected to grow the cloud monitoring industry annually by 22.7 percent between 2020 and 2026, when it will be valued at approximately $4.5 billion.

End-user services are leveraging available technologies to develop facilities that monitor and manage applications across cloud platforms. As new regulations are enforced over the management of information and clouds shift to HTML5, existing monitoring services will also have to display ingenuity and flexibility.

22. Cloud-native applications

Cloud-native applications are applications born in the cloud, not just reworked to be compatible. These applications run on cloud infrastructure, as opposed to being installed on an OS or server. This means that instead of demanding compatibility, cloud-native applications can dictate their environment by interacting directly via APIs.

Such independently linked applications are more resilient and manageable, enabling organizations to build and scale quickly and efficiently. It’s becoming clear that cloud-native architecture is the future of application development in an increasingly fast-paced and dynamic time. The use of cloud-native projects in production continues to grow, with many projects reaching more than 50 percent use in production.

2021 will see the cloud-native market mature and consolidate, with smaller solutions absorbed by key players. In order to extract the full benefit of cloud technologies, organizations need to ditch the ‘lift and shift’ model and trade in the old-world architecture for agile, cloud-native applications. Once they do, they will be able to take full advantage of numerous cloud benefits, including faster time to market, greater resilience and flexibility, and the ability to scale rapidly.

23. Application mobility

For organizations focused on agility and transformation, the runtime environment for apps is liable to change constantly as technology rapidly matures. This has created a greater need for application mobility—freeing apps from any one data center or infrastructure and enabling organizations to select the best platform for their needs. By decoupling applications from their runtime environment, IT teams can migrate between hypervisors, public cloud, and container-based environments without losing data or risking excessive downtime.

Application mobility enables organizations to have more control over their applications, benefiting them in a number of ways.

  • Not locked into any one platform: Data center managers can select the best infrastructure for them and easily migrate if conditions change.
  • New technology adoption: Organizations can embrace emerging technologies like containerization and public cloud services without the risk of being tied to an obsolete platform.
  • Focus on the application: Administrators can choose platforms that are easy to operate and don’t require extensive training so the focus can remain on managing the application.

In 2021, application mobility will continue to be a top priority for organizations looking to break free from platform dependencies and safeguard their data. Application mobility enables the development of modular and portable applications that automatically save and backup data, allowing you to pick up right where you left off in the event of a disaster.

24. Distributed cloud

The cloud derives its name from its omnipresence and lack of physicality. Most CIOs have observed issues due to its lack of presence, either from the server or in the speed of transmission. However, as the cloud solidifies its position in enterprise operations, the consequences of latency issues grow. At any one point, your website is just a 2-second delay away from racking up a 100 percent bounce rate.

Gartner speculates that the distributed cloud could solve several of these issues. A component of edge computing, the distributed cloud has origins in the public and hybrid cloud environments. Public cloud providers have the opportunity to package their hybrid services and distribute them to different locations, easing the tension from their central servers and enabling them to better serve high-value clients.

Operating physically closer to clients with large workloads resolves most latency issues and mitigates the risk of total server failure. The widening of compute zones could also democratize cloud services as smaller businesses close to the distributed locations could avail the services without incurring traditional server costs.

25. Open-source cloud

Open-source applications employ source code that is publicly accessible to inspect, edit and improve. ‘As a Service’ cloud solutions built with such code can be dispersed across private, public, and hybrid cloud environments.

There are several reasons why 77 percent of IT leaders intend to utilize open-source code with greater frequency. Royalty-free source codes will be a significant deterrent to vendor lock-in as data transferability and open data platforms will allow for services and analytics to be interoperable. Reusing software stacks, libraries and components will also create more common ground between applications for interoperability.

The longevity of cloud transformations often leaves organizations vulnerable to vendor lock-in and risks technological obsoletion. Cloud agnostic services developed with open, common standards can push the standard of cloud proficiency and allow companies greater control over their enterprise cloud solutions.

Getting your head into the cloud

With an increasing prevalence of cloud services in existing business operations, it is clearer than ever that the cloud is the future. More than just a storage solution, it’s a competitive imperative. Understanding the leading trends in cloud computing enables you to improve your cybersecurity, data management, and accessibility while giving you a competitive edge.

This list will not just bring you up to speed with what’s going on in the industry, but also help you anticipate future trends and align your organization to be able to take advantage of them:

  1. About half of the population’s demand for sustainability outweighs their brand loyalty. Cloud operations will be essential for achieving a net-zero future.
  2. As cloud spend inflates, organizations are struggling to use their finances efficiently. Optimization tools and greater fluency with the cloud are being developed as an answer.
  3. Edge computing is the answer to latency, bandwidth, and security issues of centralized data centers. With greater speed and processing power being used, computing at the edge is becoming essential.
  4. Most businesses on the cloud have deployed multicloud solutions to leverage the offerings of various providers and circumvent vendor lock-in.
  5. Novel platforms are attempting to integrate public and private cloud environments through hybrid cloud solutions to offer consolidated access and insights.
  6. Public cloud migrations continue to save businesses the cost of ownership, driving greater adoption rates. Competition among providers is increasing concerns of vendor lock-ins.
  7. As a Service remains one of the easiest points of entry into the cloud. In the wake of COVID-19, we’ve seen a rise in new applications as organizations learn how to operate in a changing world.
  8. Since more employees started working at home, cybercrime has exponentially increased. Providers are finalizing security acquisitions to address cloud security concerns and improve their cybersecurity posture.
  9. Strategic partnerships are the emerging solution for providers as they look to accommodate greater workloads without compromising on processing and reaction speed.
  10. Cloud automation is presenting new ways to collate, visualize and analyze data across providers as multicloud adoption drives the demand for consolidated access.
  11. Greater proficiency on the cloud will allow organizations the insights needed to develop their own private clouds and produce independent applications.
  12. Cloud agnostic architecture untethers applications from their native environment, enabling more flexible operations in times of uncertainty, server overloads and expensive downtimes.
  13. Containerization isn’t just for shipping material goods. When it comes to applications, containerization ensures that an app is self-contained and standardized—improving security, scalability, and load times.
  14. Artificial intelligence is a trend that runs parallel to the cloud, as both benefit and build off of each other. The cloud provides a low-cost, reliable solution to traditional hardware and software while AI helps to manage data and gain insights.
  15. Data fabrics provide an opportunity to consolidate applications and their data across platforms, allowing organizations to trade data as an organizational asset.
  16. Serverless architecture provides sandboxes for safely executing front-end changes and can be leveraged by smaller companies to maintain a competitive position without significant capital investment.
  17. Stricter regulations on data trading are spearheading the optimization of industry clouds which are designed to comply with industry-specific requirements.
  18. Vacancies and prospects can be shared across the human cloud to find ideal candidates across borders. Machine learning and automation are key vertebrae of this industry.
  19. Cloud reality is the hosting of AR/VR applications on the cloud. Faster displays, renders and feedback via the cloud can allow real-time adjustments to calibrate digital realities.
  20. The integration of blockchain into cloud architecture is expected to repatriate control over cloud platforms to companies and incentivize appropriate cybersecurity behaviors.
  21. Unified dashboards to monitor data across cloud servers is a growing enterprise demand. Technological development and regulatory stringency are driving innovation in this field.
  22. Cloud-native applications are the future of application development. Born in the cloud, these applications are more resilient and easily managed, granting organizations the ability to scale rapidly.
  23. Application mobility allows organizations to select the best platform for their needs, freeing them to embrace new technologies with greater recovery and management capability.
  24. Latency issues and concerns of server overloads are driving physically distributed cloud services as the cost of downtime increases.
  25. The imperative of flexibility is driving a movement of open-source clouds, punctuated by interoperability and retrospective, long-term transformations.

Perfecting your cloud services demands a commitment to agility and change. These varied trends are endemic to the cloud and will evolve at greater rates as adoption increases and calibrates the cloud to generate clearer insights. Tracking and unpacking these trends will help your organization open doors by leveraging the expertise and knowledge of the industry. As the world continues to embrace cloud services, these doors will prove essential to sustained growth in 2021 and beyond.

We will update these trends as the industry demands, ensuring that this tremendous digital landscape of varied and dynamic architectures is never one you have to travel through alone. The future is in the cloud. Reach out to us when you’re ready to take flight!


Roy Ikink

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Utilities Transmission & Distribution and Accenture Intelligent Platform Services