The pandemic has created a challenging and threatening environment for businesses over the last year. Perhaps a silver lining to a bleak 2020 was that many teams were forced to modernise their IT practices in order to remain buoyant. With the mass adoption of cloud solutions to enable flexible working and an unprecedented surge in AI and machine learning, it feels like the future technological era has arrived early.
In 2021, however, there are still plenty of ways that cloud technology can evolve. Its explosive growth is unlikely to slow any time soon, and companies will continue to provide innovative offerings to the demanding market. Here are our five predictions for the evolution of cloud technology throughout this year:
Public cloud will increase in dominance
Public cloud adoption has increased by 83% since 2010, and Forester research predicts a 35% growth in 2021 alone, as organisations look to utilise its productivity advantages to recover from the ongoing pandemic.
Small and mid-sized businesses will benefit greatly from public cloud. After a period of rapid digital transformation due to Covid-19, many will be looking to capitalise on their investments and take greater advantage of the valuable tools it can offer.
Microsoft will strengthen its position amongst the ‘big three’ cloud providers
While Microsoft Azure isn’t experiencing the same revenue spike as it did in the early 2010’s, analysts still believe it’s growing faster than main competitor AWS. This year, researchers expect Microsoft to exceed $25 billion in Azure revenue alone; maintaining strong year on year growth.
According to Gartner, Microsoft’s ability to provide “a complete end-to-end set of solutions related to a broad range of workloads and applications” is a one reason Azure is so popular. Microsoft have also focused a lot on developing strategic alignments with major European enterprises, so is well-poised for further expansion.
The intelligent technology boom will trigger a demand for cloud-to-edge applications
As mentioned, the pandemic has marked a rise in AI, robotics, IoT, and autonomy as businesses look to both reduce human contact and make up for lost productivity. With major benefits to be enjoyed, it’s unlikely businesses will ever switch back to manual processes – even when social distancing is no longer required. Microsoft’s latest IoT report reveals that 64% of companies’ decision makers believe AI and IoT are critical to their success.
As a result, cloud providers will see more demand for ‘intelligent edge’ workloads. Automation is driven by data, which must be collected, processed and analysed efficiently. According to Microsoft’s insights, its ‘edge computing’ offerings are valued by businesses for their ability to enable more connectivity via protocol translation, reduce the internet bandwidth burden, and improve privacy.
Data governance will be a key focus for IT managers
The effects of the pandemic and a general increase in cloud utilisation is creating a world in which IT departments will have to put governance and compliance first every time. Many businesses are already undergoing projects to ensure secure and compliant data migration to the cloud, and this will continue in 2021.
However, some analysts also predict that there will be changes to data regulations around the world. Following the EU’s GDPR, a Privacera analyst predicts governments will look to provide individuals with more control over their personal information. The analyst further predicts that compliance tools, such as Microsoft Compliance Manager, are likely to play a more central role in businesses security protocols.
Augmented reality will support training and enablement of remote employees
The benefits of mixed and augmented reality have been proven since the upturn in remote working. Increasingly, augmented reality technologies will supplement or even replace in-person training, especially in the IT sector. Microsoft’s Remote Assist app provides a first-person view to instructors who will be able to walk new hires through step-by-step training with visual aids.
The addition of Windows Autopilot can provide further support. IT professionals can easily pre-configure HoloLens 2 headsets via zero-touch tools and ensure the end-user doesn’t need to perform a complex setup process. Mixed reality headsets can help workers far beyond just training – users can preview products, plan architectural builds, and create virtual experiences for consumers.
While predictions aren’t always reality where technology is concerned, the focuses mentioned have been growing in prominence since before the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, all of these predictions will build on lessons learnt throughout 2020 – that flexibility is advantageous, effective communication is key, and data needs protecting now more than ever.