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*Updated August 2022. Changes include expanding our focus on cloud security and resiliency; acknowledging the growing importance of sustainability and ESG efforts; plus, adding more detail on the industry-wide shift to a more pragmatic, outcomes-focused approach to cloud adoption.

Thanks in part to a worldwide pivot to hybrid work and a growing reliance on digital-centric services, cloud computing is witnessing an unprecedented growth spurt.

While predicting what's next might seem like a fool's errand given how quickly the landscape can change, the exercise can be useful for identifying trends that appear primed to impact how businesses operate.

Here are a few of the cloud trends we're tracking today.

1. Cloud security and resiliency become mainstays of every cloud conversation

As cybersecurity threats evolve, cloud outages become more widely publicized, and cloud service providers (CSPs) rapidly develop new solutions and services, every cloud conversation going forward should touch on cloud security and resiliency.

Cloud security

CISOs and business leaders alike continue to focus on how best to protect their valuable data as critical workloads and applications continue migrating to the cloud at breakneck speed.

While public cloud environments have been designed to maximize data security 24/7, the open and connected nature of cloud can expose organizations to security risks such as misconfiguration, outdated architecture, inadequate scaling strategies, identify and access management issues, control plane weaknesses, a lack of endpoint visibility and unchecked cloud sprawl.

CISOs and IT need to become more strategic about how they design, build and secure cloud environments. This is particularly true for industries historically slow to modernize IT infrastructure, like healthcare and financial services. 

As such, we're seeing clients begin to shift cybersecurity to the left by replacing reactive security approaches and environments with more proactive ones able to anticipate and mitigate threats in as close to real time as possible.

Cloud resiliency

If they haven't yet, consumers will increasingly realize their reliance on cloud services. Whether its smooth streaming from Netflix or Disney+, instant money transfers from Venmo or PayPal, or consistently available smart-home IoT services from Ring or Nest, consumers haven't been shy about venting their displeasure when cloud service disruption impacts their lives.

Because it's not a question of if but when the next cloud outage will occur, we predict companies will become more focused on cloud resiliency. Cloud resiliency entails leveraging automation and orchestration to foresee and prevent potential disruptions to IT-based services. 

By maturing IT preparedness and remediation capabilities, organizations can maximize the availability of their cloud services and stay a step ahead of the competition.

2. Sustainability and ESG share the spotlight

This past year, sustainability has been a hot topic of discussion in our clients' board meetings and business roundtables. In some cases, entire days were committed to identifying ways to grow their environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities. We expect that this energized focus on ESG will serve to significantly mature the corporate sustainability space going forward.

Given the fundamental challenges CSPs face in terms of operating their massive data centers, paired with mounting pressure to replace fossil fuels with renewable or green energy sources, we are seeing organizations actively seek to learn:

  • How cloud can drive sustainability efforts, including its role in helping or hindering energy conservation efforts in an always-on infrastructure model.
  • How cloud can be architected and implemented in ways that help achieve carbon neutrality or other net-zero goals.
  • How automation and orchestration can reduce operational and overhead costs in cloud environments.

In today's socially conscious world, organizations will be forced to start identifying ways to ingrain sustainability best practices into their operating models. Moreover, boardrooms will be increasingly asked to demonstrate progress on ESG-related commitments from consumers, employees, partners, policy makers, investors and other key stakeholders.

3. Cloud discussions pivot to optimization over migration

Not long ago, the fundamental question about cloud computing centered on whether a company should migrate to the cloud. In 2022, that debate is mostly over. A quick glance at cloud adoption statistics and trends indicates that more than 85 to 90 percent of businesses already have some cloud presence.

With more companies than ever relying on cloud, and no signs of a slowdown in adoption, we predict the fundamental question will quickly shift to how best to architect, optimize and streamline cloud environments to extract the full value of the company's investment.

Goodbye "cloud first." Hello "purpose-fit for cloud."

For more than a decade, cloud strategies have often defaulted a "cloud-first" approach. Where organizations attempted to move all or most of their infrastructure to a public cloud platform hosted by AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure — often with mixed results. Business outcomes were typically of secondary concern to the migration process itself.

Going forward, we anticipate organizations will adopt a "purpose-fit for cloud" approach that puts outcomes at the forefront. We see business and IT leaders leveraging this more practical mentality to become more strategic about:

  1. Selecting the right cloud operating model for their business (with most landing on a hybrid and/or multicloud approach).
  2. Determining which applications and workloads get shifted to the cloud; which are refactored or optimized via a process like application rationalization; which remain on-premises; and which are retired altogether.
  3. How they optimize and manage cloud environments with the goal of systematically maturing cloud capabilities over time to meet shifting market and consumer demands.

The role of AI/ML in automating IT Operations

We predict the biggest growth area in this space will involve artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models, which cloud-native services will increasingly leverage to help data scientists do their jobs better.

Due to the growing interest in applying AI/ML to cloud environments, clients should be aware there will be tradeoffs when deciding where these models are trained and deployed (e.g., at the edge, on premises, in a public or hybrid cloud, etc.). Understanding the pros and cons of these decisions will help ensure you make the right decision for your business.

Related to cloud optimization, we further anticipate that organizations will invest in AIOps, MLOps and application performance management (APM) — all of which grease the wheel of digital transformation by changing how people, processes and technology function together within IT Operations. Methodologies and tools like these not only help IT teams work smarter and faster via automation, but they can also help companies achieve more self-healing IT environments where threats are mitigated in real time, lessening reliance on human review and associated errors.

4. IT modernization becomes crucial to benefit from cloud innovations

As CSPs continue to develop new tools and services, we expect to see significant innovation in different cloud solution areas. One of the hottest areas involves optimizing cloud environments by introducing technology and processes designed to reduce programming and design time, unwind technical debt, limit application sprawl and better manage consumption.

Consider a large enterprise with multiple cloud presences. We think it'll be fascinating to see how these organizations choose to tweak their approach to architecting and optimizing their cloud environments. Whether they explore solutions like Kubernetes cross-cloud clusters, pilot new applications of cloud-natives services at the edge, or adopt advancements in serverless computing, they will have multiple ways to make their cloud environments more efficient and resistant to failure.

However, taking full advantage of exciting cloud innovations presupposes an IT environment ready to handle the demands imposed by the new technology. We know organizations would prefer to jump to the point where they can immediately deploy these new tools. But before chasing the latest innovation, your immediate focus should be on establishing a solid cloud foundation and infrastructure modernization plan that enables the type of outcomes you hope to achieve in the cloud.

Without sufficient investment in a cloud strategy that spans the short- and long-term, organizations risk being disenchanted by an inability to extract the full value of new investments in cloud tech.

5. The cloud talent gap persists

Finally, the growing demand of cloud solutions and services directly correlates to the growing need for experts who can deliver, operate and manage complex cloud environments. However, as we've seen in 2020 and 2021, the general dearth of skilled cloud operators in the market should continue to slow how quickly enterprises can mature their cloud capabilities.

While we expect this skills gap to self-correct in time given that nearly everyone in IT will need to learn how to do their job in the cloud at some point, we do expect an intensifying of demand for cloud professionals who are adept at presenting both business and technology use cases for cloud adoption, optimization and further investment.

Why? Because enterprise-wide buy-in requires convincing both C-suite and IT leaders of cloud's unique value to the bottom line. Without an alignment between cloud business strategy and IT decision-making, organizations will struggle to achieve the business outcomes and results promised by cloud.

Mature your capabilities with WWT Cloud.