In ways both obvious and obscure, the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the way companies use the cloud. Some recent cloud computing trends stand to reason: For example, cloud adoption rates appear to be higher than ever. However, we are also seeing cloud computing trends in the areas of compliance and security.
These and other revelations are emerging as software vendors and analysts take stock of the ways that the pandemic has impacted the cloud computing market. Read on for an overview of the cloud computing trends we’re seeing in the time of COVID-19.
Obvious Cloud Computing Trends: Adoption Rates and Spending
Let’s start with trends that were easy to see coming: An increase in cloud usage rates and a corresponding rise in the money that companies invest in the cloud.
IDC reports that spending on cloud infrastructure increased 2.2% during the first quarter of 2020, as the pandemic took hold around the globe. That figure might seem modest, but it is significant when measured against a 16.3% decline in spending on non-cloud related IT investments during the same period. Clearly, as companies tighten IT budgets amid the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, they are making exceptions for the cloud.
Likewise, a MariaDB survey found that 40% of companies report accelerating their move to the cloud as a result of the pandemic. And companies like Alibaba and Azure continue to hire aggressively for their cloud divisions, as do cloud-based collaboration vendors like Cisco and Slack, reflecting increased demand for cloud services.
The reason behind these trends seems clear: As companies around the globe rushed to shift operations to a remote-work model in response to the coronavirus pandemic, they have placed a priority on cloud-based solutions that their employees can access from any location. That trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, given announcements by many companies to allow employees to work from home indefinitely.
Not-So-Obvious Cloud Computing Trends: Compliance, Edge and Security
Meanwhile, the pandemic has exerted other pressures on the cloud market that may have been less predictable.
One of these cloud computing trends involves compliance. According to Deloitte and Touche, many of companies that have rushed to embrace the cloud during the pandemic have failed to adjust their accounting practices in ways that meet regulatory requirements. In this respect, the pandemic has exacerbated cloud compliance issues that already existed before the coronavirus threat emerged.
This trend is perhaps not all too surprising. Compliance tends to take some time to catch up with sudden changes of any type in the tech industry. A rapid expansion of cloud-based services in response to the pandemic was to be expected at a time when companies were more concerned with maintaining business continuity in the face of unprecedented challenges than they were with the nuances of regulatory compliance. What remains to be seen is how much effort companies will invest in catching up with compliance rules once they finish reconfiguring their cloud strategies in order to thrive in a post-COVID world.
Edge Computing Interest
Although hard data on edge computing adoption rates over the past few months is elusive, observers of the edge market predict that the pandemic will drive increased interest in edge solutions. In settings like factories and retail stores, edge devices can help monitor operations, and thereby reduce the need for on-site human personnel.
Along similar lines, AT&T’s CTO envisions a post-pandemic world where edge devices collect data such as whether employees in stores are wiping down surfaces, and whether customers are maintaining social distance.
These visions for edge computing adoption have not yet come to pass, and I am somewhat inclined to dismiss them as simply another example of why the edge is over-hyped. On the other hand, the value of edge-based solutions like these seems clear enough, especially if the pandemic goes on long enough that we need to be able to collect data as minute as the status of countertops.
Cloud Security Risks
Security threats for cloud environments, too, are shifting as a result of the pandemic, and there seem to be two main reasons why. One is the fact that remote workers are easier for the bad guys to trick. When employees are using personal computers and their home networks to do their jobs, corporate firewalls, email scanners and so on may not be able to protect them. This makes it easier for attackers to phish, deploy malware and otherwise wreak havoc on unsuspecting users.
The second factor is that an increased reliance on cloud-based solutions adds to the overall complexity of IT environments. In turn, visibility becomes more challenging. This was always true, of course; it’s not as if the pandemic made cloud environments more complex. But what has changed is that more companies than ever are now using the cloud, and many have rushed to implement cloud-based solutions during the past few months without the foresight or consideration for security that would normally go into a new service deployment.
It’s too early to say exactly how the pandemic will pan out across the cloud computing market, and to what extent the changes described above will prove enduring. Perhaps we’ll see increased rates of cloud repatriation in the wake of the pandemic, for instance, if companies see their current investment in cloud services as being only a temporary response to COVID. Alternatively, maybe the pandemic will turn out to be the impetus that pushes even those organizations that were wedded to their legacy infrastructure into the age of the cloud, marking the end to a “trend” that has been 15 years in the making.