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December 16, 2020 | Matt Pacheco

This Year in Cloud Computing: Looking Back at Trends and Insights

The IT industry has faced more than the normal amount of challenges in 2020. IT professionals and their organizations have seen their IT models upended due to the coronavirus and scrambled to learn and adopt new technologies to support virtual end users. On the upside, the events of 2020 have prodded IT departments to move forward more quickly with digital transformation projects, like adopting cloud computing. Having experienced the sudden disaster of Covid-19, CIOs and their teams prioritized flexibility and resilience to prepare for future possible disruptions.

Our blog authors have covered the developments, technologies, and best practices of 2020. We assembled the following roundup of the leading cloud computing trends of 2020, below, to provide an in-depth review of the past year.

Remote working soars in 2020

The biggest IT event of 2020 was the Covid-19 pandemic and sudden surge in demand for remote work capabilities. As stores and offices shut down in March and April, people turned to the Internet to access their offices and school, buy essentials, and collaborate with colleagues. As employees moved en masse to their home offices, Skype and Zoom replaced the conference room and water cooler. Demand for VPNs and bigger bandwidth soared.

IT professionals had to quickly pivot from providing support to office workers to provisioning and troubleshooting telecommuters. Besides expanding VPNs and bandwidth, IT departments also had to troubleshoot remote access and security problems, and learn different brands of laptops, desktops, headphones, Wi-Fi routers, and other accessories. For companies that hadn’t yet adopted collaborative applications such as Zoom, Slack, and Google Workspace, the year provided them with a crash course in video conferencing and file sharing.

The lessons learned in 2020 will continue to be of value. IT departments have improved their adaptability to sudden change and resilience in the face of disruptions. In addition, virtual offices are likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future. PWC’s remote work survey found that 83% of office workers hope to work from home, at least part time, after the pandemic, and 55% of employers expect them to.

Hybrid and multicloud dominate

The cloud has become the global enterprise platform for 2020, providing millions of employees with access to critical work applications and data. Most companies already had at least two cloud services and the pandemic has heightened adoption. Multiple cloud services, platforms, and providers is now common.

Hybrid and multicloud models can ensure that each workload and application has the right environment for optimal performance and cost efficiency. Cloud providers offer different types of applications, services, and prices. By choosing a best-of-breed approach, an IT department can optimize performance and minimize costs.

In early 2020, a few IT professionals were still learning the difference between hybrid and multicloud.

  • A hybrid computing environment is a mix of cloud services and non-cloud applications, including legacy on-premises apps, private clouds, and collocated servers, as well as public cloud services from one or more cloud providers.
  • A multicloud environment could include multiple cloud providers, platforms, and services, but no non-cloud systems. A typical multicloud environment might have cloud storage services from one provider, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application from two other providers, and a cloud platform for application development from a major hyperscale provider such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure.

Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud report finds that 93% of respondents have a multicloud strategy and 87% are taking a hybrid approach.

The main challenges that companies with hybrid and multicloud environments now face are integration and management. Cloud providers have begun offering unified cloud management applications so that customers can orchestrate and administer processes across cloud environments. Customers that don’t use a unified management application risk creating multiple cloud silos that offer no real benefits. Another option is to turn to a new type of cloud services provider that specializes in hybrid and multicloud management. These hybrid cloud computing providers assist businesses in creating and implementing hybrid and multicloud strategies and manage the integration and orchestration of these complex cloud and non-cloud environments.

Renaissance of private clouds

While the public cloud is, by far, the dominant cloud platform, private clouds are slowly regaining market share. Often private clouds are implemented as part of a hybrid cloud strategy, along with public cloud services to meet application needs that the public cloud cannot. In the past, IT departments rushed to put workloads in the public cloud, certain that it was both cheaper and more convenient. Now they are discovering not all workloads belong in a public cloud and are moving some of those workloads to on-premises and collocated private clouds.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Faster and more consistent performance. Some workloads require consistent performance which the public cloud often can’t guarantee.
  • Greater control over security. If you own the hardware and software, you control the security technologies and configuration as well.
  • Workloads that require extra storage or processing resources can be expensive to run on a public cloud.
  • Legacy applications. Often, older systems aren’t architected for the public cloud, but could be migrated to a customized private cloud.

In the past, IT departments shied away from private clouds because of their cost to develop and complexity in management. However, that is rapidly changing thanks to the emergence of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). HCI offers a plug-and-play architecture that simplifies the development of private clouds. HCI products merge the hardware and software components needed to operate an IT environment—CPU, storage and networking hardware, hypervisor, and software for file serving, security, and networking—into a single unit. An HCI appliance operates as an integrated building block that can be clustered with other HCI blocks to scale up capacity.

HCI-based private clouds come at a good time to help IT departments create private clouds optimized for their needs.

Cloud strategies highlight a move to off-prem

Cloud migration and management requires research and planning to ensure successful implementation. Many migration experts recommend moving to the cloud in phases, starting with the easiest or most needed applications to show value early in the migration. However, with the advent of the coronavirus and need to support newly virtual workforces, IT departments have to had to speed up their migration timelines. A useful resource is consultants and managed services providers who can help plan and deploy cloud applications, as well as refactor legacy systems for cloud access.

IT organizations increasingly need outside providers to help shoulder the more complex or mundane aspects of IT operations. We mentioned earlier that companies are turning to hybrid cloud management firms to help implement and manage complex hybrid and multicloud environments. Gartner, which coined the term managed hybrid cloud hosting provider (MHCH), defines them as outsourcing companies that have broad experience with different cloud platforms as well as integration of cloud and non-cloud resources. An MHCH provider can also create a unified view of the hybrid environment to enable more effective management.

IT departments also work with service providers for other areas of IT expertise, including security, disaster recovery, help desk, and daily IT operations. One example is IT security. Managed security services providers (MSSPs) have become popular as cybersecurity has grown highly complex and the risks of suffering a cybersecurity attack has skyrocketed. Cyber-criminals launch sophisticated attacks that are difficult to prevent or identify without equally sophisticated defenses. Likewise, managed disaster recovery services help ensure there is a working backup plan should a disaster strike. Many IT departments find it challenging to develop their own DR and business continuity strategies, implement them at a remote data center, and maintain and execute them when needed.

Offloading certain day to day tasks can lower your IT staffing costs and provide access to high levels of expertise, such as in cybersecurity, cloud application development, and DR. Using a managed cloud provider is a good strategy for IT departments that prefer not to maintain large IT staffs or spend money hiring multiple IT specialists.

As IT becomes ever more specialized, and more critical to business success, IT departments must depend more on trusted partner and managed cloud services providers such as TierPoint. A trusted partner can provide a range of services, from cloud migrations and networking services to performance monitoring, DR, and private cloud development and hosting.

This past year has taught us the importance of flexibility. However, in-house IT staffs often lack the time or expertise to provide that flexibility. A trusted partner can improve an organization’s ability to adapt quickly to changes, mitigate risks, benefit from new technologies, and make the right decisions to meet current and future challenges.

Stay tuned for more cloud computing insights in 2021

Learn more about cloud strategy by downloading TierPoint’s  Cloud Computing Strategic Guide and reading TierPoint’s Talking Point’s blog on cloud trends. You can also subscribe to the TierPoint YouTube channel.

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