Gartner: These 4 trends are shaping the future of the public cloud

Four main trends are helping the public cloud industry grow rapidly, with 21.7% growth expected between 2021 and 2022. Find out what those trends are and how they'll affect your organization.

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A Gartner report on the trends driving the public cloud sector predicts that the public cloud industry will grow massively over the next few years, eventually accounting for more than 45% of all enterprise IT spending by 2026. The trends (cloud ubiquity, regional cloud ecosystems, sustainability and CIPS automated infrastructure) driving this massive growth in the amount of money spent on the public cloud (it only accounts for 17% of IT budgets in 2021) and the industry's value as a whole (Gartner expects it to grow by 21.7% in 2021 to a value of $482 billion in 2022) can be tied to the pandemic to some degree, said Gartner senior research director Henrique Cecci. 

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"The economic, organizational and societal impact of the pandemic will continue to serve as a catalyst for digital innovation and adoption of cloud services. This is especially true for use cases such as collaboration, remote work and new digital services to support a hybrid workforce," Cecci said. 

That isn't to say that all of the trends Gartner reports as key are tied to COVID-19. The ubiquity of the cloud, Gartner's first trend, isn't new. "The cloud underpins most new technological disruptions, including composable business, and has proven itself during times of uncertainty with its resiliency, scalability, flexibility and speed," the report said. 

New use cases will emerge that will further increase calls for hybrid, multicloud and edge services that will ultimately lead to new distributed cloud models, the report said. These use cases could include public-sector initiatives, smart factories, smart cities and enhanced mobile banking, among others.

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Far from leaving the private cloud behind, data centers will modernize and continue to play an essential role, said Forrester principal analyst for infrastructure and operations Lee Sustar. "The public cloud is key, but it isn't the only part of the equation. The distinction between edge, public cloud, private cloud and hybrid will vanish over time," Sustar said. 

Sustar also cites cloud giants Google, Amazon, and Microsoft as evidence that a conglomerate cloud is the future. "Google, AWS, Microsoft … they're all offering on-premise services, and many systems will remain out of the cloud."

Cloud infrastructure and platform services (CIPS), which Gartner cites as another of its four trends, is likely to play a role in Sustar's prediction of the vanishing boundaries of the cloud. Gartner said it expects broad adoption of "fully managed and AI/ML-enabled cloud services from hyperscale CIPS providers" that will "eliminate the operational burden of traditional I&O roles in the public cloud." 

 "Modern IT infrastructure, whether deployed in the data center or consumed in the public cloud, requires less manual intervention and routine administration than its legacy equivalents," Cecci said. On-site public cloud products, like the ones mentioned by Sustar, will likely be a key piece of infrastructure that exists on-site, but is still managed like a service. 

Gartner's third trend, sustainability, is less something happening to the cloud and more something it will be forced to adapt to. Gartner said that nearly half of CEOs believe climate change mitigation will have a significant impact on business, and that means cloud providers will need to respond by adopting green energy policies or risk losing clients. "New sustainability requirements will be mandated over the next few years, and the choice of cloud services providers may hinge on the provider's 'green' initiatives," Cecci said.

Lastly, Gartner predicts that geopolitical regulatory fragmentation, protectionism and industry compliance will further drive the creation of regional cloud ecosystems and data services similar to GAIA-X, a European federated data infrastructure project.

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These regionalized platforms will help companies reduce lock-in and points-of-failure created due to providers being located in different countries. "Digital service taxes, tariffs and other geopolitically driven restrictions on trade and investment could increase fragmentation in the tech industry … for the enterprise market, this may evolve into a more segmented market that offers a choice between tech providers headquartered in countries or regions like Europe, China or the U.S.," the report said. 

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