The way organizations use the cloud is shifting. From multicloud to edge computing, each business must find the way that is most efficient for its architecture and its physical location. Into that time of great change comes a report that the public cloud market will grow to more than $1 trillion worldwide by 2026, according to Forrester.
In addition, Forrester predicts cloud infrastructure services will account for nearly $496 billion in revenue in 2026 as hyperscalers — public cloud and cloud services companies with large, often global reach — jockey for a win.
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“Public cloud has experienced nearly a decade of high growth and acceleration, even amid pandemic-induced challenges,” said Lee Sustar, principal analyst at Forrester. “This growth will continue into 2026. It will be challenged, however, by competitive pressure for hyperscalers and providers to make massive investments in services like database and analytics, development services and SaaS — all while maintaining high levels of infrastructure investment to keep pace with their rivals’ innovation.”
First, a quick definition of the market. Forrester breaks the business of public cloud into four sections, cloud infrastructure services, cloud database and analytics services, cloud development services and cloud applications.
Total public cloud spending will rise to over $1 trillion, by 2026 between all four sections, the report found.
Forrester breaks down those numbers as follows:
- Cloud infrastructure services: $495.5 billion by 2026.
- Cloud database and analytics services: $89.5 billion by 2026.
- Cloud development services: $51 billion by 2026.
- Cloud applications: $396.9 billion by 2026.
Public cloud trends
Customers want artificial intelligence and machine learning, and providers will offer database and analytics services to oblige them, Forrester said. Revenue from these database and analytics services will grow to $89.5 billion by 2026, driven by a demand for cloud AI platforms. There’s some conversation on infusing cloud-native requirements into AI/ML standards, further muddying the ways in which various technologies, processes and services can interlock with, support and complicate each other.
Forrester also predicts that development services will rise to $51 billion by 2026. That’s good news for the skills and hiring gap, as it might draw the interest of more programmers. Serverless app development on cloud platforms, automation and integration of low-code into cloud development are all helping with the push in this direction.
Lastly, cloud applications will be used more and more to enhance hyperscalers’ SaaS offerings, Forrester said. The cloud applications market overall is anticipated to hit market saturation at nearly $397 billion by 2026. Note that cloud applications organizations are typically not hyperscalers and subsequently not in competition with the Big Four of Alibaba, AWS, Google and Microsoft. However, SaaS offerings and the race to be the best hosts for SaaS will still be among the top priorities for hyperscalers in this area.
Fierce competition and other challenges
With great change comes great competition. This presents challenges to public cloud proliferation, but those challenges have slowed down growth in this market only slightly, moving from 30% growth over almost a decade to 20% growth from 2022 to 2026.
Forrester’s Principal Analyst Lee Sustar identified several key factors in today’s public cloud market. First, in terms of business analysis, many hyperscalers are maintaining appearance in the face of a dragging cloud segment. Google Cloud costs Alphabet a lot in operating losses, and AWS has pulled Amazon down, Forrester said.
What this means for the customer is that the as-a-service model isn’t necessarily the right way to think about the cloud anymore. Instead, customers can now purchase enterprise-class cloud IT in different configurations. Sustar said customers need to know they can buy specific services and not others.
The hottest seller at the moment: data and analytics. Cloud providers are hoping to reach customers among data scientists and analysts as well as IT. That expansion will require more physical data centers.
Sustar points out that the Big Four dominate the public cloud industry. As more and more customers turn to the open source Kubernetes project for core cloud infrastructure, the hyperscalers start to explore further up the stack.
On top of this, the market is saturated. Hyperscalers must begin to either jockey with each other, eat smaller companies or create partnerships in which they fill roles such as hosts for digital operations platforms.
The impact of global events
Forrester also points out in its predictions for 2023 that the Russia-Ukraine war and “wider geopolitical tensions” will affect the public cloud industry. Alibaba will likely benefit from the partial separation of the Chinese public cloud market from the rest of the world within its home country. Hyperscalers will compete for the African and Latin American markets.
The effect of the edge
The foggy borders between capabilities mean that edge vendors “will capture an increasing share of IT spending in relation to cloud,” Forrester said. 5G and Kubernetes-based infrastructure will let edge vendors, who were not generally part of the scope of the report, capture some public cloud business.
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