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Cloud services will accelerate business transformation

Digital clouds against a blue background.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

The cloud market is booming. Worldwide spending on public cloud is forecast to have grown 23% by the end of 2021 to total $332 billion, up from $270 billion in 2020, according to the latest Gartner forecast. As global businesses look to accelerate digital transformation in order to survive in a post-COVID-19 world with higher adoption of remote working and digital penetration, many are pivoting to a hybrid cloud ecosystem with data at its core.

About the author

Chris Greenwood is Senior Director and General Manager for NetApp.

As a trend, the move to the cloud was well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, simpler workloads will have already been moved to the cloud. Disaster recovery, for example is a common first step in moving to the cloud. But the rapid transformation brought about by the pandemic forced many businesses to overcome any lingering concerns and move their mission-critical workloads to the cloud as well. These heavier, data-intensive applications and processes will bring about a greater maturity in the cloud market – paving the way for new services delivered via the cloud.

Continuous maturation

Businesses looking to optimize their cloud-based operations are using new technologies to operate, manage and capitalize on their cloud investments such as containerization, virtualization, and edge computing. Throughout this process, organizations are becoming more familiar with the various characteristics of different cloud ecosystems and providers, understanding the ways in which one or another might be more appropriate for their requirements. Rather than simply trying to adopt cloud as fast as possible, businesses are becoming more discerning, maturing in their approach to buying cloud services. While this increased understanding may reduce the price of cloud services in the next five years, businesses will become more innovative in their approach to gaining competitive advantage out of their data and digital strategies.

This is a huge opportunity for the cloud and data industry. While potential commoditization of the cloud market may be viewed as a threat by individual cloud providers, the broader trend towards businesses consuming cloud services at greater scale is a big opportunity. The breadth of opportunity and emergence of technologies like Kubernetes also means that it will always be possible to drive differentiation. Both customers and partners have needs beyond the provision of cloud – greater flexibility, robust cybersecurity, and operational efficiency to name a few. The new era of cloud services will also be ruled by OPEX pricing models as opposed to CAPEX investments. This gives organizations the opportunity to only pay for the services they use and at the scale they need, which allows them to take advantage of one of the cloud’s greatest and most widely celebrated assets: scalability.

Unprecedented opportunities

If the pandemic has taught businesses anything it is that the ability to quickly scale up or redeploy resources can be the difference between surviving and thriving in the face of black swan events. Uncertainty has well and truly become the new norm in the past decade. Rapid technological change and the data boom brought about by the proliferation of smartphones and cloud technologies meant forced businesses to adapt quickly in the early noughties. And those industries that failed to adapt were disrupted in unprecedented ways with the emergence of digital native start-ups such as Uber and Deliveroo. Moving into the latter half of the past decade, geo-political events and disruption to global trading regulations brought about by the digital arms race, Brexit and GDPR served up more uncertainty.

Within this context, the need for scalability, speed and agility – three of the cloud’s greatest assets as a technological concept – has arguably never been more acute. Simply put, the world now presents new opportunities for those businesses that are readily able to adapt more quickly. As consumers, we expect businesses to keep improving our digital experience. As employees, we expect all the tools to do our jobs to the fullest from wherever we are in the world. And as decision-makers we want to be confident that we are basing our strategies on all of the available information. The cloud is fundamental to delivering all these capabilities. As businesses go beyond cloud services and using Cloud-Native technologies to enable functions such as DevOps, DataOps and CloudOps, there are unprecedented opportunities for continuous innovation. These practices will help organizations bring products to market faster, deploy apps and leverage data across their internal operations, and continuously improve the digital user experience for their customers and partners.

In the worlds of John F. Kennedy, the ‘change is the law of life’. And with the world changing at a pace faster than ever before, customers are looking to cloud and data experts to optimize their digital strategies for the next decade of transformation

Chris Greenwood is Senior Director and General Manager for NetApp’s business in the United Kingdom and Ireland.