Top cloud trends for 2021: Forrester predicts spike in cloud-native tech, public cloud, and more
October 20, 2020
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Businesses’ reactions to the pandemic response has leaned heavily on the cloud, and demand and revenue escalated for AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba, and are expected to grow more in 2021.

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Not that anyone was necessarily looking for “a star” amid pandemic recovery, but if an inanimate object could be considered one, it would be the cloud, which has taken center stage, according to the recently released “ForresterNow Predictions 2021: Cloud Computing.” The report contends that if the companies that have found success with shunning on-premises backups and have, at last, moved disaster recovery to the cloud, something techs have been advocating for some time. 

Cloud-native tech, the report found, will continue to power digital-transformation strategies. In fact, the report predicts that AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba, and are expected to grow more in 2021. The report predicted that at the end of 2021, 60% of companies will leverage containers on public cloud platforms and 25% of developers will leverage serverless.

As is the case in most things, cloud adoption will encounter challenges in 2021. This will also be the time when governments must begin to exert influence over how and when companies can use the cloud.

The pandemic signaled—and reinforced to some—how essential the cloud is, as it was necessary for the services, tools, and apps that enabled companies to send their workers out of the office to work from home; it also maintained global supply chains or shifted entire industry business models in just a matter of weeks.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The pandemic response also exposed companies that were mired in resistance to change and either resisted, postponed, or underfunded technologies. Look for a spike in 2021 for businesses to aggressively choose the cloud, which will yield more adoption for the enterprise, cloud provider revenue, and business value in 2021.


The public cloud infrastructure facilitated the enterprise’s rise to the pandemic challenge, and it pivoted quickly, adapting new business models, and developing and deploying new apps quickly to keep the millions of workers around the world connected.

The coronavirus’ impact more or less strong-armed businesses to prioritize speed and customer experience (CX) over cost savings and efficiency, resulting in a rush to the public cloud. For example:

  • Lowe’s had a curbside pickup app running within three days
  • Moderna used AWS to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine research
  • Etsy used the new Google Cloud infrastructure to address the coronavirus-caused e-commerce spike

Mid-pandemic, the four largest public clouds continue to garner very strong revenue growth by accelerating cloud migrations,  pushing out new apps to meet ever evolving consumer demands: AWS: 29%, Microsoft Azure: 47%, Google Cloud: 43%, and Alibaba: 59%. 

Forrester predicts

The report predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure will grow to 35% to $120 billion in 2021 and that Alibaba Cloud will move to the No. 3 position globally, following AWS and Azure.

Becoming obsolete

Fading in 2021 will be on-premises DR (disaster recovery) sites, and recovery will be given to the cloud. Prior to 2020, few enterprises made the switch from DR operations to the public cloud hyperscalers, because of

  • Infrastructure technology mismatches
  • Security
  • Networking
  • Application portability
  • Licensing differences between data center and cloud technologies

Resiliency is imperative and resiliency technology vendors have leapt to the challenges to remove barriers. Companies that were ill-prepared for recovery were revealed, because the coronavirus pandemic and what it wrought signaled to tech leaders that there was a real need to improve its current state of resiliency. 

But businesses who were headed toward financial losses and the challenge of the remote workforce are now taking a hard look to find out if the public cloud actually is a preferred DR target. For 2021, Forrester subsequently estimated an additional 20% of firms will make the change from DR operations to public cloud for a varied part of business apps. But it doesn’t mean that some managed DR services or active-active data center models will be wholly obsolete, as there may be applications and infrastructure that run on proprietary stacks that can’t recover in the public cloud.

Cloud-native tech will spike

Containers, Kubernetes, and serverless (among other) cloud-native technologies will help companies switch from the data center to the cloud to the edge as it can:

  1. Build
  2. Migrate
  3. Modernize customer-facing apps at scale

Pre-pandemic, 19% of developers used serverless functions, and 22% regularly used containers to build and develop application software on the cloud. 

Today, about 25% of developers no longer use containers, and in pandemic recovery, there will be a dramatic acceleration of consumption. Forrester sees that companies will need to adopt what it calls “public-cloud-native-first” strategy, a way to develop apps quickly, because they will undoubtedly want to consume rather than develop cloud-native platforms on-premises.

By the end of 2021, regular container use will be 28% and 25% of developers will regularly use serverless. The report also noted that AWS has a majority of serverless market share and Lambda, rivals Azure, Google and Alibaba Cloud will find a stronger than expected demand for FaaS and CaaS.

The government vs. public cloud

Cloud vendors, successful and multinational companies are in the US or China and each face regulation outside the home country.

Companies have to partner with local providers to see cloud services in China. But there are restrictions, courtesy of the US government on Huawei and Huawei cloud affiliates and on companies such as Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, and other Chinese cloud companies. 

GAIA-X, a sovereign cloud is gaining momentum, yet there’s a long road toward comprehensive services. There is also the collapse and its ramifications on a data-sharing agreement between US and Europe—and this will continue through 2021 and beyond. 

Despite the need, local provider have struggled to match multinational cloud vendors for

  • Global reach 
  • Pace of innovation and
  • Developer services

It will be the regulations in 2021 that will pose a challenge for force cloud users to decide what will work best, and make the decision of whether different cloud partners must serve each business region.

Slow your roll on marketplace increased adoption

Marketplaces are the new black, the rage, as the report describes, adding that “everyone’s got one, but usage is light.” This is not a time for large-scale purchases, or strategic choices, since in SaaS marketplaces, the majority of business are smaller purchases. Most purchases range from $10 to $300 (with some exceptions).

Forrester reported that only the free-service Docker Hub, among developer marketplaces, has significant active users and participation through thousands of container images. 

Pre global pandemic, only 1% of buyers leveraged marketplaces as a purchasing channel. In a more recent survey, 28% of global buyers hope for marketplace revenue to increase. 

Technology marketplace usage will triple in 2021, predicts Forrester, yet even that will only be an estimated 3% of what’s spent on all technology. Marketplaces that find success are going to continue to draw further offerings, better vetting and find ways (standardize contracts and billing terms) to simplify multi vendor management. 

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