Gartner weighed in on the future of cloud in its IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference this week. What’s next for cloud computing? Where should industry decision-makers be looking? We have some insights from Gartner and beyond.
Cloud computing in the near future
Gartner analyst and researcher David Smith predicts cloud’s role moving from that of a new technology to a new business tool over the next five years. In other words, while it’s still in the same broad category as other enterprise and IT software, it will be a basis from which organizations can transform their business.
This is “the end of the beginning of the initial cloud chapter,” Smith said, meaning cloud providers also have the chance to expand their customer bases.
That’s where edge computing comes in, too. Smith predicts the portfolios of hyperscaler cloud providers will be “augmented” by regional, industry and sovereign clouds and edge computing. From a business perspective, that means diversifying when and how organizations take advantage of hyperscalers.
Businesses can “optimize spend by leveraging multiple cost optimization techniques and negotiating discounts with hyperscalers,” Smith said.
Gartner predicts that 70% of customer requirements of cloud native capabilities will be delivered by cloud service provider-native (hyperscaler) ecosystems as opposed to being container-focused.
Cloud-native is a term that is defined in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people and organizations, Smith notes. He defines it as “optimally leveraging or implementing cloud characteristics,” a recursive definition that also covers some CSP-native and Kubernetes-specific capabilities.
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These are potentially contradictory, Smith points out: Many customers think cloud-native means different things. Are they talking about an architectural standpoint? A matter of which hyperscaler they use? It depends on which providers they use and in what combinations.
Smith also sees a “deglobalization” trend, in which executives see national siloing as a benefit, not a drawback, in a time of economic or national uncertainty. In terms of cloud, Smith said, deglobalization could reduce the need for sovereign cloud in enterprise cloud RFPs.
Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a proving ground for cloud, showing how it handled the transition well. Increased pace of digital initiatives and a focus on value-add also make cloud palatable to enterprises.
In terms of stats, Gartner reckons that in 2026 cloud spending is forecasted to exceed $1 trillion USD worldwide, exceeding all other IT markets. The drivers for this healthy state of affairs “include cloud variations (such as hybrid IT and multicloud environments), which are now at the center of where the cloud hype currently is.”
Infrastructure and organization
One of the major topics of discussion for Gartner was about changes that need to be made in terms of how infrastructure is organized. Enterprises today are working on creating a layer between the different clouds they use. This is where Kubernetes comes in, with its container management enabling an orchestration and scheduling environment.
“As infrastructure becomes more abstracted and invisible (delivered in a serverless way), I&O will focus less on deploying, provisioning, upgrading and backing up environments and instead focus on infrastructure and application resiliency,” said Smith.
Smith notes that a good way to smooth the bumps in the infrastructure road is to take into account, in terms of design, management and governing, that users and applications may be anywhere. Data isn’t all in one data center or a few company-owned data centers any more. Infrastructure and operations decision-makers can shift from a control strategy to adaptive governance and build platform teams to support the cloud.
Between the cloud and the edge
Smith noted that the Internet of Things and edge are being proposed as public cloud alternatives. At the same time, they are part of the same larger service family of “cloud services,” which interlock with each other in a variety of ways depending on the physical location of the network or devices and the responsibility the cloud provider takes on.
In the future, 5G mobile edge cloud might come to the fore as well, Gartner predicts.
Challenges for the cloud
There are challenges to cloud, but “anything at scale” requires it and will require it in the future, Smith said. For example, multicloud expectations are unlikely to be achieved in exactly the way enterprises think they might.
Gartner surveyed enterprises about what enterprises wanted out of multicloud. Most answered that it was a cost issue. Others noted concerns about portability or availability. Availability is much easier within a single ecosystem, he points out, as is disaster recovery. Having multiple clouds across ecosystems immediately makes that harder.
In addition, regulators are also expressing concern about enterprises putting too much dependence on any one vendor. Some organizations still see serious cloud investment as a financial and concentration risk, while others associate it with outages and breaches.
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The largest challenge is a lack of talent and retention, though. Mark Margevicius, VP analyst at Gartner, pointed out that while salary remains important, employees are demanding more than money to ensure their loyalty.
“Nearly one in three of your employees are looking to move on,” Margevicius explained. “This level of attrition is costly and disruptive, and we need to be better as I&O leaders to stem the tide of exodus.”
Through 2026, Gartner believes I&O organizations that fail to meet the non-monetary needs of employees will experience a 30% to 40% increased attrition rate among staff compared with 2020–2021 levels.
As far as breaches go, conventional wisdom on cloud security has changed a lot, Smith said. From most people thinking it was not secure, it has changed to generally being considered secure, if not more so than on-premises.
Gartner sees cloud becoming more commonly accepted in the future, with security concerns moving to the background and primarily being discussed in the context of the customer. National security and sovereignty also remain — and are likely to remain — serious security concerns.