It’s official: the cloud is now above the clouds. Microsoft recently announced the connecting of Azure to the International Space Station (ISS), enabling crew onboard to leverage public cloud resources for AI-powered capabilities, advanced processing, and best-in-class cloud computing services. This availability will enable a myriad of critical in-space activities, from scientific research and weather modeling to health diagnostics for crew members, to name a few.
Despite these lofty endeavors, Microsoft hasn’t lost sight of its goals back on earth. It still dominates the office productivity space with its ubiquitous Office 365 offering and operates the second largest public cloud provider behind Amazon Web Services (AWS). Google’s Cloud Unit (Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace — previously known as G Suite) and Alibaba Cloud follow in a distant 3rd and 4th place, respectively; according to Statista, these four public cloud players make up 65% of the public cloud market.
Public Cloud Today
According to Grand View Research, the global public cloud market size was $211.5 billion in 2019 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.6% between 2020 and 2027. Some crucial drivers for this growth include the continued digital transformation across industries, internet/mobile device adoption, and increasing big data consumption, to name a few.
5 Public Cloud Trends
Most enterprises use a mix of public cloud services and private IT assets/infrastructure hosted on site. Even companies holding out on full cloud adoption have likely already incorporated public cloud services into their operations, usually for front-office and productivity use cases. And in more recent years, a new breed of “born-in-the-cloud” firms (typically technology startups) are entirely dependent on the public cloud for its corporate computing fabric.
Whatever the case may be, firms leveraging the public cloud will encounter the five cloud trends that are transforming the cloud landscape.
1. Easier Multicloud Deployments
Cloud computing skeptics often criticize its high level of vendor lock-in and over-reliance on a given cloud provider’s availability. These concerns are certainly valid, as both Microsoft and AWS have suffered outages in recent years that have brought down the likes of Reddit, Twitter, Netflix, Pinterest, and Instagram, just to name a few.
By diversifying cloud service use across multiple public cloud providers, firms achieve a greater degree of redundancy and business continuity. Recent offerings from new and established multi-cloud players are making such deployments less complex and easier to manage. For example, leading content delivery network (CDN) Cloudflare offers a service that sits between companies and end-users, integrating and accelerating traffic between multiple cloud providers for optimal availability.
2. Boutique as-a-Service Offerings
Because software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings have been developed for just about every typical consumer and business use case, software developers are currently leveraging infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) clouds to create novel solutions that address the specific environments and niche requirements of non-traditional industries. Conversely, everything as-a-service (XaaS) has emerged to describe any service that could be delivered and consumed/metered over the internet.
Aside from non-traditional industries or use cases, disciplines that were previously unfamiliar territory for most consumers and businesses have now become readily available through boutique as-a-service offerings. For example, Google now offers speech-to-text as-a-service as part of its public cloud offering; similarly, AssemblyAI offers a powerful speech recognition as-a-service to businesses and developers.
3. Rise of SMB/Developer Clouds
AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are likely to come to mind first when discussing public cloud vendors. Despite capturing most of the market share, these cloud giants increasingly find themselves going head-to-head with smaller public cloud providers; companies like Digital Ocean and Linode are differentiating their offerings by focusing on a simplified user experience and developer-friendly tools. Not to be outdone, AWS recently entered the arena with its Lightsail offering targeting developers and SME.
4. Stronger Public Cloud Security
Public cloud security (or lack thereof) has always been a hot topic of discussion between pundits and critics alike; suffice to say, the increasing rate of cloud adoption amongst businesses and enterprises will invariably lead to more cyber attacks and data breaches down the line. This has created challenges as well as opportunities: according to Research and Markets, the global cloud security market is currently worth $34.8 billion and is expected to hit $67.6 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 14.2%
Companies aren’t the only ones working to make the public cloud more secure — consortiums and nonprofits such as the Cloud Security Alliance have emerged in recent years, providing structured guidance and frameworks for improving cloud security.
5. Public Cloud to the Extremes
Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) made headline news recently with the connecting of Azure to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the first time cloud services were made available to a space environment. The extra edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities were designed to aid international scientists and researchers onboard in their experiments.
Back on earth, the public cloud is increasingly accessible in the most remote of places, far beyond the reaches of Wi-Fi or 4G/5G/LTE. For example, companies like GroundControl enable connectivity to the AWS public cloud over Iridium satellite networks, ideal for remotely deployed sensors and monitoring devices.
In short, a myriad of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions comprise today’s public cloud market, from leading public cloud infrastructures to specialized offerings like AI-as-a-service, containers as-a-service, and monitoring as-a-service, to name a few. In the latter cases, the solutions being offered are typically developed with one or more of the main cloud vendor’s IaaS/PaaS resources under the hood; as this general cloud computing trend continues, consumers and businesses can expect to see more interesting and specialized cloud-based solutions on the market in the coming months and years.