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Cloud computing predictions for 2020

As cloud slowly continues to eat the world, many enterprises are still grappling with the best route forward, ramping up the talent and know-how to leverage all of the new technology emerging from the big three cloud vendors, all while keeping their businesses up and running.

The cloud ecosystem is a broad and complex one, but there are some common trends which have emerged, many of which we predict will continue to shape the industry going into the next decade.

In his annual cloud predictions, Dave Bartoletti, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester outlined how his firm predicts the whole cloud market – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS – will grow to $299.4 billion in 2020.

Here are some of the drivers we see contributing to that figure, and some other considerations to make for the year ahead in cloud.


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Further cloud hegemony on the horizon?

The public cloud market has long been seen as a three horse race, at least when framed in the West, with little sign of Amazon Web Services' (AWS) dominance sliding, or a fourth vendor breaking into the top table.

The actual figures can be hard to get at when it comes to the public cloud market as each vendor breaks out their numbers differently, but Synergy Research estimates that AWS is the clear market leader with around 40 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Azure at 30 percent and Google Cloud at 10 percent.

Now, according to reports by The Information, Google Cloud is on the clock to overtake at least one of its rivals if it is to continue to get the level of investment that is currently being freed up by its parent company Alphabet. A Google spokesperson told Computerworld that "reports of these conversations from 2018 are simply not accurate”.

Read next: Thomas Kurian's key hires show Google Cloud's enterprise ambition

Even if the reports are overblown, or the target is just a way to motivate new CEO Thomas Kurian to take the fight to its rivals, Google Cloud has languished in third place for some time now, with little sign of that gap closing under the stewardship of previous CEO Diane Greene. Now, after making a slew of high-profile enterprise-grade hires last year, Kurian will need to make some real headway to appease his bosses.

Read next: New Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian lays out his vision for the vendor

And the way AWS continues to chew up open source projects and spit them out as managed services means a further shrinking of options for enterprises wanting to adopt cloud services in the future.

Bartoletti at Forrester further predicts: "Alibaba will generate $4.5 billion in global cloud platform revenue, surpassing Google, but Google will retain its third-place ranking for North American clients due to Alibaba’s small footprint in that region."

Preferred cloud not multicloud?

Last year we predicted that hybrid cloud would continue to prove the de facto enterprise adoption method, and all of the big vendors are now offering solutions for customers wanting to run this way, as well as coalescing around the popular container orchestration tool Kubernetes by building out various flavours of integrations and managed services.

Nick McQuire, VP and head of enterprise and AI research at CSS Insights believes that firms will shift to a “preferred cloud” strategy in 2020: "Multicloud has been one of the top trends in cloud computing over the past few years and the dominant strategy for most large firms today but over the next 12 months, we will see more organisations depart from this approach and nominate a strategic cloud provider for the entirety of the business transformation needs.

"Some of the biggest cloud deals we have seen [in 2019] have been with enterprises that have nominated a preferred cloud partner because they are deploying both cloud productivity and collaboration applications alongside their infrastructure services."

As Rob Lamb, CTO for the UK and Ireland at Dell EMC sees it: "In 2020, the idea that public and private clouds can and will co-exist will become a clear reality. [In 2019 IDC] predicted that by 2021, over 90 percent of enterprises worldwide will rely on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private clouds, several public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs.

"Multi-cloud IT strategies supported by hybrid cloud architectures will play a key role in ensuing organisations have better data management and visibility, while also ensuring that their data remains accessible and secure."

Fighting transformation fatigue

McQuire also talks about “transformation fatigue” and what could be done to combat this in 2020.

For example, Stewart Fry, global VP of enterprise IT services and digital platforms at BP told Computerworld during the AWS re:invent conference in Las Vegas that the oil and gas giant was struggling to keep up with the pace.

"One of the challenges we've got is how on earth do you stay on top of all the new things? Absorb it, make it available for folks to exploit it, and then actually exploit it," he said. "The speed is just so fast and it is amazing, but as an enterprise consumer it is really difficult to stay on top of that."

McQuire predicts that the vendors will "focus on growing their field engineering, customer success, training and professional services organisations to help the growing number of customers address this fatigue, migrate to the cloud and use more advanced and higher level services such as AI and ML as well," in the year ahead.

Cloud native convergence

With the release of AWS App Mesh and Google's open source Istio in 2018, the enterprise service mesh started to come of age. While 2019 saw few leaps of this kind, the technology continues to mature as more organisations look for a way to manage complexity and unify traffic flow management, access policy enforcement and telemetry data aggregation across microservices into a shared management console.

Andrew Oliver, product director at Couchbase, agrees that the market will start to coalesce around a set of standard underlying operations tools in 2020.

"It will be the turn of service mesh offerings; as more and more organisations use service meshes in conjunction with their microservices, they will become as common as Kubernetes. The market will mature and inevitably the multiple offerings available at present will be winnowed down to one or two clear market leaders. Cloud providers will have a profound effect on this – by ensuring that customers use their own specific offerings, which in turn will place more shackles on businesses," he predicts.

Bartoletti of Forrester believes "service meshes promise even more powerful interservice networking, visibility, and security, and serverless opens new programming models abstracted completely from infrastructure concerns. While no one solution has won, Istio stands out today in the service mesh space, and Knative is a solid bet for serverless — and both will most likely be consumed by enterprises as part of a cloud-native development platform from AWS, Microsoft, Google, VMware/Pivotal, or IBM/Red Hat," he said.

More broadly speaking, Abby Kearns, executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation said: "2020 will be about simplifying application development and deployment. [In 2019] we saw developers turn to technologies that abstract away the complexity and provide consistency across platforms as they are faced with an increasingly complex, multicloud environment. I predict this trend will continue."

"In 2020, we’ll see the rise of a major innovation cycle around developer tooling on top of Kubernetes in parallel with developers seeking greater abstraction levels elsewhere," Kearns added.

Security concerns are top of agenda

Although it wasn't really the fault of AWS, leaky S3 buckets and the major Capital One breach last year highlighted the need for better multicloud security at the enterprise level.

As Bartoletti at Forrester sees it: "The hyperscale cloud leaders will ramp up investment in their native security offerings, while cross-cloud management providers must buy, build, and/or acquire security capabilities that go beyond past identity and access management. Early moves began in 2019 when VMware acquired Carbon Black to infuse security throughout its cloud management, virtualisation, and container products."

Read next: Capital One hack shows difficulty of defending against irrational cybercriminals

Dob Todorov, CEO at AWS consulting partner HeleCloud believes: “Heading into 2020, following incidents like the Capital One breach, businesses must stop asking “Is this cloud provider secure?” but instead: “How can I make the most of cloud security to improve my overall security and compliance posture?”

Talent issues proliferate

As demand for cloud transformation ramps up so too does the need for new skills within an organisation. The only issue is a well-documented cloud skills gap to contend with.

As Todorov at HeleCloud says: “According to a recent report by 451 research, 90 percent of cloud jobs cannot be filled with suitable candidates. This is certainly true in the UK and Netherlands – and will be an issue that will continue into 2020."

"The reality is a multicloud approach requires access to specialists, and often – specific tools, for each and every one of the cloud platforms in use. Sadly, as many UK businesses are all too aware, these skills are scarce and would require either waiting for many months to hire engineers with the right cloud expertise, hiring someone mediocre or investing vast amounts to develop in-house capabilities that may again take months to train," he said.

Martin Henley, senior vice president of technology services at Globality adds: "Companies will need to have a strong program in place for attracting and refreshing true engineering talent, including Gen-Z. Being able to retain acquired talent will be where organisations gain or lose competitive edge, and the impact of this will start to be seen in 2020."