The global business environment has recently changed in many ways, from the pandemic to international supply chains issues and so many others, how we work and shop will likely never be the same. As a consequence, acceptance and use of cloud computing technologies has accelerated significantly – with eCommerce and working remotely as two cultural changes that have become much more commonplace. As eCommerce has increased, use of the cloud as a necessary business service is gaining ever more popularity, primarily because it’s easy to use, flexible, and offers a broad range of applications.
Cloud technologies continue to evolve, and more organizations are making use of cloud-based services. Some of the primary cloud computing trends organizations are moving to adopt at an ever greater pace include:
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- Expanded eCommerce
- Digital transformation
- Cloud-based workstations
- Open-source cloud
- Cloud automation
- Edge computing
- Cloud optimized regulatory compliance
- Artificial intelligence
Public clouds offer businesses a wide range of services, including access from any location, eCommerce, and faster speeds. Generally speaking, one of the most sensible ways to access the cloud is through the use of its services. The recent expansion of online shopping has increased the use of public clouds by a variety of businesses.
Because of the pandemic, eCommerce has experienced an impressive surge of new customers and activity. Making purchases online became a necessity for many as they avoided contact with people they weren’t living with. People wanted to safeguard their health, but still needed food, cleaning products, and other items available online. One of the easiest ways to provide customers with online products is through use of the cloud.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is considered the most successful service the cloud has available. Competition between SaaS clouds has resulted in a wide range of inexpensive software solutions. The advantages of this service typically include low upfront costs, a quick and easy configuration, scalability, and that it is normally user-friendly.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) includes both hardware and software tools. Typically, businesses select this service as a convenient way to modernize their “old school” systems with cloud-native capabilities. The use of PaaS by businesses is expected to grow by 26.6% during 2021 (according to Gartner). Use of this service is also supported by the needs of remote workers requiring access to a content-rich, high performance, infrastructure to do their work.
The cloud can help significantly with digital transformation. Digital transformation uses digital technologies to reconstruct a business and its culture. During this transformation and reconstruction, the organization as a whole, and various processes within it, should become more efficient. In essence, technology is used to replace an existing “human-provided” service, but the goal is not to simply replace the process with technology, it is to make the process more efficient and user-friendly.
Use of the cloud for this digital transformation process has a greater success rate than isolated software programs. Currently, only 14% of the businesses undergoing digital transformation have seen significant and sustained improvements. In some cases, this is the result of a rigid, inflexible infrastructure created by management, but in many cases, it is because an isolated, inadequate software program has been used.
Without access to the cloud, companies cannot analyze the huge amounts of data being transformed, which minimizes the transformation process, and limits the company’s range of options, for example, whether the software allows for access to the Internet of Things.
Use of containers within the cloud makes data portability easy and simple, providing the container operator knows what they are doing. CPU, storage, and network resources can be shared easily with containers. They are also the foundation for DevOps, which is a combination of development and operations divisions. Container applications are supported by several clouds and can normally be accessed quite easily by DevOps teams.
Containers are used primarily for developing applications, and this process is made easier when tools in the cloud can be easily accessed. For organizations to fully realize the benefits of containers, use of the cloud is almost essential. Companies are transitioning to using containers in the cloud for restructuring and modernizing existing applications.
Cloud-based Workstations (Workstations-as-a-Service)
The concept of Workstations-as-a-Service (WaaS) has recently become a fast growing cloud application. WaaS is a service that gives people full access to information and applications at any time, and from any device. It provides everything needed to process office tasks, backup capabilities, and accounting. Cloud-based workstations allow staff to access their work from any location. This trend is the result of shifting to remote work environments in response to the pandemic, and will continue to grow.
Open Source Cloud Applications
Many businesses, especially new ones, are concerned with being trapped into using a single cloud, because of vendor lock-in (one cloud is not compatible with others, and must be used exclusively). In a recent Percona survey, many businesses reported fear of vendor lock-in as one of the main reasons for adopting more open-source technologies. Vendor lock-in has become a common problem for businesses using proprietary databases, platforms, or software, and in response, they are using open-source cloud applications.
The Percona survey showed 62% of the respondents used open-source software as a way to avoid vendor lock-in. The strongest motivation for moving to an open-source host was cost savings. Many companies find it preferable to use open-source solutions, rather than getting locked into paying high license fees to a proprietary vendor.
Cloud automation describes tools and processes designed to reduce the amount of manual labor spent managing workloads and services within the cloud. Automating the cloud helps to eliminate both repetitive and manual processes, and the errors that come with manual labor. Cloud automation offers new ways to organize, visualize, and analyze data.
Cloud automation tools help staff use cloud’s infrastructure to the fullest. Dashboards are commonly used with cloud automation, which can be useful to both staff and management. When used with hybrid or multi-cloud environments, cloud automation tools can be especially useful.
Edge computing is a cloud trend, with the cloud acting as a hub and localized data centers as the outer end of spokes. The edge data centers are located at, or near, the place where they are needed. This design lowers the load placed on the cloud and improves processing speeds near the data center. Computing and management processes are handled locally, instead of waiting for a centralized network to respond.
With connected devices and IoT connections continuing to gain popularity, edge computing has become an essential component for managing these technologies.
Centralized data-processing centers tie computing and storage abilities to the resources and bandwidth provided. Intelligent technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, require greater speed and processing power. Edge computing provides a solution for taking advantage of these advancements.
Artificial intelligence has come to depend on the cloud, and the two have become interdependent. While AI makes decisions that manage data, provides insights, and optimizes workflows, cloud computing supports artificial intelligence as it interacts with humans (for example, Siri and Alexa). Artificial intelligence and the cloud often run parallel, with both benefiting and building off one another. The cloud provides a low-cost, reliable solution to traditional hardware and software while AI helps to manage data and gain insights.
Cloud services make AI and machine learning more readily accessible to organizations. Traditionally, accessing artificial intelligence requires experienced AI techs, computing power, and large amounts of money. However, with AI and machine learning being made available on the cloud, organizations can access and benefit from the technologies without making a large initial investment.
The combination of AI and cloud services allows businesses to maximize their use of both technologies. The cloud offers cost-effective access to these technologies, while providing constant data backup and recovery systems. AI, in turn, helps the cloud to manage data, and develop and offer insights.
Cloud Optimized Regulatory Compliance
Some sectors of business are highly regulated. For example, healthcare and finance have significantly stricter regulations than the real estate industry. In response, many cloud vendors have upgraded their systems to comply with regulatory requirements for these industries.
Within the healthcare industry, there are guidelines on patient care, billing, patient reimbursement, and many other activities. While technology has become an integral part of many businesses, a concern with increasing regulations has shifted responsibility to software and the cloud.
In the world of finance, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) provides another example. SOX public companies must establish safeguards that prevent data tampering and disclose security breaches to auditors, etc. All SOX public companies must work with cloud providers, following specific auditing guidelines.