A Clairvoyant Look Back on 2021

In a lookback from the future, here is what happened in 2021 as reported on January 1, 2022.

2021 was the year that our world worked its way out of the 2020 pandemic and back to a new normal. Some societal changes are permanent. Even with a virus under control we still bump elbows and don’t shake hands. Now that the Western world has experienced what China did with SARS with the 2002-2004 outbreak in China, no advanced society is mask-free.

Beyond the new societal norms of human interaction, the pandemic and its aftermath had the world settle into new norms in offices, education, and retail. Offices have shifted permanent office headquarters and satellites to being preeminently flexible. Landlords shifted in 2021 to flexible workspaces that are not one-size-fits-all and it is very complex. Technology has been a key component to enabling flexible, move-in ready office assets that ultimately increase tenant’s productivity.

While students were able to reenter classrooms safely by the end of 2021, there has been a permanent adoption of remote education. The Ivy League has permanently adopted the education model of the University of Phoenix. Real universities are real brick and mortar, and virtual.

Retail is now forever changed.While online commerce has taken the lion’s share of retail sales, touch-free payment has become the acceptable norm for all transactions. The US caught up with the rest of the world using contactless payments. And biometrics has replaced two-factor identification as it does not require PINs.

Further, 2021 was the year that survival in business was redefined by the word agility to flex to scale up or down with changes in demand.

This past year the businesses that adapted at the speed of human change did so by leveraging and optimizing the cloud’s value. Hybrid and multi-cloud strategies enabled agile, on-demand flexible scalability. Enlightened organizations had deep knowledge of on-premises data centers and were able to understand what was best to remain at their in-house data center or on private clouds. The companies that had cloud insights were able to deliver better performance and greater compliance with regulations.

Before 2021, businesses were not sufficiently prepared to implement cloud roadmaps due to migration and skills-related challenges. According to IDC 2020 data, less than 20% of applications had migrated to a public cloud. Just under 30% of medium-to-large organizations responding to IDC’s META CIO Survey 2020 highlighted migration as a key challenge. 39% cited a lack of skills as an obstacle hindering their rollout of cloud strategies.

Further, our own research from November 2020, confirmed that of enterprises that moved workloads from on-site data centers to one or more public clouds, 72% subsequently moved some of them back. The top reasons cited where the applications should not have been moved to a public cloud in the first place (41%), technical issues associated with public cloud provisioning (36%), degradation of performance (29%), and unexpected cloud costs (20%).

2021 was a watershed cloud year where enterprises used a data-driven phased approach for their application workloads. It enabled them to make appropriate cloud decisions for the hybrid multi-cloud environments.

As a result, the digital transformation pace accelerated by 2x. Companies met the need to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world. The world met the demand for higher adoption of remote work, remote education, and digital touchpoints.

So, here are ten changes we saw in 2021 in cloud adoption to meet the needs of a new world:

Change 1: Over 90% of enterprises worldwide relied on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs.

Change 2: More enterprises deployed a hybrid cloud management platform for on-going cost control, observability, and real-time analytics for all IT operations initiatives.

Change 3: On the negative side, cloud wastage and cost continued to hinder cloud adoption. Operational inefficiencies did decrease; however, cloud customers did not see cost curves being bent down without proper instrumentation.

Change 4: We saw joint provider cloud offerings. Providers realized they can partner to accelerate public cloud adoption since most enterprises now use a multi-cloud approach.

Change 5: Increased containers and serverless adoption, created a spike in global demand for both multi-cloud container development platforms and public cloud.

Change 6: While cloud adoption advanced, the need for greater skills for cloud and AI technologies accelerated. It has created skill gaps that need to be closed in 2022 and beyond.

Change 7: All cloud companies grew with the rise of the public cloud. In 2021, Google’s growth outpaced the market as they become a stronger defacto #3 after AWS and Azure. Expect to see more public cloud companies that specialize in markets and services as the industry begins to evolve.

Change 8: On-premise companies like Cisco and Dell started to offer cloud as-a-service consumption options for their infrastructure. It gave the market more adaptability and flexibility.

Change 9: Channel partners became more important as enterprises want more guidance to know what to do before they execute a public cloud strategy. The business problems are more complex, the cloud offering is more varied. Multi-cloud management will only be more complex in 2022.

Change 10: Machine learning and AIOPs accelerated the management of cloud migration and monitoring. Data from these AIOPs/ML initiatives will require a hi-fidelity approach to de-risk cloud management.

As we look to 2022, there is still an 800-pound gorilla in the room. It is the management of healthcare and the role of the cloud. In 2021, we just saw that massive coordination effort between pharma companies, governments, and businesses to manage the development, deployment and administration of the coronavirus vaccine. It would never have been accomplished without cloud technology.

That effort in healthcare will not be the last. Just as we are all sure that the past virus was not the last either. As we look forward to 2022 and beyond, one thing is clear, the cloud will have a continued important role in business…in life.

By Kash Shaikh

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