Organizations are accelerating public cloud usage in response to the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many are expected to also continue operating their existing on-premises private cloud infrastructure due to possible governance and compliance challenges, according to a survey conducted by 451 Research, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Nearly 40% of organizations responding to 451's "Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud, Hosting & Managed Services, Budgets & Outlook 2021" survey reported increased usage of public cloud — an IT model where computing services and infrastructure are managed by a third-party provider, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Azure or Amazon Web Services Inc. — as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, 85% of those who have seen an impact indicated the move would be a permanent one.
Melanie Posey, research director for cloud and managed services transformation at 451 Research and an author of the survey report, said organizations did not suddenly decide to jump on the cloud bandwagon due to COVID-19, as increased usage was a trend most of them were headed toward regardless. What the pandemic did do, however, was act as a catalyst that forced many organizations to pivot toward digital business models more rapidly.
"Sectors that tended to be slow on the uptake of new technologies, such as government and education, were forced to accelerate their cloud usage so they could maintain operations efficiently during the lockdowns," Posey said.
Public cloud providers offer a variety of services that organizations are increasingly relying on to operate and maintain their increasingly digital business models. These offerings include infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS — highly automated, cloud-based multi-tenant infrastructure environments; platform-as-a-service, or PaaS — cloud-based application development and deployment environments; and software-as-a-service, or SaaS — cloud-based software applications distributed online.
According to the survey results, 36% of organizations expect that public cloud, along with IaaS and PaaS services, will experience the largest increase in spending in 2021 compared to the prior year. SaaS — which encompasses web-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Alphabet Inc.'s Google Apps and salesforce.com inc.'s solutions — followed at No. 2 with about 30% of survey respondents naming it as the area where they most expect spending to increase in 2021.
"Increased spending on public cloud services is a pattern we've been seeing for the last couple of years and this will continue going forward because it is how organizations will deliver on their business operations going forward," Posey said. "Even after the pandemic is over, people will continue to consume vast quantities of digital media and conduct business online, be it shopping or banking."
She explained that these digital customer experiences and operating models will further accelerate cloud usage.
Meanwhile, only 14.4% of respondents indicated they would increase spending on private cloud infrastructure, which involves organizations hosting and maintaining a cloud environment in an on-premises data center. However, Posey noted that this was still a larger percentage compared to last year.
"IaaS/PaaS is where most of the new money is going, but on-premises private cloud infrastructure continues to claim at least a share of it," Posey said. "Certain workloads for some organizations have been in an on-premises environment for years and years, and moving them to the cloud would be more trouble than they're worth."
According to the survey, about 55% of respondents identified securing cloud environments as the biggest challenge associated with public cloud usage. Other challenges included cost optimization, cited by 51.7% of respondents, and governance/compliance, cited by 49%.
"Governance becomes more of a challenge for organizations the more they start using the cloud," Posey said. "If you just have two people in the IT department spinning up a cloud service, they can govern themselves. But once you get more and more workloads to the cloud and more people in the organization updating the code, you actually need to put into place some kind of governance structure."
Depending on the company, that governance can be about identity and access management, and in some cases, about security, Posey explained. There are also compliance protocols that have to be taken into account before transferring data to the cloud, in terms of what data can leave what jurisdiction and who can see what data, she added.