After 15 years of IT cloud adoption, it has become the primary enabler behind enterprise digital transformation.

And the cloud is still moving ahead full steam. Gartner predicts that in 2023 worldwide public cloud spending will grow 20.7 percent to a total of $591.8 billion, up from $490.3 billion in 2022. With mainstream cloud computing in full force, there has never been a more exciting time to consider what use cases the future will bring. Here are five cloud predictions for the next few years.

Cloud Ubiquity

While traditional cloud adoption relied primarily on public cloud providers like Amazon or Google, more businesses are migrating to a hybrid cloud option, which involves a mixture of public and private cloud. The latest data shows that 82 percent of IT leaders have adopted the hybrid cloud approach. The global pandemic’s impact and increased reliance on remote work have also spurred cloud adoption.

While the cloud has revolutionized business, on-premises computing has made a significant comeback in recent years. This is due to the increasing complexity of cloud computing in general and the corresponding desire among IT business leaders for more control, flexibility, and security.

The future of cloud computing increasingly looks open and hybrid. Integration, portability, and orchestration of different cloud environments will be managed by networks of APIs and containerized services that make it easy to “plug and play” services without reworking entire architectures.

5G Cloud

With 5G “just around the corner” for some time now, major cellular carriers and phone manufacturers have made the new standard available to the masses. However, the rollout has been slower than previous cellular upgrades. While the U.S. has led the world in 5G coverage, it falls behind in the actual speed of data downloads at only 93.73 Mbps.

Nevertheless, 5G promises major breakthroughs when coupled with powerful cloud computing technologies. The ability to stream and analyze data at much faster speeds will be critical for high-powered applications ranging from autonomous vehicles to smartphone voice recognition. When coupled with edge computing and AI/NLP capabilities, the 5G cloud will be a major boost for virtual business practices.

Sustainability in the Cloud

With 80 percent of companies worldwide now reporting on sustainability, going green is a big deal in IT. The implications for cloud computing are also huge, since IT energy demand is expected to double by 2030. As companies continue to adopt cloud computing, they will discover more eco-friendly approaches. For example, as much as 50 percent of data center energy costs are spent on cooling servers.

According to Cláudio Rodrigues, nearly all cloud providers today are going green to minimize the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He further states, “Cloud computing allows companies to decrease their carbon emissions through dematerialization, replacing physical products with virtualized alternatives. Replacing physical IT components with virtual ones can significantly reduce energy consumption levels and associated GHG emissions.”

Virtualization, more energy-efficient hardware, intelligent cooling, and alternative energy sources like wind and solar will continue to drive companies to adopt the “green cloud” for a more sustainable future.

Edge Computing and AI

Edge computing is not new but has become increasingly popular in recent years based on skyrocketing demand for cutting-edge, real-time analytics. In a nutshell, edge computing moves data storage and processing away from a central location and places it close to the user, or “at the edge,” so data is handled locally without the latency and costs associated with transferring it from remote cloud servers. The edge AI market is currently estimated at $5 billion and is expected to reach $70 billion globally by 2032, for a CAGR of 20 percent.

When coupled with AI, these “edge devices” can handle the heavy on-board data processing functionalities once reserved for cloud storage. Examples include warehouse “pick-and-place” packaging robots that combine machine learning, deep learning, and artificial neural networks to classify products into unique object classes. In addition, smaller and more advanced chips can now handle high-powered AI and data processing on the IoT device itself instead of offloading that information to the cloud.

Thanks to 5G speeds, edge AI will lead to super-fast and efficient applications across various domains.

Enter the Metaverse

The metaverse is a digital version of reality, comprising advanced 3D technology and graphics based on augmented and virtual reality. By donning VR glasses, the metaverse comes alive with an almost limitless range of possibilities, from business meetings to manufacturing applications. Bloomberg estimates that by 2030 the global metaverse will be worth $824.5 billion with a CAGR of more than 39 percent. With this rapid growth, the metaverse will require large amounts of data processing that depends on integrating edge and decentralizing hybrid cloud computing capabilities.

Additionally, the metaverse-as-a-service has already begun to emerge, leveraging these emerging technologies into new and fascinating consumer and business channels. In the words of one writer, “Metaverse-as-a-service, or MaaS, can simply be described as an enterprise solution that will enable businesses to penetrate the Metaverse with their own virtual worlds for a variety of use cases that span from healthcare and finance to entertainment, learning, and more.”

Key Takeaways

As the cloud has emerged and matured over the past 15 years, we’ve now reached an inflection point where the technologies that are propelled by it — mobile, big data, 5G, and edge — have spawned an entire universe of opportunities. The next five years will be even more exciting as cloud computing continues to decentralize and morph into a wide range of new business models and consumer applications.

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