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COVID-19 and remote work shift cloud predictions for 2021

If we learned anything from 2020, it's to expect the unexpected. Yet that doesn't stop analysts from trying to predict what's to come in the world of cloud computing this year.

At the end of every year, top IT analyst firms make cloud predictions for the 12 months ahead. Suffice it to say, no IT analysts predicted what occurred in 2020, but they expect its impacts to reverberate throughout 2021.

A lot has changed over the past year, including the way we work. COVID-19 pushed many into work-from-home situations, which caused the IT market to explode with new tools, processes and roles. And those changes will lay the groundwork for what's to come this year.

Explore some of the 2021 cloud predictions from IDC, Forrester Research, 451 Research and Gartner to help you prepare for what's -- possibly -- to come this year, whether in the office or from home.

451 Research

Many companies were pushed to the cloud or had to expand their cloud computing capabilities for their employees and end users in 2020. The pandemic also led businesses to experiment with multi-cloud strategies to keep up with the increased digital demand. 451 Research predicts multi-cloud adoption will continue to expand through 2022 due to COVID-19 and the increased remote workforce.

As organizations and service providers continue to push cloud-focused initiatives to support remote workers, companies are also gaining hands-on experience and knowledge of the cloud world. This enables IT teams to have a deeper understanding of the pros and cons of different cloud providers, services and third-party vendors.

As a result, more enterprises will choose the best platforms, tools and services for their specific needs and workload requirements -- whether that's with one cloud provider or multiple. 2020 was a time for companies to test the waters with different clouds; 2021 is a time for them to lock down a successful cloud strategy for their employees and end users.

Gartner

COVID-19 pushed much of the workforce into the digital space, whether they wanted to be there or not. With such a major shift, leadership must adapt. This includes adjustments in how companies view the role of the CIO.

2020 was a time for companies to test the waters with different clouds; 2021 is a time for them to lock down a successful cloud strategy for their employees and end users.

Among other things, the global pandemic proved how vital a CIO is to an organization. Enterprises need C-level leadership that understands the business and IT ecosystem, as well as how to deploy technology to benefit employees and end users.

By 2024, 25% of traditional CIO roles will be accountable for digital business operations as well, essentially becoming COOs, according to Gartner. In 2020, CIOs stepped up to drive digitalization and worked across their companies instead of focusing strictly on IT. This is the COO mindset. CIOs who take on an organization-wide role can fill the gaps of what technology can do and what the business can do – which, in turn, increases overall business value.

IDC

IDC held its FutureScape: Worldwide Cloud 2021 Predictions web conference in November 2020 and the firm presented 10 trends to expect in cloud computing in the next few years.

IDC expects that through 2021 most organizations will struggle with application modernization and data integration across multiple cloud silos. Similar to 451 Research, IDC says this will cause an increase in the adoption of connected cloud architectures to address these challenges.

IT pros had to move quickly to get cloud environments up and running to support remote work. IDC's research shows that organizations implemented cloud native services aggressively throughout last year. Organizations turned to containers and microservices for faster development and deployment, but this created a complicated web of cloud platforms, services and resources -- not to mention the traditional IT infrastructure that still needed to be managed.

Connecting these silos, through cross-cloud management control planes, will enable the use of AI and machine learning tools to ensure compliance and configuration consistency across cloud architectures. Although it will take time for many enterprises to adapt to this change, IDC predicts approximately 20% of companies will adopt connected cloud architectures in 2021.

Forrester Research

2020 was the year of IT budget expansion as people worked from home and companies flocked to the cloud to make sure they stayed afloat during the pandemic. Forrester predicts CIOs will spend less this year -- approximately 1.5% less.

Yet, even though overall spending might fall slightly in 2021, CIOs will continue to increase their spend in high-demand areas when it comes to working remotely -- such as cloud, security, risk management, networks and mobility. The firm predicts remote work will increase 300% compared to pre-pandemic levels. A hybrid work model will be the preferred type of work-life structure in a post-COVID world.

Over the last year, people have adapted quickly to remote work and have realized it is just as productive as working in a corporate office. This shift will continue to have a domino effect on cloud and IT, but also talent acquisition, according to Forrester.

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