In 2019, Gartner forecasted that global public cloud revenue would nearly double from $182.4 billion in 2018 to $331.2 billion in 2022. However, that failed to take into account the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, we can expect cloud revenues to well more than double as organizations embrace the “new normal.”
But, why? To understand public cloud adoption and usage in 2020, one needs to journey back to the more stable climate of 2012. Thinking of what existed and of what was to come, the National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST) published the five essential characteristics of cloud computing which both define public cloud to this day and explain why public cloud is the perfect match for these unstable times. These principles are as follows: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service.
On-Demand Self-Service for Instant Change
On-demand self-service is the principle that a cloud customer can quickly adjust their service needs immediately through an online portal rather than through a drawn-out process. When the international danger of COVID-19 became apparent, many enterprises realized they would need to make rapid adjustments to adjust for massive demand. On-premises or colocation solutions take months to implement and would result in months of lost business. With public cloud, self-adjustments can instead be made on the fly in a way completely transparent to users.
Broad Network Access to Increase Accessibility
Broad network access is the principle that computing resources and services can be accessed from anywhere on any kind of device. Once lockdowns started happening, the enterprise world was upended by the fact that its workforce could no longer be on site. Virtual private network (VPN) solutions were suddenly beyond maximum capacity for far longer than a normal continuity of operations scenario, leaving organizations unable to support the immediate influx of remote workers. Since public cloud is easily accessible over the internet, enterprises can jump on it instantly to surmount access challenges, making it the perfect solution to a pandemic-induced problem.
Rapid Elasticity to Grow Overnight
Rapid elasticity is the principle that capabilities can be scaled up or scaled down quickly. Once the pandemic occurred and capacity for things like remote work had to be added, many organizations needed to account for major capacity swings such as going from a workforce that was 10% remote to one that was 90% remote. Since rapid elasticity allowed for public cloud providers to add thousands of servers nightly to organizations, the public cloud providers were able to absorb such a massive shift while their customers were able to maintain continuous operations that would have otherwise gone dark.
Resource Pooling Takes Center Stage
Resource pooling is the ability for a service provider to serve multiple customers within the same infrastructure. This became crucial during the pandemic because it allowed for organizations of various sizes to leverage the cloud. With on-premises or colocation scenarios, providers would have only been able to service blue-chip companies since the waiting list would be too long and the onboarding process too complicated to be able to service small businesses and nimble start-ups. With resource pooling, however, public cloud providers had the spare capacity and a repeatable onboarding process to account for all organizations that needed to address COVID-19 disruptions, not just the major corporate players.
Measured Service for Consistent Pricing
Measured service is the principle that a cloud provider prices its offering as discrete measured units of service as opposed to indiscrete all or nothing offerings. This approach offers a more efficient pricing model during unpredictable times, providing customers with consistency and reliability amidst uncertainty. With unpredictable pricing, large customers would be deterred by cost uncertainty and smaller customers would not be able to afford enterprise solutions. However, with measured service, pricing is extremely consistent with usage, which helps organizations of all sizes look out for their bottom line.
In 2012, it was known that the enterprise landscape was on the cusp of major change. However, few envisioned that the five principles of cloud computing that were put forward then would define how enterprises would thrive or die in 2020’s trying times. And, for the enterprises that do thrive thanks to the cloud, the new normal that will exist post-pandemic will be vastly different than the one before.