5 cloud trends to watch in 2020

How will the cloud model evolve this year? Let’s look at hybrid strategy, a new focus on automation and metrics, and other key cloud landscape and usage trends
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Here’s a trend that you don’t need an expert to explain: Cloud computing continues to grow (and grow and grow, in categories including cloud-native and multi-cloud). It doesn’t require a lot of intellectual wrangling or debate to declare cloud usage is now an IT standard. 

We dug a little deeper, however, tapping a range of IT and cloud leaders for some more specific trends that they expect to unfold in 2020. As it turns out, there’s plenty for IT leaders and their teams to pay attention to beyond the obvious. Here are five key cloud trends to watch with the new year underway:

1. Hybrid cloud environments increase

Containers and Kubernetes are playing a supporting role in this cloud trend.

Raghu Kishore Vempati, director for technology, research, and innovation at Altran, offers a more specific take on cloud’s overall growth. He expects to see an uptick in private and hybrid cloud deployments in the year ahead, partly as a function of growing adoption of cloud-native development and infrastructure.

“With cloud-native computing [and] container-based workloads gathering steam, enterprises will want to build solutions that take advantage of their on-premise resources and cloud resources alike,” Vempati says, adding that in some organizations cloud utilization will be driven by specialized circumstances or use cases rather than as the default setting. Containers and other cloud-native or cloud-centric technologies – Kubernetes and other orchestration platforms, for example – are helping to make that approach feasible.

[ Learn the do’s and don’ts of multi-cloud: Get the free eBook, Multi-Cloud Portability for Dummies. ]

2. Automation increases in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud settings

As modern IT environments continue to become more diverse and distributed in the pursuit of key business goals, they also bear new challenges for the teams responsible for keeping everything operating smoothly.

“As we head into the new year, more enterprises are looking for ways to manage the complexity of using multiple on-premises, private, and public clouds from a variety of vendors,” says Jim Comfort, GM of multi-cloud offerings at IBM. “This is becoming a make-or-break issue, and is leading to the wider adoption of hybrid multi-cloud strategies, which provide higher levels of resiliency, flexibility in vendor choice, scalability, and support for a broad ecosystem of apps and services.” 

The go-to strategy for taming the associated complexity can be summed up in one word: Automation.

Automation tools, including some that incorporate AI, will be on the rise in 2020, Comfort says. “These new automation capabilities, along with comprehensive dashboards that provide a holistic view into cloud operations, will become increasingly important for IT administrators.” Such tools can help teams do fine-tuning, put the right workloads in the right place, manage costs, and manage security issues such as keys and encryption.

[ What are the biggest benefits of an open hybrid cloud strategy? Learn more about Red Hat's point of view. ]

3. Monitoring and measurement become an IT leadership priority

Indeed, as multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies expand, so too will the need for IT teams to effectively monitor these diverse environments and measure their performance against key goals.

“As the need rises to deploy workloads to cloud environments that best fit their needs, IT teams will face increased pressure to seamlessly monitor and collect metrics across these environments,” says E.G. Nadhan, Red Hat chief architect and strategist, North America Commercial. “Technologies that provide a simple and easy way to accomplish this across cloud environments will gain more traction.”

IT leaders need metrics to show the business value of cloud spending over the long-term.

This will be particularly important for CIOs and other IT leaders when the time comes to show the business value of your cloud spending over the long term.

“Enterprises that cannot provide these collective metrics will be more challenged to provide continued business justification for their cloud presence,” Nadhan says.

4. Security, reliability, and flexibility drive cloud strategies

The early conventional thinking about cloud adoption has typically been focused on cost – as in, organizations are lured to cloud platforms by potential cost savings. Costs – and cost optimization over the long haul, in particular – certainly matter. (You’d be hard-pressed to find many gainfully employed CIOs who ignore costs.) To suggest that cost always matters most, however, would be an oversimplified – if not altogether inaccurate – summary of enterprise cloud strategies. They’re now more about overall business priorities than line items in the budget.

That was a key takeaway from AllCloud’s 2020 Cloud Infrastructure Report: 27.6 percent of survey respondents listed security as their most important criterion when selecting a cloud vendor, followed by reliability (26.3 percent) and flexibility (22.4 percent). Cost ranked fourth, with just half as many respondents (13.8 percent) listing it as their most important concern relative to security.

[ Related read: Security 2020: 4 trends to watch ]

5. Cloud-native technologies consolidate

If you were looking to give an award for the buzziest IT category of 2019, “cloud-native” would certainly deserve your consideration. It’s an early front-runner for one of the hottest segments in 2020, too. As the cloud-native ecosystem continues to mature, there will likely be a shakeup among its tools and technologies. (For a primer, see How to explain cloud-native apps in plain English.)

“The cloud-native ecosystem will see further consolidation, with the dominant players solidifying their leadership in the market,” says Rani Osnat, VP of strategy at Aqua Security. “Even for a fast-growing segment, this space can’t contain so many Kubernetes distributions, point solutions, open source projects, et cetera., for a long time.”

[ Related read: 5 Kubernetes trends to watch in 2020 ]

The IT version of natural selection is a sign of cloud native’s long-term strength. Osnat points to a couple of particular examples of how this consolidation trend could develop.

“For the first time, we will see the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) retiring projects that haven’t caught on, and some of the companies involved in delivering Kubernetes distributions will merge, change direction, or turn into services companies,” Osnat predicts.

[ Kubernetes terminology, demystified: Get our Kubernetes glossary cheat sheet for IT and business leaders. ]

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.