If I were to ask you what technologies you expect to be at the core of the 2021 tech trends, you’d most likely talk about artificial intelligence, 5G, and the Internet of Things. It’s understandable, as most of us see those technologies as the big disruptors that hold enough power to completely subvert our entire lives. Yet, you’d be doing a disservice to cloud computing if you didn’t put it on that list.
Cloud computing is now so ubiquitous and central that it’s easy to forget how disruptive it actually is. In fact, cloud computing (and all of its associated forms, from cloud application development to serverless architectures) might be the biggest disruptor right now and will rightfully stay as such come 2021. That’s because all the other cutting edge technologies depend on cloud computing in some way or another, so their development will be intertwined with cloud computing’s own.
That’s why I feel it’s valuable to take a closer look at the direction cloud computing is taking and how it might impact our lives during 2021 and beyond. Without further ado, here are the 4 hottest trends for cloud computing in 2021.
1. Increased Use of Virtual Cloud Desktops
One of the most notable ways in which the COVID-19 has changed our lives for good is by accelerating the adoption of distributed teams as a standard for work. Today, many companies have their employees working from home and are discovering the benefits of doing so, to a point where a lot of them are considering making the whole remote work thing a permanent practice.
As such, it’s natural for companies to start looking to the cloud for novel ways to optimize their processes and overall digital infrastructure. One way that will surely stand out? Virtual cloud desktops, also known as desktop-as-a-service, separate the desktop environment and all the applications within it from the device people use to access them.
Through VCDs, companies can subscribe to on-demand services that provide their employees with the digital tools they need without having to invest in costly hardware or being forced to keep an ongoing software update and support program. VCDs provide all the digital infrastructure (from operating systems to applications) so users only need to log into the cloud system to start working.
There are several benefits to doing this, most notably the possibility to scale up or down as needed, the access to the latest applications across the entire organization, the centralization of the security practices in one place, and the decreased costs of infrastructure building and maintenance.
As more companies adopt remote working on a permanent basis, VCDs will start appearing as appealing alternatives for those that can relinquish their control over their digital environments but still need increased agility and flexibility for their remote workforces.
2. Deeper AI Integration for Improved Performance
The people claiming that AI is the biggest disruptor actually have a point, especially because AI can elevate the potential of any other technology – provided that they are perfectly integrated. That’s precisely what’s been happening with AI and cloud computing and what will keep happening during 2021: the integration of more sophisticated AI algorithms into cloud computing models.
As artificial intelligence platforms keep evolving, companies from all industries and backgrounds will be allowed to access them through cloud-based as-a-service models that will put powerful features at the tip of their fingers. Having access to such a revolutionary technology isn’t a minor thing (I don’t take the word “revolutionary” lightly) – through AI-driven algorithms, companies can completely reshape their business processes and improve their workflows for improved productivity and efficiency.
You’ll see AI being deployed in virtually any sector you can imagine, especially with 5G becoming more common and the IoT phenomenon starting to take off. Smart devices will usher us into the age of edge computing, AI-driven platforms will become common for businesses of all sizes, urban infrastructure will start to change and become smarter, and so on. AI will make all of those things possible but only through the cloud computing model.
But that’s not all. With organizations taking those evolutionary steps forward, researchers will have more data coming from real-life scenarios that will further their development. Thus, deeper integration of AI with cloud computing will completely open the door for improved performance in research as well, which will give way to breakthroughs we can’t fathom yet. And it will all become clearer during 2021!
3. Multi-Clouds Will Blur the Limits Between Providers
We’ve been quickly shifting from a public-only or private-only approach to the cloud towards a hybrid take on cloud computing. But we won’t stop there. A growing trend for the last couple of years, 2021 will finally push companies in the direction of a multi-cloud approach that will have them using services from different vendors and integrating them under one cloud computing umbrella tailored to their specific needs.
In other words, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that there isn’t a single vendor (not even Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, or Google) that’s capable of covering the entire spectrum of cloud computing requirements from modern computers. That’s why the multi-cloud approach is slowly but steadily becoming the go-to model for companies looking to leverage the best features of the cloud.
What does this mean? That cloud vendors (especially the big players) will need to start to play nicely with one another to ensure seamless integration of their services for a consumer base that’s adopting a markedly à la carte model to meet its cloud-related needs. This, in turn, will mean that the limits between specific providers will begin to blur, as the user experience will require for those limits to disappear.
Naturally, this won’t happen overnight but the need is already there and will have an impact on how the cloud vendor industry evolves in the coming years. It will be particularly interesting to see how those big players behave, as inaction might provide room for startups with increased agility to quickly move and develop enhanced service sets to meet the new demands, thus increasing the competitiveness of the sector.
4. Cloud-Based Gaming
Playing video games through the internet is hardly a new phenomenon: we’ve been able to play all kinds of games from online stores for quite some time now. But 2021 will surely bring a new twist to an industry that’s already familiar (and comfortable enough) with cloud computing. That new twist will mean the appearance of platforms that will provide gamers with instant access to a wide library of games just by charging them with a subscription.
2020 already saw Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nvidia making their moves in this regard, following the steps of Sony, which made its move with PlayStation Now all the way back in 2014. Those names are big enough to create a stir of seismic proportions within the video game community. The bet on cloud-based subscription platforms is a big one, especially during a year when both Sony and Microsoft launched new versions of their flagship consoles.
In fact, it’s possible to think that both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X might be the final consoles we’ll ever get, especially if the big companies move to the cloud ends up paying off. For gamers, this might mean renouncing the ownership of games (something that’s already under question) but also being relieved from having to buy costly consoles from time to time.
It’s hard to predict if cloud-based gaming will become the standard, especially given how particular the video game community is. But if it ends up going in that direction, then it will most certainly start going there in 2021.
Powering the Tech Change
As you can see, cloud computing is at the center of fundamental changes across different sectors to a point where I could argue that it’s the main responsible for powering overall tech change in our world. While that might seem exaggerated, 2021 will certainly bring about several trends that will prove that, at the very least, cloud computing’s central role in tech innovation and evolution is worth considering.