What to expect from hybrid cloud in 2021 – following a year of change

What to expect from hybrid cloud in 2021 – following a year of change Andrew Brown is general manager IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software, Europe Middle East Africa.

As businesses this time last year wrapped up their planning for the year ahead, few could have predicted the dramatic changes that awaited them. By Spring, the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted all manner of operations globally, forcing businesses to pivot in real-time to accommodate remote working for the vast majority if not all of their workforce. This unprecedented change accompanied by huge levels of uncertainty required heavy restructuring of IT infrastructure.

Often, we saw IT operations across the globe managing this monumental lift through moving additional workloads to the cloud and adopting a hybrid cloud environment model. In many cases, these digital transformations were already occurring and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated plans which were already in place. Plans were set in motion by teams who increasingly see the value of hybrid cloud environments and the benefits that can be found.

One thing 2020 has taught us is to expect the unexpected and whilst we do not know what 2021 has in store, several trends have emerged that enable us to make some predictions for what this year might hold for the world of hybrid cloud.

New challenges

New technology was required in more ways than ever last year, with a number of changes related to growing hybrid cloud use emerging including:

  • AI automation aiding the shift to hybrid cloud environments
  • The pushing of more workloads onto intelligent devices through leveraging hybrid cloud
  • The integrating of many clouds and on-premise systems into single hybrid platforms
  • Widespread adoption and experimentation of new security technologies including fully homomorphic encryption, quantum safe encryption and Confidential Computing

In 2021, we predict businesses will address the above changes and drive them further in ways that will apply new resources and strategies to drive business outcomes as the world around us advances in cloud and AI research. Our predictions are as follows:

Regulated industries will move to the hybrid cloud 

Companies are already in the process of decentralising IT operations to hybrid cloud environments and we predict that in the year ahead, this will continue at rapid speed with even businesses in the most regulated industries partaking. This is due to the availability of security measures that will improve isolation, ensure system and data integrity and implement Zero Trust strategies whilst remaining compliant with data privacy regulations worldwide (which become increasingly more tough as security threats evolve). These security technologies such as Confidential Computing, quantum-safe, and fully homomorphic encryption will become more mainstream than they have ever been before.

AI will take another step forward in automating the shift to the hybrid cloud

We have already seen the power of AI in technologies such as natural language processing (NLP), graph-based techniques and explainable AI in tools such as voice recognition and language translation apps. In 2021, we predict that the same AI will be applied to machines’ code which will in turn significantly accelerate the moving of applications to the cloud and aid their management. This AI will teach machines to ‘reason’, offering explanations for an applications’ behaviour and its structure to recommend and automate the generation of identified microservice candidates.

Open-source tools will unify clouds

Crunching a large dataset from your laptop may require using 100,000 containers and the knowledge of how to re-code applications for the hybrid cloud. Developers and data scientists without years of experience with containerisation, parallelisation and container orchestration tools currently find it very hard to programme in hybrid cloud environments.

Throughout 2021, open-source tools will help integrate many clouds and on-premise systems into a single, seamless hybrid platform by shortening the learning curve for programmers and non-programmers for that matter. This application deployment model will be easier for those without lots of hybrid cloud expertise to programme and use – freeing up programmers with more experience to work on higher-value projects.

Expect the most advanced and powerful hybrid cloud hardware innovations yet

This year, we expect to see huge breakthroughs in AI hardware used to build and deploy AI models. Paired with 5G advances, sustainable AI computing at the edge could remove even more borders between cloud and edge, offering a key technological upgrade for hybrid cloud infrastructures, and a major advancement for privacy and security of AI models by keeping more data at the edge. 5G cellular architecture is also expected to be a catalyst trigger wide-spread adoption of edge computing.

Much of the change we expect to see in 2021 will be focused on the improvements in AI’s power and efficiency, so it can help businesses meet a number of challenges to securely deploy and manage hybrid cloud environments for a larger number of users to meet the challenges of last year.

Whilst we don’t know exactly how 2021 will play out, we expect hybrid cloud technologies to continue to play a large role in breaking down barriers for the enterprise.

Read more: IBM spins off infrastructure unit to focus on hybrid cloud and AI strategy (October)

Photo by Cody Schroeder on Unsplash

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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