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The onset of the pandemic in early 2020 undoubtedly had a transformational impact on enterprise adoption rates of cloud technologies, as IT leaders grappled with how best to enable their teams to work remotely.
At the same time, Covid-19 forced many enterprises to increase the scale and pace of their cloud migration plans to cut costs and bolster their business agility so they were better positioned to weather the economic fallout.
These trends saw Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google all post a very favourable set of financial results in the months that followed, as users flocked to their respective public cloud platforms in ever greater numbers.
While undoubtedly great news for these firms and their shareholders, these trends also saw all three come under greater pressure to ensure their platforms were resilient in the face of surging user numbers, and to prove their growth was not coming at the expense of the environment.
Elsewhere, IBM placed its biggest bet to date on hybrid cloud becoming the enterprise’s preferred way of consuming cloud services, while Oracle made good on its public cloud expansion plans.
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The public cloud giants – namely AWS, Microsoft and Google – all went on record over the course of 2020 with blog posts and customer testimonials talking about the role their respective technologies were playing in supporting enterprises as they respond to the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
In some cases it was stories about how the shift over to their platforms had helped enterprises rapidly adapt their operations to accommodate remote working, but there were also numerous examples shared of how cloud was helping researchers and medical teams fight back against the threat posed by Covid-19.
A recurring theme among many of the customer interviews Computer Weekly has covered this year has been the observation that Covid-19 has prompted enterprises in many industries to rapidly accelerate the pace of the planned public cloud migrations.
In some cases, IT leaders have remarked that projects they previously anticipated would take years to pull off have been – for reasons of necessity – signed off and completed in a matter of months, as they look to cloud as a means of cutting their organisations’ operating costs.
And it is a trend that market watcher Gartner predicts will potentially persist into the post-pandemic era, and into 2024.
Finding ways to encourage broader and faster adoption of cloud services in the public sector has been a top priority for the UK government for the best part of the past decade, and 2020 saw it embark on another concerted push on this front.
Namely through the creation of a series of preferential pricing deals with several of the public cloud market’s major players – including Amazon, Microsoft and Google – designed to provide public sector IT buyers with cut-price cloud services and sourced from a wider range of suppliers to avoid the perils of lock-in.
After spending some not-insignificant time during 2019 weighing up whether to retain its cloud-first procurement policy for central government departments, the government followed up its decision to keep it by rolling out further cloud guidance for public sector organisations to follow.
Dubbed the One Government Cloud Strategy, and rolled out as a joint initiative between the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service (GDS), this guidance focused primarily on promoting the cross-functional adoption of cloud technologies in the public sector.
Across the pond, the US Department of Defense (DoD) continued to see its own cloud plans put on hold, as the fallout from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract being awarded to Microsoft over Amazon in October 2019 continued.
The controversial, decade-long, $10bn contract has been subject to numerous delays and court action since the DoD went public in September 2017, with its request for a single supplier to help it build a general purpose public cloud to host its workloads, as part of a wider datacentre downsizing project.
Amazon has repeatedly challenged the DoD’s assessment that Microsoft’s cloud technology is the best fit for the project, and managed to secure a court-ordered stop on the project progressing back in January 2020.
At the time of writing, and more than one year on from securing the deal, Microsoft is understood to be nowhere near starting work on the project, and Amazon has vowed to continue to push for a “fair and impartial” review of the JEDI contract award process.
The tech bods at the BBC went public with details of a multi-year project geared towards revamping the underlying infrastructure of BBC Online along cloud-native lines and migrating it to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.
More than half of the UK population access BBC Online’s each week to find recipes, news, podcasts, games and catch-up TV services, and the platform was long overdue a refresh before work on the project started.
“As is the case with tech, if you stand still, you go backwards. Until recently, much of the BBC website was written in PHP. That was a sensible tech choice when it was made in 2010, but not now,” said Matthew Clark, head of architecture within the BBC’s Design and Engineering Team, in a blog post, documenting the project.
While some of the cloud market’s major players reaped the rewards having successfully refined their enterprise proposition ahead of the pandemic hitting, IBM announced a sizeable, upcoming switch-up of its business strategy as it moved to adjust to the changing needs of its client base.
Specifically, the company went public with its plans to split its business into two publicly traded entities in 2021, with one half focusing on the delivery of managed infrastructure services to enterprises. The other half, which will continue to trade under the IBM brand, will be geared towards ensuring the company’s continued growth within the cloud, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) space continues apace.
The move looks set to cement IBM’s positioning as a purveyor of hybrid cloud services to the enterprise, while also – as the company claims – mean it is well-placed to tap into the $1tn opportunity it claims this bit of the cloud market represents.
Details emerged this year of an ambitious, European Union-backed push to provide scientific researchers from across the continent with access to a hybrid cloud-based data archival and preservation environment.
The Archiving and Preservation for Research Environments project, known as Archiver, is being overseen by a consortium of multinational scientific research groups, including the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), among others.
“Archiver will combine multiple ICT technologies, including extreme data scaling, network connectivity, service interoperability and business models, in a hybrid cloud environment to deliver end-to-end archival and preservation services that cover the full research lifecycle,” the group said in its mission statement.
Having spent a lot of 2020 extolling the virtues of its second generation Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), the database giant set about courting the UK public sector with its cloud wares by opening a datacentre specifically designed to cater to their needs.
Spread across two sites, Oracle’s public sector-focused server farm estate went live in October 2020, with the company claiming several public sector organisations were already hosting workloads there.
News of the datacentre opening follows on from a public commitment Oracle made in 2019 whereby it vowed to open a new datacentre region every 23 days in support of the growth of its cloud platform.
Google Cloud continued to position itself as the greenest place for enterprises to move their data to over the course of 2020, with the company claiming the sustainability of its operations was fast emerging as an important source of competitive difference for the firm.
Furthermore, the cloud giant also announced a regular trickle of new customer wins throughout 2020, many of which said they were using Google Cloud to support their own sustainability projects or cited the firm’s track record on green issues as the reason why they opted for its technology rather than those offered by competing cloud platforms.