When you look back at the public clouds developed in the last 15 years, it almost seems like they were designed to handle the global demand shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did the pandemic turn millions of office workers into home and remote workers overnight, it also changed how every IT department and development shop functioned. Without public cloud apps, development services, tools, and infrastructure available to every business and consumer on demand, imagine how different (and hobbled) the pandemic response would have been. In 2020, cloud proved that, indeed, one should never let a good crisis go to waste.

Forrester's 2021 Cloud Computing Predictions

In 2021, cloud will power how companies adapt to the “new, unstable normal.” No one knows how far into 2021 we’ll continue to work from home, shop primarily online, or avoid air travel — but it’s clear that every enterprise must become more agile, responsive, and adaptive than ever before. Here’s how Forrester predicts cloud computing will help companies around the world accelerate pandemic recovery in 2021:

  • The hyperscale public cloud market will return to hypergrowth. After some softening in public cloud revenue growth rates in late 2019, the pandemic turbocharged the market by mid-2020, and Forrester now predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion in 2021. Alibaba will take the number-three revenue spot globally, after AWS and Microsoft Azure. Buckle up — the cloud ride is taking off . . . again.
  • Cloud-native tech demand will spike as serverless and containers heat up. Prior to the pandemic, about 20% of developers regularly used container and serverless functions to build new apps and modernize old ones. We predict 25% of developers will use serverless and nearly 30% will use containers regularly by the end of 2021, creating a spike in global demand for both multicloud container development platforms and public-cloud container/serverless services.
  • On-premises disaster recovery (DR) strategies will fade, with recovery bound for the cloud. COVID-19 shined a bright light on every company unprepared to recover from a data center outage and refocused enterprise IT teams on improving resiliency. Before the pandemic, few companies protected data and workloads in the public cloud. In 2021, we predict that an additional 20% of enterprises will shift DR operations to the public cloud — and won’t look back.

Those are just a few highlights of how we think cloud will accelerate recovery from the pandemic. We’ll also see changes in software buying habits, with a resurgence in interest in cloud marketplaces, and watch out for new regulations that restrict how and where companies can store data in the cloud.