Factors shaping the future of cloud computing in 2023

If you want to know how cloud computing will evolve in 2023 then you need to keep an eye on Vegas at the end of November. That’s when the big attraction in town is not the shows or the slots, but Amazon and its AWS re:Invent conference. It is even more of a draw for the technorati this year as this is the first in-person re:Invent since 2019. The last two were delegate-free.

Over the years the company has used the event to make a series of big announcements that have shaped the way that cloud computing has developed in the following year.

This year is likely to be no different. So what are the key trends for 2023 and beyond likely to be?

1. The cloud vs the economic crisis

Inevitably the economic crisis will cast a shadow over the event, with IT execs mulling over what the financial downturn, which is likely to be more pronounced in some parts of the globe than others, will mean for their operation.

For the leading cloud providers, AWS, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, a dip in the global economy might well be good news, for cloud consumers less so.

There are all sorts of reasons for companies to shift from on-site servers to cloud computing. It might give them more flexibility, improve their security, enable them to extend their business offering and even make them feel as if they are doing something a bit cool and edgy. But the overwhelming reason is going to be because cloud services are likely to be less cash intensive in the short term and cheaper in the medium to long-term when FinOps is implemented.

In a world where efficiencies are top of many execs’ agendas, saving dollars, pounds and euros by porting to the cloud is going to seem like a very smart move.

For some companies, it will make financial sense as the transition could take a long time – in some instances as much as three years – and if companies can avoid paying upfront then they might not get the full bill until the economic situation is a little less difficult.

The downside for companies is that the growing cost of energy, largely caused by the war between Ukraine and Russia, could mean that Cloud Vendors feel they have no option but to increase their prices. One smart move for customers might be to buy commitments for a one or three-year deal to lock the current rates (however, cloud prices haven’t increased so there is still uncertainty around how this would impact commitments.) As a customer, you are locked-in with the provider for the duration of the agreement, yet this should not be a problem as changing Cloud Vendor can be as complex as migrating to the Cloud. 

What to look for at re:invent: It will be interesting to see if AWS hints at possible price increases at re:Invent.

2. Sustainability is becoming a catalyst for moving to the cloud

Across the globe companies are being scrutinised ever more closely by their customers and investors to see if their pronouncements on carbon reduction are actually being met. One way that companies can take a significant chunk out of their carbon usage is to adopt cloud computing. 

It might sound like a cynical move but by shifting the burden of the carbon generated by hosting to third-party companies can make themselves appear a lot greener. While each cloud vendor provides a way to measure carbon emissions, the tools differ wildly in accuracy, scope and timely data, making it currently hard (impossible) to get a clear picture. Recently, at Google Next (the Google equivalent of AWS re:Invent) a much-improved carbon reporting tool was announced. 

The pressure to make carbon reductions is coming at companies in different ways. In the US some of the leading financial institutions like Blackrock, driven by their own net-zero ambitions, are insisting they won’t invest in companies if they can’t display that they are hitting their climate change-related targets.

In areas of Europe, the drive to lower carbon emissions in enterprises is being more formalised as countries begin to roll out carbon taxes.

Whether it is the carrot or the stick approach, the drive to net zero is clearly going to be a catalyst for more companies adopting cloud computing in 2023.

What to look for at re:invent: an announcement of an improved carbon reporting tool.

3. A big push on machine learning and AI

For me this is an obvious one and I expect there will be a lot of talk at AWS re:Invent around AI and machine learning.

Firstly there are excellent business reasons for companies to adopt AI and ML. Whether it is at the back-end as they automate basic operation tasks, or front-end customer service where chatbots can augment offerings made by human beings, there are all sorts of ways that AI can transform businesses. Also in an age where the mantra is very much around productivity and cutting costs, AI and machine learning can generate some big wins very quickly.

Interestingly too, we are only at the start of this journey. AWS re:Invent will be awash with people talking about what the technology is going to offer next, and at the root of it all will be cloud computing.

For AWS, and indeed the other cloud providers, encouraging companies to integrate AI into their operational systems is a smart move as it further embeds them within their cloud system and might mean they end up spending more money with them.

What to look for at re:invent: an announcement that further democratises access to AI and ML.

4. The growing importance of security

The whole tech industry seems obsessed with security issues and it is not surprising given that the average cost data breaches increased 2.6% from $4.24 million in 2021 to $4.35 million in 2022. 

I think one of the key things at AWS is that there will be a lot of reiterating how the cloud is the most secure solution for enterprises. Companies that have their own systems. By offloading part of the security risks to AWS, companies can save a considerable amount of money, there is also an opportunity cost of continuing to build and maintain security systems that can be offloaded.

As companies use more cloud-native systems (e.g. Lambda) the more they can delegate security. For EC2, AWS manages security from the datacentre floor, up to virtualisation. Then from the OS up it is the customer’s responsibility. When using Lambda, the only aspect that stays in the customer security perimeter is the code, AWS takes care of everything below code.

AWS lives and dies by its security record, so you can be sure that it will take the utmost care to ensure it is never compromised. After all, it recently signed a $10 billion deal with the US National Security Agency (NSA) for its cloud services. I think 2023 will see a lot more executives asking their IT leaders about their security systems and it is yet another reason why the cloud will look like a sensible place to be.

What to look for at re:invent: more integrated security between AWS native and other security software.

5. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are increasingly looking like smart options for some companies

I wonder if we will see more hybrid cloud systems emerge in companies in an organic way. That’s because as their on-site servers reach a redundancy point they aren’t replaced, but their jobs are undertaken by cloud providers.

Microsoft appears to be doing a great job of working with companies that have their own servers. You can install their software in your environment and then they manage so much for you. It can save a lot of time and money.

What to look for at re:invent: new functionalities that push AWS to be more hybrid compatible than in the past.

So 2023 looks like a momentous year for the cloud computing industry with new challenges, new opportunities and new innovations from the leading providers. It will be fascinating to see what AWS has planned and what the implications of those changes will be for the number of increasingly tech-driven customers.

Frank Contrepois

Frank is Head of FinOps Consulting at Strategic Blue.

"First of all, I'm the guy with the big red glasses.

I'm a person with lots of successes and failures. Happy to discuss both.I love to learn, and I love to share what I learn. And when I learn something, I learn it fully, often by finding a job in that speciality.

Over the last 20 years I have worked as CTO, FinOps specialist, Head of Operations, Product lead, senior consultant, Virtualisation and cloud specialist, developer project management, database specialist, and others. Now focused on FinOps, creating articles and doing FinOps consulting for S&P500 companies. "

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