The Top 10 Cloud Tech Trends of 2021

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By: Mary Jander


It’s that time of year again! With 2021 rapidly fading in the rearview mirror, it seems fitting to reflect on the past 12 months, to ponder what was learned, what was earned, and what forks have opened in the road ahead.

Following is Futuriom’s take on the Top 10 cloud technology trends of the past year.

#1 Zero Trust Zeroes In. The year 2021 saw the advent of zero trust network access (ZTNA), which universally bars network resources to all but a handful of users qualified with least-privilege access. While cloud environments hit unprecedented scale, it’s impossible to supervise access manually, and ZTNA, which helps to automate identity-based access, is key to a secure future.

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#2 SASE Surges. Secure access service edge (SASE) technologies took off this year, as demand for the convergence of security, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and cloud services propelled the market upward. The trend led to a spate of announcements from managed security service providers (MSSPs) and boosted private firms as well: Cato Networks, for example, scored $200 million on a valuation of $2.5 billion, more than double its initial unicorn valuation less than a year ago. The upcoming year will see ongoing SASE action as the market solidifies.

#3 Automation Advances. With the adoption of public cloud environments, hybrid clouds, and SASE solutions, network managers are turning to software-based network automation in the form of tools and platforms that maintain pre-defined security, reliability, and performance standards across multi-cloud networks while accurately tracking changes and creating audit trails. Expect more from firms such as Itential and HashiCorp, whose recent IPO raised $1.2 billion on a market cap of $15 billion.

#4 Ransomware Resistance Rises. High-profile data exposures, including the SolarWinds hack early in 2021 and the more recent Log4j vulnerability, put ransomware in the headlines and encouraged a hard look at the security of VPNs and remote work. The need for protection prompted Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM) to spend an estimated $600 million in cash to buy Guardicore, whose Centra Security Platform halts ransomware. And ransomware shielding is a foundational pitch for prominent data backup management firms Databricks and Rubrik.

#5 Green Gets Going. Enterprises this year starting looking seriously at reducing the significant energy suck of cloud environments. And the reasons aren’t just altruistic. Measures to remain carbon neutral are a shield against future government litigation. Firms also accrue significant operating savings from the use of efficient and clean energy sources.

#6 Private Wireless Prevails. While the year 2021 was supposed to be the year of 5G, it instead turned into the year of private wireless networking, in which 4G LTE lends speed and flexibility to edge applications while paving the way to 5G. Amazon’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) introduction of AWS Private 5G, in which a private wireless network can be ordered in the mail directly from the AWS console, models an ideal way for enterprises to adopt the technology, though it has yet to be reality tested.

#7 Chips Face Challenges. Chip news accelerated in 2021: Shortages of semiconductors across a range of markets stalled the supply chain and led to overstocking that threatens market stability. At the same time, companies such as Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) planned chip foundries in the U.S. and Europe to ease reliance on Asian sources. And the key players, including Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (Nasdaq: AMD), and NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA), all launched designs that boost cloud datacenter throughput by doing more with fewer components. Meanwhile, NVIDIA insists that its $40 billion plan to buy Arm Holdings is still viable despite mounting resistance. In 2022, it’s likely we’ll see a mix of shortages and innovation persist, but unlikely that NVIDIA will get what it wants.

#8 Funding Explodes. The year saw record levels of funding for cloud companies, particularly in the areas of cybersecurity and cloud data management. Twenty-two cybersecurity startups scored over $2 billion in funding during the second quarter alone. And in just two examples in data management, Databricks stunned with a $1.6 billion Series H on a $38 billion valuation, and Cockroach Labs nailed $278 million in Series F funding amid talk of IPO. In other data management news, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) took a stake in cloud backup management firm Rubrik, while rival Cohesity filed a confidential S-1 to go public.

#9 Multi-Cloud Networking (MCN) Takes Off. As enterprises continue to adopt public, private, and hybrid clouds, the need for software-driven multi-cloud networking (MCN) has come to the fore as the "third wave of cloud networking." In a Futuriom survey, 83% of respondents said they were exploring MCN solutions. And as 2022 unfolds, we expect to see a range of companies ramp up response to this demand, such as Aviatrix and Alkira (to name just two of many).

#10 AI Arrives. Throughout the year, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) were ubiquitous, featured in nearly every big cloud player’s announcements as well as in the pitches of startups. Examples included the addition of AI in the form of natural language processing additions to Azure and enhancements to NVIDIA’s Omniverse environment, which uses AI to combine computer vision, natural language comprehension, recommendation engines, and simulation. AI is also the basis of confidential computing, a new trend spearheaded by the Confidential Computing Consortium that promises to lock down sensitive data even while it is used in applications.

What do you think? What have we missed? What have we gotten right? Let us know at analyst@futuriom.com.