The year 2021 was a march of the workloads. In 2022, they’re spreading their wings.

In 2021, the migration of IT workloads to the cloud that began in 2020 continued. This mass migration hasn’t slowed because moving workloads to the cloud is less like a flock of geese flying south when the going gets rough and more like the deliberate march of a thousand penguins. Many workloads that organizations migrate to cloud platforms are chosen precisely because they aren’t nimble—they can’t “fly.” Not yet at least. But once they get to the cloud, you can teach them. While many of us at Slalom expect “the march of the workloads” to continue into 2022, we also agree with cloud experts that the years ahead will bring increased investment in optimizing cloud environments as opposed to just establishing them. Cloud optimization initiatives will be based on an ever-expanding range of organizational priorities, from cost optimization to sustainability.

Altogether, increased cloud adoption, greater investment in cloud optimization initiatives, and what cloud experts also predict will be more widespread use of modern technologies—technologies that are enhanced or enabled by the cloud—will contribute to an upsurge in public cloud spending in the next few years. By 2026, Gartner predicts that public cloud spending will exceed 45% of all enterprise IT spending, up from less than 17% in 2021. As Adam Selipsky stressed in his first AWS re:Invent keynote as the CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), today is still just the beginning of cloud computing. But we might add: tomorrow is right around the corner.

As cloud computing moves closer to ubiquity in 2022 and beyond, organizations that want to stay at the cutting edge of the cloud should consider these four trends:

  1. More widespread utilization of cloud-native technologies such as serverless and containers.
  2. More widespread utilization of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in the cloud.
  3. More widespread utilization of Internet of Things (IoT) services and edge computing.
  4. Greater prioritization of sustainability and social impact associated with / enabled by cloud computing and enterprise IT.

When Slalom says experts predict these four trends, we mean it. Each trend we break down in this article is supported by at least one piece of in-depth analysis published in 2021 by authors from Forrester, International Data Corporation (IDC), and Tech Republic, and Dr. Werner Vogels, the VP and CTO at Amazon.com. By reading our analysis, you’ll also get our point of view as the first-ever AWS National System Integrator (NSI) Partner of the Year in the US, an honor that Slalom received during AWS re:Invent 2021. Throughout this article, you’ll be able to find highlights of Slalom’s presence at re:Invent and relevant updates from AWS re:Invent 2021. Enjoy!

Below: During the Global Partner Summit Keynote at AWS re:Invent 2021, Doug Yeum shares a quote from Slalom’s Mike Cowden.

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1. Cloud-native technologies such as serverless and containers

“Cloud-native” describes applications that are born in the cloud, technologies and patterns such as serverless and containers that are associated with the cloud and the strategy of leveraging cloud services whenever possible, either to build new products and solutions or to optimize existing ones.

In 2022 and beyond, expect more cloud-native all-of-the-above. According to TechRepublic, 50% of cloud-using companies will be employing containers by the end of 2022. That’s its first prediction—backed by analysts at Forrester. Its fourth prediction, which is also backed by Forrester, is that cloud customers will shift their strategies in 2022 from using the cloud for part of their IT portfolio to using the cloud for all or almost all of it. A major driver of this transition will be the positive effects that cloud-native patterns have on the developer experience.

Citing the benefits of cloud-native development for users, Forbes contributor Bernard Marr predicts what he’s calling “the rise of serverless” in 2022. “[Serverless] adds another layer of abstraction between the user and the platform, meaning the user doesn’t have to get involved with configurations and technicalities,” says Marr. “Serverless within cloud computing will have a big part to play in the broader trend across cloud and the entire tech landscape of creating new user experiences that make innovation more accessible.”

Learn more and take action:

2. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in the cloud 

An interest in becoming more data-driven often leads companies specifically toward the capabilities of AI and ML. Dr. Werner Vogels’s first prediction for 2022 and beyond is that AI-supported software development will “take hold.” Vogels bases much of his prediction on the role that he foresees ML playing in helping developers create more secure and reliable code.

Machine learning is not necessarily a “cloud-native” technology, but ML and the cloud undeniably work well together. In the words of Marr, whose fourth prediction for 2022 is “AI in cloud computing”: “Machine learning platforms require huge processing power and data bandwidth for training and processing data, and cloud data centers make this available to anyone.”

Turnkey AI solutions offered by cloud service providers and their partners also serve to further democratize ML and AI for cloud users. In a session presented at Slalom’s AI for All: LIVE! event and available on demand, Paul Lasserre, a leader in Applied AI at AWS, credits the emergence of turnkey, cloud-based AI solutions for accelerating AI adoption in the market. These solutions include Contact Center Intelligence (CCI), Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), and Media Intelligence (MI).

Learn more and take action:

  • If you missed the Machine Learning Keynote during AWS re:Invent 2021, watch it on YouTube or catch the highlights in articles from TechCrunch and SiliconANGLE.
  • Read how we used AI/ML and Amazon Connect to automate song requesting as part of an interactive demo during AWS re:Invent.

3. The Internet of Things and edge computing

Our third cloud trend features our first reference to IDC’s top 10 Future of Connectedness predictions for 2022 and beyond. In its sixth prediction, IDC envisions the future of IoT and edge computing: “By 2023, 60% of enterprises will implement hybrid, intelligent connectivity that links physical marketplaces to digital storefronts and supply chains to facilitate seamless commerce transactions.”

Intelligent connectivity is “the combination of high-speed, low-latency 5G networks, cutting-edge AI, and the linking of billions of devices through the Internet of Things,” according to the GSM Association, a mobile industry organization. An intelligently connected world is one where more hotel check-ins are seamless (and contactless) and new “smart bins” used for collecting cherries, apples, and other fruit can detect the temperature and even the respiration of their contents. Together, IoT and the edge computing that enables it will one day transform warehouses, restaurants, retail stores, farms, and more.

To support these transformations, Dr. Werner Vogels predicts that in 2022 and beyond, “the cloud will extend into every locale via purpose-built devices and specialized solutions.” Vogels says we’ll see the cloud “accelerating beyond the traditional centralized infrastructure model and into unexpected environments where specialized technology is needed.” That’s his second prediction. His third is about one particular application of IoT and edge computing: “smart spaces,” especially spaces designed for seniors. Vogels predicts that in 2022 more seniors will be able to receive unprecedented levels of elder care in the comfort of their own homes—beyond simple tasks like light dimming, door locking, and oven operating, to more contextual or proactive tasks such as asking relevant questions in response to unusual behavior and raising appropriate alarms if someone does not reply.

Learn more and take action:

4. Sustainability and social impact

Organizations that can respond faster to the effects of a rapidly changing climate, society, and world will be better able to improve the future for people and the planet. Cloud computing enables faster responses.

In 2022 and beyond, predictions from Forbes, IDC, and Dr. Werner Vogels foresee sustainability to be a major driver of cloud innovation and a priority for cloud architectures. As a driver of cloud innovation, sustainability can and will be the focus of hackathons (as we made it in 2021) as well as mission-critical IT initiatives, especially those in the agriculture, energy, and public sectors. As a priority for cloud architectures, sustainability will increasingly have its own architecture principles and its own section in RFI responses. By 2023, IDC predicts that 75% of enterprises will expect sustainability goals to be addressed in RFI responses, “demonstrating responsible supply chain principles and secure IT asset disposition capabilities.”

Last, while we couldn’t find an associated prediction backed by cloud experts, we believe more diversity, equity, and inclusion in the cloud community is essential for the cloud future. We also believe this requires more gender-relevant technical training, particularly for cloud certification. In a recent survey cited by CNBC, only 13% of women said their tech companies offer training specifically for women—compared to 54% who said that they should. CNBC added, “Many of the survey participants believe that simply having more women on their team would help increase workplace morale.”

Lucy Hur, Slalom’s Chief People Officer, emphasized the importance of representation in a panel with Iesha Berry, our Chief Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Officer. The panel was hosted by Maureen Lonergan, VP of AWS Training and Certification, and focused on cultivating a culture where technical women flourish. 

Learn more and take action:

One of the key drivers of retention is that when our colleagues look up and around, they want to see others that look like them.

Lucy Hur Chief People Officer, Slalom
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Bonus prediction: IT and cloud professionals get recognized as strategic assets

IDC’s first prediction for the coming years doesn’t fit nicely into a trend category, but we think it matters more to the future of cloud computing than any other prediction discussed in this article: “By 2023, large enterprises will transition 50% of IT staff driving connectedness from tactical legacy network support operations towards strategic business outcomes, technology innovation, and service delivery.” In other words, IT will be recognized as a strategic asset as much as an operational one.

Moving “from tactical legacy network support operations towards strategic business outcomes” is what we do with our customers. Using IT as a strategic lever is a different way of working and thinking for many of our customers—so different that we apply change management principles and even consultants to many of our big technical initiatives, including our cloud transformation work. Slalom’s own Christina Burns, director of Organizational Effectiveness, was quoted during AWS re:Invent 2021 as having said this about introducing new technology into an organization: “It requires a deliberate and mindful approach to change management, to changing workforces and ... meeting people where they are and helping them adapt to the new way of working.”

If your organization’s workloads are still marching deliberately to the cloud or if they haven’t yet started, we’re here to remind you that different is good, at least in this case. As so many of our customers who migrate their IT portfolios to the cloud realize, the weather really is better here. You just need to get acclimatized. It also helps to have someone marching next to you.

Ready to make the cloud a strategic lever?