New sense of public cloud trust pushes higher spend forecast in 2021

A boom in cloud investments is set to continue throughout 2021 and beyond as companies realize the benefits of public and other types of cloud for business continuity and innovation. 

 Adopting the public cloud infrastructure is not a 2020 fad adopted to manage the shift to remote work and business continuity. Instead, analysts expect sustained investment in the system as companies realize the sustained growth and recovery potential. 

Gartner projects end-user spending on public cloud services will grow 18.4% in 2021 to total $304.9 billion — compared to $257.5 billion in 2020 — because of modernization acceleration sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a forecast released Tuesday.

For years, many companies dragged their feet on adopting the public cloud because of security, governance and management of critical workloads concerns. “This whole debate about public cloud has been retired,” said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner.

“Once they got a taste of the public cloud, they’re not bringing them back because they realize that all their prior fears were mostly unfounded,” Nag said. 

Specifically, the security concerns surrounding public clouds were sometimes based in myth or aren’t exclusive to the public cloud. 

Human error, such as misconfiguration and unprotected passwords, that can happen to any type of IT infrastructure caused many public cloud breaches in recent years, according to Shyamal Patel, senior director of product management at Flexera. Still, public cloud adoption makes up a small portion of total workload storage overall, Patel said. 

Research from Flexera tells a similar story to the Gartner forecast of how the pandemic pushed companies to the cloud. Of respondents who answered questions about COVID-19, 59% said they expect cloud use to exceed expected cloud use plans due to the pandemic, according to the 2020 State of the Cloud Report surveying 750 global cloud decision-makers. 


The “pandemic didn’t start the cloud spend,” the “pandemic just accelerated what was already going on as digitalization across the industry in general.”

Shyamal Patel

Senior director of product management, Flexera


But overall cloud spend has been going up for years, regardless of the pandemic.  

The “pandemic didn’t start the cloud spend,” Patel said. The “pandemic just accelerated what was already going on as digitalization across the industry in general.”

If a vaccine is made available and the pandemic dissipates, upward trend of cloud spending is likely to continue.  Gartner predicts 14.2% of the total global enterprise IT spending market will be spent on the cloud in 2024, a 5.1% increase from 2020, the report states.  

This is partially because even after the pandemic rebound, many people still won’t go back to the office and a new world of applications relying on the cloud is expected, Nag said. 

Immersive video collaboration, virtual reality and augmented reality will keep up the demand for the cloud even after the pandemic ends, according to Nag. 

While software as a service remained the largest segment of the cloud market forecast to grow to $117.7 billion in 2021, application infrastructure services and platform as a service (PaaS) are expected to grow at a higher rate of 26.6%, the Gartner report states. 

PaaS models allow businesses to develop and deploy custom built applications on the cloud. Cloud service providers sell the platform to companies and, when hosted over public cloud, the company supports the infrastructure behind the customer development. 

Flexera reports the internet of things as the top growing PaaS service between 2019 and 2020. 

“We’re moving from monolithic architecture on-prem to building everything in the cloud from the ground up,” Patel said. “That essentially requires platform as a service and additional other services tacked on top of it.” 

“We’re basically in the deep end of what cloud can do now,” Patel said. 

Companies are reimaging what can be written on the cloud, leading to sustained growth in the market. 

Middleware, the software platforms connecting applications and devices, also drives the growth of PaaS, Nag said.

“That whole environment of that cloud native ecosystem demands a different world of platform as a service,” Nag said. “So, it’s where you’re seeing the platform as a service capability coming to market, growing faster.”

Gartner expects cloud application infrastructure services and PaaS worldwide end-user spending to grow 26.61% from 2020 levels in 2021.