3 IT industry trends defining the next era of cloud computing

I recently had the pleasure of attending a couple of industry conferences about IT infrastructure and the cloud. Every conversation buzzed with the latest trends and questions, and every panel discussion grappled with the most pressing industry challenges that everyone in the room was interested in learning more about.

These gatherings are excellent networking opportunities, and they're also real-time snapshots of what matters most in a particular field. As such, I wanted to share a few insights that I gathered from these recent events based on topics that seemed to come up again and again.

Generative AI

To nobody’s surprise, generative AI is a topic that is dominating conversations right now. While people across industries will tell you that generative AI has changed everything, these events had a bit of a different tone on the topic. In conversations I had and in panel discussions I watched, the big takeaway is that for most leaders, currently it’s a pursuit for use cases where generative AI can be beneficial for their businesses. At this point, CIOs are certainly being asked to look into generative AI and AIOps is one area which is seeing some real traction and should continue to see increased adoption in the year ahead.

According to Gartner, the global cloud market is expected to reach $678.8 billion in 2024, a 20.4 percent increase from $563.6 billion in 2023. With the increased use of AI, cloud infrastructure is expected to be the segment that benefits most. The question many IT leaders are asking now is how they can optimize their cloud usage and cloud spend in response to this. The sooner they can establish a baseline for a typical month -- which can often feel like a dynamic target -- the better they can forecast and budget. It will be interesting to see how things shake out this year.

Future-Proofing the Network

Another hot topic of discussion amongst the industry is about future-proofing the network. Given how distributed today’s workforces are, even in a post-pandemic world, enterprises understand that they need to think about their networks differently than they did a few years ago. Enterprises want to be able to seamlessly move their networks from the data center to the cloud, and this trend is speeding up. Today’s networks need to be flexible, so they can withstand the unexpected changes that are sure to happen over time.

It sounds like more people in the industry are taking a proactive approach to their networks and seeing what happened with the pandemic as the rule rather than the exception. This was encouraging to hear, as it should position enterprises more favorably for the future, as well as in their day-to-day operations. Like a good driver, you need to be prepared to expect the unexpected, whether your network is breached or one of the public cloud providers has a service disruption. Those that design their networks for flexibility and resiliency will keep their businesses running smoothly, no matter the circumstances. On top of that, organizations are trying to get a clearer understanding of their IT assets and the associated costs, so they’re not overpaying for certain services or for things they’re not using. It’s a lot for IT leaders to wrap their heads around, but they’re committed to getting it right.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

ZTNA is gaining attention as a key initiative, but its widespread deployment across global enterprise networks is more complex and gradual. Many enterprises are currently in the exploratory or initial implementation stages of ZTNA, and they are typically deploying it for specific use cases rather than across their entire networks. One of the challenges in broader implementation is the need for a holistic approach that integrates both network and security aspects. Often, there's a gap where security vendors focus predominantly on the security aspects, while network vendors may not fully incorporate security considerations into their network architectures. For ZTNA to be implemented effectively, organizations need to adopt a unified approach that considers both network and security aspects as interconnected elements rather than deploying them as separate, siloed solutions. This integrated perspective is crucial for the successful deployment and optimization of ZTNA in an organizational context.

I and others in the industry expect ZTNA to mature as it undergoes extensive real-world testing through customer deployments. As more organizations experiment with ZTNA, they will likely uncover various architectural gaps. Identifying and addressing these gaps is a critical step towards maturing ZTNA technology, making it more robust and reliable. This process of continuous testing and improvement is essential for preparing ZTNA for widespread deployment, ensuring that it evolves into a more foolproof solution capable of meeting diverse and complex security needs.

Looking Ahead

It’s an exciting time in the cloud and IT industries, with lots of developments accelerating quickly. I look forward to seeing where we are a year from now and how industry conversations will shift, which technologies will be top of mind, and how existing technologies have matured. Regardless of where things end up, those that continue to push the envelope and look for new ways to grow their businesses, leverage the incredible technology that exists, and maximize key business drivers that attract and retain loyal customers, will be in a strong position to succeed in this fast-paced world.

Misbah Rehman is Sr. Director, Technical Product Management and Compliance, Alkira.

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