For most of us, 2020 was a year of incredible change. Disruption was the norm, and both business and culture were forced to pivot in the midst of a global pandemic. Given the fact that the preceding decade had ushered in massive migrations to the cloud, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that how the cloud was used shifted dramatically as well. CloudHealth conducted a survey of over 10,000 businesses to see how cloud technology changed in 2020. Here’s what they found.
Investment in Computing Services Decreased Due to Reliance on the Cloud
In the early months of the pandemic, customers worldwide found themselves seeking any means possible to cut expenses in preparation for a potential economic downturn. And though cloud migrations have always been at least partially about saving money, this became even more critical in 2020.
CloudHealth found that enterprise organizations ramped up their purchase of programs such as AWS Savings Plans and Reserved Instances by about 186%. These programs are designed to provide businesses with significant discounts in exchange for their long-term commitments. In the short term, this enabled businesses to reap the rewards of cost savings. Whether or not the loss of flexibility will be felt in the coming years remains to be seen.
Businesses Realized That Cloud Services Added Value Even on Short Notice
For the most part, rank and file employees haven’t necessarily seen the true benefits of their software being in the cloud. Though IT teams have long raved about the flexibility and freedom that comes from shifts to the cloud, employees often cared little, so long as they could access what they needed when they needed it. Within weeks, most of us found ourselves needing access to these vital tools from home. And because so many businesses had already made the switch, the adjustment was certainly less tragic than it would have been a decade sooner.
In nearly all sectors, cloud services proved their worth and helped many industries pivot far more seamlessly than most would have expected.
That said, certain verticals found it much more difficult to weather the storm. The hospitality industry, for instance, saw massive disruption, as demand for their offerings evaporated nearly overnight. In those sectors most heavily impacted, investments were slashed in all areas, and the cloud was no exception (though obviously, some individual companies with a healthier financial profile used it as a means to extend their competitive advantage).
This teaches us an important lesson: the cloud provides businesses with renewed flexibility on their operational expense. But this flexibility depends on the organization’s approach to financial management.
Media and Entertainment Businesses Saw More Activity
As we’ve seen, some industries took advantage of their cloud investment and merely changed business locations. Others more hard-hit used cloud services as a way to trim expenses. But the third type of industry was able to respond in a more dramatic fashion by offering vastly more products through the use of the cloud. In this way, the media industry entertained us online like never before.
From comedians to magicians and musicians, in-person events gave way to virtual shows, while film studios restricted their releases to streaming platforms because movie theaters remained closed.
The lockdown also drove more consumers to gaming and media streaming. A survey from Adobe shows that consumers spent 32% more of their time streaming long online videos in March 2020, followed by another 30% increase in April.
Not unlike the work-at-home revolution, it could be argued that these trends likely won’t simply disappear in the coming months.
These companies weren’t just streaming more data, either. Rather, more entertainment businesses invested in serverless and container services, too. The container spend among media businesses was 69.9% higher than in March 2020, while investment in serverless increased by 59.8%.
In fact, organizations in the entertainment and media industry were the largest users of container and serverless technologies. Serverless offers several valuable use cases for entertainment media, including video streaming and image processing.
Retail and Consumer Goods
While some cloud usage patterns were nearly vertical-wide, in the retail and consumer goods sector, it often came down to what you were selling and how you were selling it.
The early months of 2020 saw a temporary reduction in the analytics budget among retail and consumer goods businesses. But after a decline of 42% in analytics spend from March through June, spend levels would climb back to pre-COVID levels by September 2020. Moreover, some types of products (those that enabled us to get outside, like bicycles, for instance) enjoyed their greatest years in recent memory.
Serverless spend also peaked in March before falling back down to 53.4% by July. These levels would increase in August and September, although not at the highest seen before the onset of the pandemic.
The laws of business were no doubt partially rewritten in 2020, yet it’s important to note that most of the companies that survived (or even thrived) owe part of it to cloud architectures that have been architected over the past several years. Many businesses were able to pivot due to their early investments in cloud architecture, while others used the flexibility of the model to ramp down expenses when their revenues were certainly in jeopardy.
For both, the cloud gave them one less thing to worry about during a year when there was more than ample concern.