30 Mar

Cloud Computing’s Big Numbers Keep Getting Bigger

Where is the cloud computing industry heading and how large is this industry likely to get?
Gemma Christie
min read

Even by the standards of a sector that thrives on innovation and re-inventing itself, the pace of change has been unrelenting.


In particular, digital transformation has taken centre stage as organisations everywhere broadened the role of technology to adapt to challenges such as the move to remote working. Fuelled by lockdown, the use of cloud-based services such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, boomed almost literally overnight. Back in April 2020, for example, the impact was already becoming clear when Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said his company had seen “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

Powering much of this growth has been the cloud computing industry, a concept that became mainstream in the mid-2000s and has since become synonymous with flexible, affordable and high performance outsourced IT strategies. From individual consumers and micro businesses through to the largest global corporations, the cloud infrastructure and service model has found a role in every sector.

Already a huge success story, the future of cloud computing is being driven by evolving technologies and use cases alongside important long-term factors such as the emergence of AI and environmental sustainability.

So where are we heading and how large is this industry likely to get? Focusing on the big public cloud hyperscalers, Gartner rates AWS, Microsoft and Google as the three market leaders, according to their ‘ability to execute’ and ‘completeness of vision’. AWS also tops the revenue charts having generated $16.11 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2021, up almost 39% from a year before.

This is the top end of a market where Gartner predicts the total for global end-user spending on public cloud services alone will exceed $480 billion this year – that’s up from $313 billion just two years before.

Looking more broadly at what IDC calls the ‘whole cloud’ market – (cloud services, hardware, software and professional/managed services) – and global spending is forecast to reach $1.3 trillion by 2025.

These are mind-blowing numbers, and to put them in some kind of context, $1.3 trillion would comfortably hit the top 20 of the global GDP league table, just behind the entire economies of countries such as South Korea and on par with Australia and Spain.

While much of this growth is driven by the compelling advantages offered by cloud over legacy technologies – everything from cost, convenience and flexibility to security, agility and the ability to scale – there are some exciting trends that promise to maintain the global success of cloud.

Right up there is the focus on sustainability. One of the cloud industry’s recognised weaknesses, there is growing pressure from all sides to improve environmental performance to meet vital carbon-neutral goals. As recently discussed in Forbes, “Amazon, the world's biggest cloud company, is also the world's biggest buyer of renewable energy and also has 206 of its own sustainable energy projects running worldwide, generating around 8.5GW per year.” Sustainable investments are also being driven by customer choice, as organisations look closely at the green credentials of both existing and potential cloud providers.

Cloud Computing NUmbers - BNEF Figure Top corporate buyer of clean energy in 2021

Image from Bloomberg NEF

The list of major cloud trends is extensive, with everything from the growth of edge computing, blockchain and AI to multi-cloud infrastructure and even cloud gaming predicted to have a significant impact across business and consumer markets alike. In the years ahead, the success story that is cloud computing is likely to keep delivering the big numbers.

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