Cloud adoption is not slowing down, but that doesn't mean 2023 is going to be an easy year for users of on-demand computing services.
According to a recent report by tech analyst Gartner, worldwide consumer spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 20.7% to $591.8 billion in 2023, up from $490.3 billion in 2022. That's compared to the 18.8% growth forecast for 2022.
Meanwhile, consultant KPMG's 2022 Global Tech Report found that that nine in 10 businesses consider their adoption of cloud systems to be 'advanced', and almost three-quarters (73%) are in the process of migrating strategic workloads to the cloud. Cloud computing is now seen as a fundamental pillar of tech for many businesses.
Lisa Heneghan, global chief digital officer at KPMG International, says this shift presents considerable opportunities for software engineers, data scientists and other skilled technology workers in the next 12 months and beyond, regardless of what happens in the economy.
"The high level of interdependence between new data technologies – machine learning or natural language processing, for example – and cloud platforms is especially challenging for legacy technology organizations," Heneghan tells ZDNET.
The technical expertise needed to support the rapid adoption of cloud is something hiring managers need to think about as they head into 2023 – particularly as legacy systems expire and new and existing platforms interconnect.
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Companies may find it difficult to upskill existing enterprise application teams, says Heneghan. Instead, they may need to find what she calls "entirely new" groups of hard-to-hire talent. That's perhaps no surprise: according to KPMG's Global Tech Report, talent shortages remain the number one barrier to organizations adopting digital tech.
The lack of cybersecurity staff – which is facing a dual challenge of extreme demand and high rates of stress and burnout-related attrition – has become particularly acute over the past year.
This is because IT and business leaders appear to finally be waking up to the fact that cybersecurity needs to be built into every business decision, particularly now that much of their day-to-day work is being conducted off-premises by distributed teams.
Malware and ransomware continue to evolve, and as new techniques and attack vectors are identified by hackers, companies will see every inch of their IT defences poked and probed by malicious actors.
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"Wherever the data goes, bad actors are bound to follow," says David Hewitt, cloud platform director at IBM.
Hewitt says the rise of hybrid cloud has raised specific challenges for security by creating more potential entry points for malicious code and similar threats. "As digital infrastructure becomes more complex, businesses need to avoid falling victim to the 'Frankencloud' – an environment that's difficult to navigate and nearly impossible to secure," Hewitt tells ZDNET.
Third and fourth-party dependencies in cloud services are creating additional vulnerabilities and "blind spots" that can be exploited by hackers, says Hewitt. He warns that these need to be identified and addressed before they turn into a major and unmanageable issue.
"As organizations embrace a hybrid cloud approach, they must stay vigilant. By ensuring they have a holistic approach to security and a clear view of data residing across their entire hybrid cloud infrastructure, organizations can better prevent risk."
Managing risks properly will require an empowered IT leadership that is given a say in strategic decision-making processes – something you'd might assume is a given, but continues to be a complaint among tech leaders.
Hewitt says leaders need to make architectural decisions based on what environment and which infrastructure type fits best, rather than an overzealous, "rip and replace" approach. "When done appropriately, the benefits of modernisation can lead to increased agility, security, on-demand scalability, and cost savings over time," he says.
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But even the cloud isn't invulnerable to the effects of an economic slump. Gartner expects that cloud application infrastructure services (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) will see the most significant impacts from inflation in the next 12 months; again, this is partly due to staffing challenges. "Higher-wage and more skilled staff are required to develop modern SaaS applications, so organizations will be challenged as hiring is reduced to control costs," wrote Sid Nag, vice president analyst at Gartner.
"Organizations can only spend what they have. Cloud spending could decrease if overall IT budgets shrink, given that cloud continues to be the largest chunk of IT spend and proportionate budget growth."
Regardless, the outlook for cloud professionals and other professionals in 2023 remains optimistic, for now.
"As businesses continue to recognize the value and necessity of investing in the cloud, jobs in this sector are anticipated to be as recession-proof as any crucial tech job in 2023," says Heneghan.
"For businesses, it means [positioning] themselves as compelling workplaces, identifying and clearly communicating the development opportunities and benefits available."