Businesses globally spent $53.5 billion on cloud infrastructure in the fourth quarter of 2021, hitting the milestone for the first time and bringing full-year spending to $191.7 billion, or nearly $50 billion more than in 2020.
As usual, the big three dominated cloud infrastructure spending, accounting for 61% of the $53.5 billion in Q4 2021, according to analyst Canalys.
Growth followed the standard order, too: though still a loss-making part of Alphabet, Google Cloud revenues grew fastest at 63% year on year, followed by Azure's 46%, and AWS's 40%. Signaling the industry's maturity, cloud infrastructure spending year-on-year growth has slowed from 2018 levels of around 50% to this quarter's 34%.
Canalys' cloud infrastructure spending update follows Amazon's Q4 2021 earnings report on Thursday. While Amazon missed analyst estimates, its giant AWS subsidiary's revenues grew 40% year on year to $17.78 billion, leaving it with a $71 billion revenue run rate.
Alphabet this week reported Q4 2021 Google Cloud revenue grew 45% year over year, but it's still working to trim back its quarterly operating losses that historically have exceeded $1 billion. This quarter the loss was $890 million, down from the huge $1.24 billion loss in Q4 2020.
Microsoft last month boasted that growth in "the number of larger, long-term Azure contracts" powered its cloud growth of 46% in fiscal Q2 2022.
Canalys sees the so-called metaverse and related augmented and virtual reality technologies driving cloud services spending and infrastructure deployment over the next decade.
While the metaverse is still being hashed out, Canalys sees use cases for the burgeoning virtual world in gaming, social media, workplace collaboration, education, real estate, ecommerce and digital commerce. Whatever it will become, it's all good news for cloud providers.
"Compute will be in high demand in virtual and augmented reality environments, while storage, machine learning, IoT and data analytics will be essential to support operations such as digital twinning, modeling and interactivity in the metaverse," said Canalys research analyst, Blake Murray.