Cloud computing is booming, but these are the challenges that lie ahead

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Cloud adoption is not slowing downbut that doesn’t mean 2023 will be an easy year for users of on-demand computing services.

According to a recent report from technology analyst Gartner, worldwide consumer spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 20.7% to $591.8 billion in 2023, from $490.3 billion in 2022. This is compared with a growth forecast of 18.8% for 2022.

Meanwhile, consultancy KPMG’s Global Technology Report 2022 found that nine in 10 businesses consider the 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 technology for many businesses.

Lisa Heneghan, global head of digital at KPMG International, says this shift presents significant 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 particularly challenging for legacy technology organizations,” Heneghan tells ZDNET.

The technical expertise needed to support rapid cloud adoption is something hiring managers need to think about as they head into 2023 – especially as legacy systems become obsolete and new and existing platforms interconnect.

Also: Cloud computing is evolving: Here’s where it’s going next

Companies may find it difficult to upgrade the capabilities of existing enterprise application teams, Heneghan says. Instead, they may need to find what she calls “whole new” pools of hard-to-hire talent. This is perhaps no surprise: according to KPMG’s Global Tech Report, the lack of talent remains the number one barrier to organizations adopting digital technology.

The shortage of cybersecurity staff—which is facing a dual challenge of extreme demand and high rates of stress and burnout—has become particularly acute over the past year.

That’s because IT and business leaders seem to be finally waking up to the fact that cybersecurity must be built into every business decision, especially now that much of their day-to-day work is being done 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 defenses breached and probed by malicious actors.

WATCH: Cloud Security: Five Things You Need to Get It Right

“Wherever data goes, bad actors will follow,” says David Hewitt, director of cloud platforms at IBM.

Hewitt says the rise of hybrid clouds has raised specific security challenges by creating more potential entry points for malicious code and similar threats. “As digital infrastructure becomes more complex, businesses must avoid falling victim to the ‘Frankencloud’ – an environment that is difficult to navigate and nearly impossible to secure,” Hewitt tells ZDNET.

Third- and fourth-party dependencies on cloud services are creating additional vulnerabilities and “blind spots” that can be exploited by hackers, Hewitt says. He warns that these must be identified and addressed before they become a major and unmanageable issue.

“As organizations embrace a hybrid cloud approach, they must remain vigilant. By ensuring they have a holistic approach to security and a clear view of the data residing across their hybrid cloud infrastructure, organizations can better prevent danger.”

Proper risk management will require empowered IT leadership that is given a say in strategic decision-making processes—something you might assume is a given, but continues to be a complaint among technology leaders.

Hewitt says leaders should make architectural decisions based on that environment and what type of infrastructure fits best, rather than an over-the-top, rip-and-replace approach. “When done right, the benefits of modernization can lead to increased agility, security, on-demand scalability and cost savings over time,” he says.

Also: Cloud computing dominates. But security is now the biggest challenge

But even the cloud is not immune to the effects of an economic downturn. Gartner expects that cloud application infrastructure (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) services will see the most significant impacts from inflation in the next 12 months; again, this is partly due to staffing challenges. “Higher-wage, 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 can decrease if overall IT budgets shrink, given that the cloud continues to be the largest share of IT spending and the budget increases proportionately .”

Regardless, the outlook for cloud and other professionals in 2023 remains optimistic, for now.

“As businesses continue to recognize the value and necessity of cloud investment, jobs in this sector are projected to be as recession-proof as any essential technology job in 2023,” says Heneghan.

“For businesses it means [positioning] themselves as compelling workplaces, clearly identifying and communicating the development opportunities and benefits available.”

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