Cloud spending hit $50bn in Q4 2021 as business recovers

Most lucrative quarter ever for compute sellers, say analysts

Global spending on cloud infrastructure services exceeded $50bn for the first time in the Q4 of 2021, according to figures from research outfit Canalys.

The total spend grew 34 per cent during Q4 to hit $53.5bn, up $13.6bn on the same period a year ago, Canalys said.

The main beneficiaries of this increase were the three major global public cloud providers – Amazon's AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure – which collectively grew 45 per cent and accounted for 64 per cent of all cloud spending between them during Q4.

Full year figures for 2021 indicate that total spending on cloud infrastructure services grew 35 per cent to $191.7bn. The three big players accounted for 61 per cent of this annual total.

Canalys said that enterprise workload migration and cloud-native application development had both continued to increase demand for cloud services, while giving a nod to pandemic-related factors such as employees working remotely or at home, but also highlighted education, ecommerce, gaming and content streaming as important contributors.

The resurgence of economic activity following lockdowns and growing customer confidence during 2021 led to an increase in multi-year contract commitments with cloud service providers, according to Canalys. Meanwhile, industry-specific applications for areas such as healthcare and the public sector continued to diversify the use of cloud infrastructure services.

Looking at the three big players, AWS held pole position for Q4, accounting for 33 per cent of total Infrastructure-as-a-Service spend and growing 40 per cent on an annual basis.

Canalys noted that Facebook parent Meta recently picked AWS as a long-term cloud service provider, while AWS also announced customer wins across retail, healthcare and financial services, including an agreement with Nasdaq to migrate markets to AWS to become a cloud-based exchange.

Microsoft's Azure secured a 22 per cent market share and grew by 46 per cent, driven by long-term consumption commitments, according to Canalys. It continued to expand across multiple sectors, with key wins in healthcare and financial services.

Third-placed Google Cloud accounted for 9 per cent of the market but experienced the largest growth, according to Canalys, at 63 per cent. This was perhaps helped by its Google for Startups Cloud Program, which recently expanded support for investor-backed startups, while Google also continued global expansion plans with a $1bn five-year investment in Africa to support digital transformation efforts.

For the future, Canalys picked out current buzzword the metaverse as a potential significant driver for both cloud services spend and infrastructure deployment over the next decade.

"Cloud services are well positioned for individual developers and organisations looking to enter the metaverse," claimed Canalys research analyst Blake Murray.

Naturally enough, compute resources will be in high demand for virtual and augmented reality environments, while storage, machine learning, IoT and data analytics are likely to be essential to support operations such as digital twinning, modeling and interactivity in the metaverse, Murray added. ®

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