December 30, 2020
Image: Cassone / Fadey / Protocol
Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This week: what to expect from the cloud in 2021, some of Protocol's best stories from this incredible year, and the worst Five Questions segment we've yet to publish.
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2020 should have been the year that ended year-end prediction pieces. After all, the most significant event in a century, one that would reshape nearly every aspect of life in these United States over the past 12 months, failed to appear on virtually every 2020 prediction scorecard published in December 2019.
Still, we look to find a reason to believe. And a reason not to work too hard during the holiday break. So in that spirit, here's our best guess at what lies in store for cloud and enterprise computing in 2021.
Consolidation is the obvious trend for the coming year.
One thing that won't change all that much in 2021 is the pecking order of the cloud providers.
Now, for the wild cards:
And here's one prediction I feel very comfortable making: It is going to be a very interesting year for Protocol and enterprise tech coverage. See you in 2021.
The lockdowns this year have transformed our homes into offices, schools, concert halls, movie theaters and gyms. Our homes are working harder for us, but so is our technology. The device that is working the hardest is perhaps the TV—becoming our lifeline to a far more virtual world.
Taking stock: Regular readers of this newsletter won't be surprised to hear that cloud stocks were some of the biggest winners during 2020, as this analysis from Protocol's Shakeel Hashim showed. The bigger question will be how cloud stocks and companies fare if the world returns to something approaching normal in 2021.
Living at work: Most people in tech were fortunate enough this year to be able to work from home during stay-at-home orders around the country, a privilege amid a raging pandemic. But remote work brought new challenges, especially considering the political upheaval this year, as Protocol's Anna Kramer reported.
Going long: Settle in for the rest of what is hopefully an extended holiday break with Protocol's best longreads of the year, which includes my profile of Google Cloud's Kelsey Hightower. But also check out the deep dives into Discord and cloud gaming, two trends that appear ready to hit their stride in 2021.
Wait, why do you get to answer the questions this week?
Eh, it's the holidays.
Pick one piece of consumer or business software (that isn't sold by your company) that you can't live without.
When I used to travel, it was Google Maps. This year, it was the PlayStation 4.
What was the first computer that made you realize the power of computing and connectivity?
The Palm Treo 700. I bought it a year or so before the iPhone was released, and it was the first computer I owned that previewed how mobile access to the internet would change the world.
What was the biggest reason for the success of cloud computing over the past decade?
Cloud computing offered founders, developers and operations engineers a dizzying array of possibilities to take the lessons learned from trying to scale the first decade of the internet on their own and create technology infrastructure that was far more performant, resilient and affordable. At the same time, software-as-a-service companies were able to create work software people actually wanted to use, compared to crappy internal applications or prohibitively expensive software packages from megacorporations, which were also crappy.
What will be the biggest challenge for cloud computing over the coming decade?
Reducing complexity, across everything from setting up cloud infrastructure to billing. And improving the diversity of an industry with the cultural homogeneity of a Connecticut squash tournament.
Thanks for reading. Happy new year!