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Covid messes with cloud infrastructure spending figures

Spending on cloud infrastructure declined in the second quarter of this year, but we shouldn’t read too much into that: essentially, the Covid-19 pandemic has messed with the data.

After six consecutive quarters of year-on-year growth, spending on compute and storage infrastructure products for cloud infrastructure, including dedicated and shared environments, declined by 2.4% in the three months to the end of June, according to new figures from IDC.

That looks to be a slightly worrying trend, particularly given that the year ago quarter – Q2 2020, that is – showed 39.1% on-year growth. But IDC analysts note that overall the market is on the up, and unusual spending patterns triggered by the pandemic contributed to unexpected interim figures.

“Despite weakness in 2Q21, IDC is forecasting cloud infrastructure spending to grow 12% to $74.3 billion for 2021, while non-cloud infrastructure is expected to grow 2.7% to $58.9 billion after two years of declines,” the analyst firm said.

It added that shared cloud infrastructure will grow by 11.1% this year to $51.4 billion, while spending on dedicated cloud infrastructure should rise by 14.1% to $22.8 billion.

Those forecast annual figures tell a very different story to the quarterlies.

Spending on shared cloud infrastructure came in at $11.9 billion in Q2, down by 6.1% on the year-ago, but an increase of 17% compared with Q1.

“Weakness in year-over-year demand from public cloud service providers comes after an exceptionally strong 2Q20, in which spending increased 55.5% driven by the spike in demand for cloud services in the first months of the pandemic,” IDC noted. “Such discrepancy in growth rates attributable to exceptional events creates ‘hard’ comparisons that don’t reflect long-term trends,” the company said, noting that it expects demand for shared cloud infrastructure to remain strong, and for spending to surpass non-cloud infrastructure spend next year.

Spending on dedicated cloud infrastructure grew by 7.8% on-year in Q2 to $4.9 billion, with 46.5% of the total being deployed on customer premises.

Service providers as a group accounted for 56.5% of the total compute and storage infrastructure market, spending $17.1 billion in Q2, down slightly on the year-earlier quarter but up by 13.6% from the first quarter of the year. The service providers segment includes cloud service providers, digital service providers, communications service providers, and managed service providers.

IDC predicts that compute and storage spending by service providers will reach $74.6 billion in 2021 as a whole, an uplift of 10.5% compared with 2020.

On the vendor side, market leaders Dell Technologies and HPE/H3C both posted year-on-year revenue growth in Q2; Dell increased its market share to 15.5% and its lead at the top of the table, as a result. The only top-end firm with a larger increase in revenues in Q2 was fourth-ranked Lenovo. There were significant declines for  Inspur, Huawei and others, but given the way the pandemic skewed the overall spending figures, it probably makes sense to let to market play out for a little while before looking too closely at market shares.

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