James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Featured 2020 was a fascinating year for cloud technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic forced remote working initiatives which accelerated demand for cloud software and infrastructure. 2021 is going to be about taking advantage of the opportunities which have arisen, with multi-cloud and hybrid cloud to the fore.

As Andrew Brown, general manager EMEA for IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software wrote for this publication last month, while 2021’s exact playout is unknown, the company “expects hybrid cloud technologies to continue to play a large role in breaking down barriers for the enterprise.” Brown added he believed regulated industries would go hybrid, while open source tools would ‘unify’ clouds.

With this in mind, CloudTech has selected seven companies in the wider cloud economy to feature for 2021, from managed hyperscaler service providers, to security firms. Read their stories below:

2nd Watch

2nd Watch is a provider of consulting and managed cloud services to enterprises. The company is a Microsoft Azure gold partner and Google Cloud partner but, headquartered in Seattle, its AWS premier partnership is the flagship service.

For these consultants and MSPs targeting the enterprise, it’s not good enough to just talk the talk. Chris Garvey, EVP product, tells CloudTech 2nd Watch’s ‘born-in-the-cloud culture, fluent in enterprise’ is key. “By applying public cloud technology to our clients’ IT environment needs, we create a bias towards innovation enabling our clients to benefit from the latest technology and capability provided by the major cloud service providers,” says Garvey.

“Our approach enables our clients to reduce the level of complexity inherent to enabling digital transformation and achieve their strategic vision.”

One such client is an engineering company focused on large-scale municipal water management. The company ‘needed to gather telemetry data in real-time from tens of thousands of water meters and flow devices to support a variety of strategic data needs’, as Garvey puts it. Using AWS services such as Amazon Forecast, Amazon SageMaker, and AWS Glue, 2nd Watch created a data lake to capture inbound IoT data streams, data cleansing and preparation processes, and a reuseable machine learning data pipeline.

The company is hiring strategically, recently announcing Chris Whaley, late of IBM, as its EVP cloud solutions sales. Going forward, there are key trends 2nd Watch is betting on, from industry vertical-based clouds, to technological expansion.

“The enterprise market in cloud is maturing and it’s not enough to enable their journey to cloud,” explains Garvey. “Enterprises are increasingly looking to leverage their applications and data in the cloud to drive innovation, market agility and increased security and governance.

“2021 will be a year of reinvention for many companies,” Garvey adds. “Four technology trends we foresee driving the biggest chance are around the pace of cloud migration accelerating, artificial intelligence and machine learning delivering even greater business insights, edge computing taking on greater importance, and platform as a service gaining added urgency.”

AppOmni

AppOmni is a San Francisco-based provider of cloud security posture management (CSPM) for SaaS. The company secured $10 million (£7.2m) in a series A funding round at the end of last month to bolster its goal of helping companies with monitoring and security across clouds, business units, and apps.

Tim Bach, vice president at AppOmni, explains that while many cloud security tools focus on network access, an increasing need exists for securing third party applications connected to SaaS environments, as well as public access portals. “AppOmni was designed to continuously monitor all of these non-network data access points as well as configuration settings for third party applications, and both internal and external users to SaaS systems,” Bach tells CloudTech.

For AppOmni, like many other companies in the space, Covid-19 saw something of a boon professionally. Enterprises were forced to rely more heavily on SaaS solutions to house sensitive data – and as the stakes get higher, companies found they fell foul of the new provisions.

The company says that, in more than 95% of cases analysed where external users regularly logged into enterprise SaaS environments, they were over-provisioned. Typical industries where AppOmni has a presence include technology, banking and healthcare – as well as other security providers. Yet Bach notes: “We’re seeing this issue across all industries.”

With funding in the bank, the task ahead of AppOmni is expansion. “Our goal in 2021 is to enable our customers to enjoy the huge benefits of SaaS without inadvertently introducing new security risks,” adds Bach. “With the right security tools, increased SaaS adoption doesn’t have to lead to increased SaaS data breaches.”

CloudSphere

CloudSphere, a cloud governance provider based primarily in the United States and Ireland, is another relative new kid on the block. Formed last year as a merger of HyperGrid, a provider of cloud management and governance, and iQuate, a company focused on agentless discovery and application mapping, the company sits as a middleman for the hyperscalers.

Keith Neilson, technical evangelist at CloudSphere, says the company’s offering ’empowers users to safely harness the power of the cloud.’ “Securing and governing multi-cloud environments is a top IT challenge facing enterprises as cloud adoption accelerates amid the pandemic,” Neilson tells CloudTech. “This has driven demand for CloudSphere’s solution.”

The company is attempting to stamp its mark with the appointment of Jane Gilson, formerly of Microsoft and Google, as CEO. Gilson spoke to CloudTech earlier this month around how the enterprise adoption of multi-cloud architectures was a ‘once-in-a-generation transformation of the IT landscape.’

This feeds in to work the company is conducting with one of its largest customers, a global service integrator (GSI). CloudSphere is assisting with the GSI across the board, on cloud migration and discovery, cloud cost economics, and governance.

“CloudSphere has provided a single multi-cloud platform that addresses all of these use cases, some of which are proving to be disruptive to their current tooling, to allow them to offer a differentiated services offering that benefits both them and their enterprise customers,” says Neilson. The company is also consolidating tools to help manage multi-cloud environments.

Going forward, Gilson noted that she believed CloudSphere ‘has the right approach and tech differentiation to become a worldwide leader in this space’ – and expect the roadmap to follow. “CloudSphere plans to announce some exciting new product developments in 2021, which will strengthen CloudSphere’s current solution, while adding some new features unique to the market,” adds Neilson. Watch this space.

Fujitsu

Compared with the previous two entries, Fujitsu has a lifetime’s experience – literally, having been founded in 1935. While the Japan-headquartered ICT services company doesn’t get the headlines of the hyperscalers, it does have an extensive cloud portfolio, focused on hybrid cloud and multi-cloud support for the Amazons, Microsofts et al.

Yet this suits the company fine. As Brad Mallard, CTO for digital technology services north west Europe explains, Fujitsu’s focus is trust, and ‘a deep ability to provide transformation at pace that aligns business and operational priorities together seamlessly.’

“We understand that a transformational ‘big bang’ is no longer attractive or realistic for organisations that are seeking to undergo digital transformation,” Mallard tells CloudTech. “Many organisations have instead moved their transformation to an ‘as a service’ model with quarterly horizons to reset and realign priorities based on pre-agreed, composable services.

“Our experience and breadth of skill in delivering mission-critical services from the cloud in countries around the world – including services at the highest levels of security – provides confidence and ensures the resilience needed by customers in the wake of Covid,” Mallard adds.

Fujitsu is taking plenty of work in helping organisations continuously respond to Covid-19 related challenges. The company has rolled out rapid cloud solutions, and enabled ‘tens of thousands’ of healthcare professionals to deliver critical support remotely. Recent research conducted by the company found two thirds of businesses polled are reinventing their digital transformation strategies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Another customer success story hinges around a ‘major manufacturer’ in the automotive sector, helping the company shift towards a digital business and ‘mobility services provider’ approach. “Our value here centres around accelerating innovation through cloud-native applications and microservices, built by deploying agile development squads and methodologies,” says Mallard.

For 2021, Mallard predicts a year where ‘responsible digital business models’ prevail, with reinvention and sustainability the watchwords. “We will be at the forefront of this with a focus on maximising the impact for our customers by supporting them in their operating model shift, enabling them to take advantage of their data to create actionable insights,” he says.

Pax8

Pax8, a Colorado-based provider of cloud management technologies, has had a hot start to the year. The company secured $96 million (£69m) in funding at the beginning of January, looking to expand its geographic reach as well as improve its cloud automation and orchestration capabilities.

Nick Heddy, chief revenue officer, explains the company’s rationale for providing cloud services to the IT channel – and its appeal to investors. “There is no company on the market today quite like Pax8,” he tells CloudTech. “The leadership team built Pax8 into a true innovator. Pax8 is accelerating cloud transformation, enabling our partners to easily buy, sell and manage cloud technology to SMBs worldwide.”

The geographic expansion includes a UK launch, also announced last month. One UK customer, seen by CloudTech, noted the need for a ‘simple way to bring the best of breed products available to us as an MSP or MSSP and make it easier to buy, install, implement… but only pick what we need for that specific client’.

Bolstering the product line is the recent launch of Pax8 Pro, which offers partners ‘an introduction to cloud automation and simplified software as a service lifecycle management’, as Reddy puts it.

Ultimately, the company focuses on automation and simplicity for partners – but a rigorous process to approve vendors. Vendors go through a more than 150-step process before launching with Pax8. “We have a unique approach that tightly couples our technology platform with an unparalleled customer experience that simplifies cloud adoption,” says Reddy.

“We are excited about the future, and how we are helping IT professionals bring best-in-class cloud technology to businesses across the world.”

Ping Identity

Ping Identity, headquartered in Denver, promises ‘intelligent identity’ for the enterprise. In the words of Emma Maslen, VP and GM EMEA and APAC, this means the company ‘understands the challenges enterprises face as they navigate through the current digital transformation acceleration, often including the need to leverage a hybrid mix of cloud solutions to successfully modernise legacy IAM systems.’

This manifests itself in various ways: passwordless authentication, integration with multiple risk, fraud and threat signals, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to detect and analyse anomalous behaviour. The company asserts that a trade-off between strong security and ease of use is not necessary, and has earned praise as a result, being shortlisted in the international Cloud Computing Awards for best hybrid cloud solution.

One recent customer success story focuses around telecoms: an ISP was ‘dealing with continual outages from use-surges and relied on multiple login credentials for different parts of the business’, as Maslen puts it. The goal was to achieve a ‘streamlined’ experience for identity. “As they look ahead to new business opportunities with 5G, they will be ideally positioned to provide the experience customers demand between services and applications,” Maslen tells CloudTech.

The ISP is not the only one to be well positioned. With remote working an inevitability even after Covid, Ping Identity sees itself as an arbiter of ‘frictionless and secure digital experiences.’

“For Ping, 2021 will be the year of cloud-enabled scalability,” adds Maslen. “We will prioritise centralised solutions that facilitate cost reduction, enable Zero Trust security through passwordless-ness, and help businesses deliver more personalised digital experiences from anywhere.”

Uptycs

Uptycs, headquartered in Massachusetts, looks to take a broader view when it comes to cloud security. “The cloud security is still nascent and many vendors are tackling niche problems, such as identifying vulnerabilities in containers, securing Kubernetes systems, spotting misconfiguration of cloud resources, or analysing identity and access,” CEO Ganesh Pai tells CloudTech.

As a result, the company promises a cloud-native approach to cloud infrastructure security. “The risk of tackling these problems piecemeal is the type of ‘tool sprawl’ that we’ve seen in the traditional, on-premises enterprise space, only mirrored in the cloud,” Pai adds.

Pai admits that, looking at the shared responsibility model, it can be ‘quite difficult’ to get comprehensive visibility across various services and accounts. Amazon Web Services (AWS), with more than 200 products available, is a case in point.

This is where the company’s recent AWS integration, extending the types of data in Uptycs’ SQL-powered security analytics platform, comes in.

“For comprehensive cloud workload security, you need both a view of workloads from the outside and a view from the inside,” explains Pai. “Data from AWS services and resources provides an outside-in view of the cloud environment to complement the inside-out view from within hosts and containers that Uptycs already provides.” Flexport, a digital freight forwarder and customs broker, is one such customer of the AWS side.

With regard to 2021 plans for Uptycs, who secured $30 million (£21.6m) in funding back in June, Pai notes greater integration with cloud providers, alongside extensions which provide deeper visibility into identity and access management. The company is also keen to give something back. Uptycs recently released Kubequery and Cloudquery, two open source extensions for the osquery project – a key part of Uptycs’ rationale – and more is promised.

“We will also continue to contribute back to the open source community, providing a strong technical foundation for the next generation of cloud security tools,” says Pai.

Photo by Quentin Rey on Unsplash

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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Emma Crabtree

Emma Crabtree

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