The Top 10 Challenges for the Cloud Industry in 2021


Despite having a combined market cap of about $5.5 trillion and being the core of the greatest growth market the tech industry has ever known, the Cloud Wars Top 10 vendors each face significant challenges in 2021.

Whether those challenges are from other Cloud Wars Top 10 competitors, from feisty upstarts like Snowflake, or driven by the need to evolve and transform at breathtaking speed while continuing to support tens of thousands of business customers across the globe, they will make for some fascinating outcomes in 2021.

In our recent Cloud Wars Top 10 Special Report: Which Cloud Vendors Will Thrive in 2021?, we devoted considerable attention to the range of threats looming for the Cloud Wars Top 10: #1 Microsoft, #2 Amazon, #3 Salesforce, #4 Google Cloud, #5 SAP, #6 Oracle, #7 IBM, #8 Workday, #9 ServiceNow, and #10 Adobe.

Here’s a quick overview of each with links to the detailed analyses in our Special Report.

#1 Microsoft
Three big challenges: Azure reliability, balancing enormous aspirations for SaaS and IaaS, and keeping Satya Nadella—perhaps the world’s top CEO—happy and motivated and challenged. Check out our in-depth exploration of those 3 challenges.

#2 Amazon
Three biggest challenges for Andy Jassy and Jeff Bezos: competing with customers, reliability, and multi-cloud management. Get the full story on the major challenges facing AWS.

#3 Salesforce
The biggest challenges facing Benioff & Co.: will Marc Benioff move from platforms to politics? Can Salesforce continue to stay 2 steps ahead of SAP and Oracle? Get the full story on the biggest obstacles for Salesforce on its road to $50 billion.

#4 Google Cloud
Hey, even the hottest major cloud vendor in the world is not free from challenges. And while Google has a market cap of about $1.2 trillion, both Microsoft and Amazon can not only match but exceed that financial muscle. Will parent Alphabet continue to invest at the astonishing rates needed to compete with its larger rivals? Here’s our view.

#5 SAP
For 40 years, SAP has helped huge global corporations run complex operations, and now SAP is itself in the final phases of overhauling how it runs itself. Can it do in the cloud what it was able to do in traditional computing? We vote yes.

#6 Oracle
Larry Ellison has chosen to compete head-on with companies whose market caps are anywhere from about 8X as large as his (Microsoft and Amazon) to about 6X as large (Google). Can Ellison defy the laws of physics? Hey—he’s done it before.

#7 IBM
Red Hat is a big part of the cloud solution for IBM but, if overplayed, Red Hat also becomes the problem. IBM seems to want to say that it’s cloud future is all about Red Hat, but that’s not enough—the whole company has to go all-in on the cloud! Here’s our take on what IBM needs to do to become a big-time player in the cloud.

#8 Workday
Workday has been hugely successful with its focus on HCM and Financials—but as the world moves rapidly to all digital business all the time, will that be enough to keep up with the full end-to-end offerings of competitors SAP and Oracle?

#9 ServiceNow
Bizarre but true: ServiceNow has been wildly successful in part because it’s doing things no other major cloud vendor has chosen to do or, at least so far, is able to do. That won’t last—will the competition come from Google Cloud?

#10 Adobe
In the wickedly competitive CX segment of the market, Adobe has a great consumer brand but only spotty enterprise credibility. And ongoing problems with part of its Experience Cloud has dragged growth rates into single digits—and in the Cloud Wars, that’s a losing position.

Final Thoughts
In calmer times, each of these 10 world-class companies could no doubt assess these challenges, map out a solid plan to overcome them, and begin to execute and adapt. But these times are anything but calm, and the relentless pace of change, innovation and disruption are requiring companies to blast through challenges at the same time they are driving unprecedented levels of innovation.

We’ll be watching closely in 2021 to see which of the Cloud Wars Top 10 are up to the challenge.

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