In order to consider the future of cloud computing, it’s important to realise that there are a number of different adoption scenarios out there. These include:
- Established enterprises and service providers that are bogged down in “brownfield mode,” struggling with how to simultaneously do both the “old” and the “new” IT; most likely with the same shrinking IT budgets.
- New companies that are unburdened with legacy technology, who not only choose cloud first on their own, but they are also potentially pushed by their investors to take a “cloud first” approach.
The older companies might also have a history of insufficient IT investment and will continue to struggle to adapt to the new technology landscape because of their legacy IT. New entrants to their markets are threatening to disrupt the establishment because of the different approach to IT and cloud use, not just because of the difference in market offerings.
The following observations of the future of cloud apply to both scenarios, albeit to different extents.
- We will see more cloud-like capabilities in traditional datacentres.
For those companies that need, or want, to continue to rely on the traditional corporate data center, new vendors are offering, and will continue to offer, new cloud-like capabilities such as hyperconverged infrastructure. These are one-click, simple-to-use systems that are full of enterprise features and scalable like the cloud – ultimately delivering a cloud-like feel.
- Consumer mobility use will continue to drive enterprise use.
Consumer mobility use has made cloud the default for the users of the most-ubiquitous compute device on the planet – the smart phone. But it’s not just limited to consumers, as this mobility-cloud relationship is also penetrating the enterprise through BYOD (bring your own device), advancements in corporate mobile-device provisioning policies, and consumer-world-driven expectations of corporate IT.
One of the easiest ways for corporate IT to deal with these new and raised expectations, is to offer cloud-like services including rebadging/white-labelling public cloud services, such as Box or Dropbox used for enterprise storage. This means that “consumers” aren’t just growing their own personal cloud use, they are also driving up enterprise consumption too.
- Big data will continue to drive adoption.
Big data and analytics have quite a complex “cloud interaction.” While the “brains” for these systems are definitely easier to access in the cloud, for instance machine learning and Hadoop-type systems, enterprises can find it difficult to push large datasets into the cloud.
It’s why AWS (Amazon Web Services) and other cloud service providers will let you use sneakernet to physically post tapes and disks to them. Additionally, concerns over storing large, but confidential, data sets in the cloud will continue to drive the growth of hybrid analytics systems, which let the cloud systems access on-premise data sets via dedicated lines from the likes of AWS and Azure.
- Cloud will drive increased adoption of SDN and NFV to create more efficient network architectures.
The cloud leaders such as AWS and Azure say that they couldn’t manage their networks without SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualisation) technologies. Azure is also taking its learnings and bringing them out of the web-scale cloud environment and into the service provider and enterprise domains. Other traditional vendors are also pushing SDN and NFV for the data center, albeit from different perspectives, and new entrants like vArmour, Illuminous, and others are adding value on top of SDN and NFV in a cloud context.
- The larger global cloud service providers will continue to go regional.
While many regional cloud service providers have won business by playing the “locality card,” the leading global cloud players are now coming to most geographic regions. And they offer a service that cannot be matched by the smaller regional players. This capability gap might be fixed by the emergence of cloud federations such as HP Cloud28+ and Cisco Intercloud, but this remains to be seen.
- Security will change from being a reason not to do cloud to being the reason to do it.
The leading cloud service providers are excellent at security, and offer the same best-in-class security features to everyone, at the same price. And this utilitarian approach to security will drive many companies to take a cloud-first approach – due to potentially better security at a lower cost. There are also numerous start-ups in this area that add even more security-goodness on top of existing cloud service provider security features. Ultimately, the additional cost of doing things on-premise because of security concerns should be questioned.
- Cloud will democratise data processing.
Just as cloud democratises security, it also democratises data processing. In the 1990s it would cost companies millions of dollars, and take months if not years, to “do” data warehousing. Now, using the cloud, a teenager in their bedroom can do machine learning at a minimal cost.
- Cloud will become an extraneous term that isn’t needed anymore.
Cloud is no longer the thing that is different, and increasingly the focus is on the things that aren’t cloud – with questions asked about why they are still needed. So, like the term “webmail” became just “email,” there’s no doubt that the use of the term “cloud” as a descriptor or differentiator will diminish.
Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid Technologies