The cloud: Isn't it cool anymore?

Cloud technologies have been gaining traction for some time now. Increases in connectivity throughout the computing world with the creation of more and more connected devices, including mobile and IoT technologies, as well as more and more connected applications on those devices, means cloud computing adoption is ever-increasing. Expectations regarding an application’s availability are high, and solutions continue to emerge to increase availability and make scaling applications easier when a user load gets too big.

New patterns, platforms, services, and software are pushing applications and data to the cloud. Read on to learn about some key highlights that we found based on input gathered from our 2016 Cloud Survey of more than 700 IT professionals. Here is a quick breakdown on the respondents:

  • 67 per cent of these respondents use Java as their primary programming language at work
  • 76 per cent have been IT professionals for over 10 years
  • 39 per cent work at companies whose headquarters are located in Europe, 35 per cent in the USA
  • 40 per cent work at companies with more than 500 employees, 16 per cent at companies with more than 10,000 employees

Now on to the key research findings:

Developers are adopting containers quickly

66 per cent of survey respondents say they are evaluating or using container technologies in their organisation right now. 92 per cent of those respondents say that containers are being used or evaluated in development. 35 per cent of respondents whose organisations are currently using containers release their applications on-demand (several times a day); this percentage trends downwards as time between releases goes up.

Implications

Container adoption among developers continues to increase. The percentage of respondents who say they are currently using containers in their organisation has more than doubled since our survey last year. This shift has helped organisations deploy and service applications more quickly by simplifying the decomposition and deployment environments.

Recommendations

Try modern application container technologies, if you haven’t already (and even if you’ve tried LXC before). Decomposing your app can make it more resilient and robust, allowing for quick recovery from downtime and easier fixes and updates to your application code.

The cloud is even more popular for production than for development and testing

62 per cent of survey respondents say they perform production or deployment on a cloud platform; this is compared to 54 per cent who use cloud for development, and only 49 per cent who use cloud for QA or testing. Still, 31 per cent of respondents plan on performing QA/Testing on the cloud, versus 26 per cent who have plans to start deploying to the cloud and 21 per cent who have plans for developing on a cloud platform.

Implications

Deploying on cloud platforms can increase availability and make scaling easier. For deployed applications, with real users in hard-to-predict numbers, these benefits become especially important. Developers may currently feel a little more comfortable keeping pre-production applications closer to home, but as more granular as-a-service offerings gain maturity, the cloud will be used increasingly at all application lifecycle stages.

Recommendations

Look into cloud platforms to increase application availability and scale elasticity. Consider using cloud services ‘farther left'.

Security, performance, and scalability are the biggest influencers

87 per cent of respondents said security was a 'very important' factor when choosing a cloud provider, followed by performance (79 per cent), then scalability (73 per cent). The fourth most important factor trailed by fourteen percentage points: 59 per cent said price was 'very important'.

Implications

Cloud pricing can become a significant pain point, but developers are much more concerned about technical and governance factors than price alone. This suggests that service levels are significantly heterogeneous over all providers (or else price would make more of a difference).

Recommendations

Research and plan at a deep technical level before choosing a cloud platform for your application. Be sure to know the platform’s strengths and its weaknesses and how well its offerings match your application’s needs.

Other key findings include:

AWS still on top

When asked what cloud service providers their organisation uses, an overwhelming amount of respondents to DZone’s 2016 Cloud Survey said they had used Amazon Web Services. 58 per cent of respondents said their org used AWS in some way — more than twice the runner-up, Microsoft Azure (which 26 per cent or respondents said their organisation uses). Coming in third were Google Cloud Services, which had 17 per cent.

When cross-tabbed with which issues the respondents expected or experienced with their cloud platform, respondents who used each of these top three service providers were more likely to respond that they 'neither experienced nor expected to experience' than the average of all cloud service provider users (608 out of our 704 respondents).

Respondents expected or experienced greater scalability and higher availability from using cloud platforms over other benefits we asked about (such as better application performance and faster time to market), so it makes sense why orgs might want to stick to larger or more established cloud providers—they’re seen as more likely to be able to have more data centers, more availability zones, more robust infrastructures to scale easily and guard against downtime.

Still, there’s certainly some stick-to-itiveness involved in which cloud providers companies are using. Between last year’s DZone Cloud survey and this year’s, AWS usage gained just 1 per cent, while Microsoft gained 2 per cent and Google lost 2 per cent. Providers such as Heroku, Rackspace, and OpenStack barely saw a change (under 1 per cent). Digital Ocean saw the biggest boost, jumping from 5 per cent to 8 per cent.

Docker is huge - but you knew that

When we asked about which open-source cloud products devs used last year, we didn’t include Docker. We found OpenStack to be pretty popular (30 per cent in 2015), with Cloud Foundry and OpenShift as runners-up (12 per cent each in 2015). But the majority of our 2015 respondents (55 per cent) said they had not used an open-source cloud product for a business application.

This year, we decided to throw Docker into the mix and add it as an option to the same question. Sure, it’s not quite the same as the PaaSes or IaaSes it was pitted against, so we’re not going to try to compare the results against other open-source options (apples and oranges, and all that).

45 per cent of our survey respondents this year answered that they had used Docker for a business application. And when asked about whether their org was using or looking into using containers (something we did ask about in 2015), about 66 per cent said their org was either using or evaluating a container technology right now — which is up about 20 per cent from last year’s responses, pointing to a lot of recent container adoption that seems to match the buzz surrounding containers and Docker.

We also found that as developers’ time between releases decreased, their container usage increased. While devs with all sorts of release schedules did say they were evaluating containers, those who release 'on-demand' were 17 per cent more likely to use containers currently than those who estimated 'monthly' releases. Since containers can make decomposing apps easier, they also make it easier to make a change to one part of an app without touching anything in another container, so you have to worry less about patches turning into bugs.

Larger organisation, more hybrid cloud

There are plenty of factors that go into deciding whether to choose a public, private, or hybrid cloud platform: security, availability, scalability, cost, flexibility… the list goes on. For our last three Cloud surveys, we’ve asked respondents 'cloud platform type best fits your company’s needs'. The answers haven’t fluctuated much between those surveys. About half of respondents prefer hybrid,while the other half leans slightly toward private.

We found, however, that there is a direct correlation between the size of a respondent’s company and which type of cloud platform that respondent thinks best fits that company’s needs. Those in small companies (from 1–9 employees) were 15 per cent less likely to choose hybrid cloud platforms than those in the largest companies (10,000+ employees), with a quite linear trend in between. The choice of public cloud platforms trended linearly in the other direction, with 36 per cent of those in the smallest companies choosing public, versus 9 per cent in the largest companies.

Of course, very small companies are generally less likely to be able to handle an all-private cloud infrastructure, just given the number of employees they would need in order to maintain it. Public cloud is — in the absence of dedicated enterprise IT staff — just easier. But that doesn’t negate the advantages of having some of your cloud platform private. As cloud computing becomes more widespread, hybrid’s popularity will certainly increase; at the same time, as public cloud platforms become easier (and cheaper), it is likely to close the gap with private amongst those who haven’t jumped on the hybrid bandwagon.

PaaS loves the languages

We developed a hypothesis about Platforms as a Service — the most popular cloud-based service in production amongst our respondents. It seemed that, because of how closely PaaSes are tied to the language being deployed, that those respondents whose organisations used fewer languages would be more likely to use a PaaS. Need to use more languages? Maybe you’d go with an IaaS — more work, but more flexibility.

Actually, when correlated against the number of programming languages each respondent said their organisation uses(up to four), there was an upward linear trend for PaaS usage. Respondents who said their org only used one language were 49 per cent likely to say their org used a PaaS. Those who said four languages were used at their organisation were 68 per cent likely. (Data above four languages for a single org was insufficient for analysis).

With multiple PaaSes, however, it seems an organisation can more easily handle multiple languages. Yes, perhaps a single PaaS is tied to a particular language; but multiple PaaSes would allow an organisation to utilise different languages for different uses, without having to build its own platform for each.

For Infrastructures as a Service — the second most popular cloud-based service in production — data was a little more scattered, but still trended upward, up to three languages used. Still, those who only selected one language for their organisation were only 49 per cent likely to say their organisation uses an IaaS; two-language respondents were 57 per cent likely; three languages showed 64 per cent; and four languages hopped back down to 54 per cent.

John Esposito at DZone