As we dive into 2018, the impact of cloud services and “cloud native” technologies and practices for organizations of all sizes will continue to grow. The analysts at Forrester, for instance, project that the public cloud market will grow by 22 percent in 2018, to $178 billion.That momentum is being driven by companies that recognize the potential benefits of cloud-based infrastructure — lower operational costs, increased the speed of deployment and greater business flexibility. Many companies have moved well beyond the experimental stage and view the cloud as a critical component of their IT strategy, whether they are transitioning their on-premise infrastructure and applications to the cloud or adding cloud-based services as part of a hybrid approach. At the same time, the services, tools and the organizational best practices for cloud-native computing continue to evolve to support the needs of large-scale enterprises. With these trends in mind, here are a few predictions for what we might see for the enterprise cloud market this year.
- Multicloud becomes imperative for organizations of scale, and open source becomes the foundation of workload portability.
Last year saw a dramatic improvement in not only the quality and completeness of Microsoft and Google’s cloud offerings but also the attention they are receiving in the market. Along with Amazon’s Web Services offerings, enterprises have a legitimate choice among providers. Most enterprises now have workloads running in the cloud, and many are starting to consider adding a second cloud provider, a trend that should accelerate in 2018. The reasons for this vary from organization to organization. In some cases it is simply a question of procurement policy — few companies of scale can afford to entrust their business critical services to a single provider. In other cases, organizations see the potential quality of service, capability, or price advantages in solutions offered by other providers.
We don’t expect individual projects to be legitimately “multicloud” (where a single application runs in multiple environments) but we can expect to see organizations looking for a common set of tools and capabilities that allow them to build and run applications in a second or third cloud environment. To this end, open source technology by its nature will emerge as an important consideration as it represents a powerful way to avoid vendor lock-in to a specific environment. More sophisticated organizations will start to value building stronger relationships with open source communities directly as a way to meet their needs. This is a significant departure from the way many enterprises viewed open source in the past.
- Containers and orchestration technologies emerge as a staple for software vendors.
During 2018, as containers become more mainstream and standardization initiatives (for example, OCI for Linux application containers and the Certified Kubernetes program) start to take effect in the industry, more traditional software vendors will start to increasingly look to cloud-native infrastructure as the starting point for their product deployments. Kubernetes and Linux application containers will emerge as the starting point for more comprehensive solutions provided by vendors in the industry.
Step 1 in installing a new software solution will be “get a certified version of Kubernetes running.” By taking advantage of increased developer velocity and simplified operations, it will become easier for software vendors to deliver rich solutions, and will significantly reduce the integration costs of those solutions for end customers.
- The year of reliability engineering.
Reliability engineering is the practice of applying software engineering principles to operational functions. It’s changing the way that cloud-based applications are developed and managed. This transition has been catalyzed by Google’s Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) handbook where Google outlines how reliability engineering has created strong benefits for organizations looking to transition to a services-based model of IT management. We will start to see the reliability engineering discipline emerge as a force in the industry, particularly among larger companies with greater specialization of functions. Companies will start to look at the value of specialized operations teams focused on delivering managed services as common technology assets, and we can expect to see richer tools, training programs and capabilities emerge for this function.
- The year of processor level side-channel attacks.
The recent revelations of previously unknown microprocessor architectural vulnerabilities in just about every desktop, server and mobile processor (the “side channel”) produced over the last decade has profound implications for security. We now live in a world where we are vulnerable to processor side-channel attacks. Meltdown demonstrated a practical way to exploit problems with the underlying processor architecture, and Spectre provided a second path to potentially do the same.
While processor manufacturers are working closely with software companies to find a way to patch these vulnerabilities in the near term (with consequences for processor performance), the development lead time for new processor architectures means it may take years for new silicon without these weaknesses to reach the market. Until then, the security risk is real.
So what is the impact on cloud computing? First, as a result of increased sensitivity around security, we may well see the basic unit of consumption for many enterprises move from a “virtual machine” to a “full server.” Second, expect increased scrutiny by forward-leaning organizations on how exactly the cloud providers run themselves; this will increase demand on cloud providers for additional audit and review, and may further slow or chill the rate at which cloud grows.
Finally, while in aggregate the emergence of side-channel attacks may chill enterprise on cloud to some extent, it may also raise the barriers to entry for aspirants and entrench the positions of the ‘big 3’ cloud providers; it will be increasingly challenging to remain nimble in the face of concern over where virtual machines are running, while managing the greater complexity of provisioning full servers.
The pace of change in enterprise cloud is staggering. For example, just three years ago, Kubernetes emerged from Google as an open source container management platform and has been widely adopted since then, thanks to a rapidly growing ecosystem of related projects, a strong community and, more recently, the support of major cloud providers. 2018 promises to be another year of important developments that will enhance the usability, reliability and value of the cloud for enterprises.
Feature image via Pixabay.