Given how fast technology is changing, we thought it would be interesting to ask IT executives to share their thoughts on the biggest surprises in 2017 and their predictions for 2018.
Here's what they told us about the biggest surprises about the cloud. We'll cover predictions for 2018 in a couple of other articles.
There was a surprisingly strong readiness by small- and medium-sized businesses to move their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud. It certainly seems that internal IT departments were fed up with the costs and headaches of maintaining on-prem, but also with having to piecemeal together every single component themselves. And within SMBs, another surprise was the similar lack of reticence in verticals we may have previously thought to be conservative or late followers, such as legal and financial services.
The biggest surprise here is the earnings beats for the biggest vendors. Cloud adoption is taking off like wildfire for Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Oracle is coming up fast and strong, with a separate but compelling portfolio of apps platforms offered. Oracle’s AI-driven cloud database product is one of the most exciting things I think I saw come out of 2017 for the cloud.
The biggest event is the rise of the microservice platforms such as the MuleSoft AnyPoint platform and Spring, where companies can standardize microservices as back-end components to enterprise API layers. There’s also been a substantial rise in cloud integration tools, such as Microsoft’s PowerApps – most notably in their pricing.
After Forrester coined the term in 2016, many vendors are now seeing the opportunity that low-code provides for organizations to digitally transform, and are jumping to rebrand themselves as low-code platforms. With the CEO of GitHub announcing that the future of coding is no coding and Google also jumping on the bandwagon, it is clear that low-code solutions are here to stay and, in fact, turning the way companies build software on its head.
Cloud computing has now reached its "inflection point", where the growth rate of its adoption is increasingly fast. This includes many "old line" companies, seeking to keep up with competitors.
It's surprising how many Enterprises still don't have a true Cloud strategy. Many, if not all, have a mandate around Cloud Migration but struggle with how to actually get started. That means a reasonably large opportunity for consultants with Cloud expertise.
AWS has always been the clear leader in public cloud infrastructure, and for many years, the cloud essentially meant AWS. There was no other serious contender. Everyone who was talking public cloud was talking AWS.
The conversation changed in 2017. Subjects such as non-AWS public cloud solutions and how to build multi-cloud deployments started to become discussed seriously. AWS is still the clear leader, but it is no longer the only significant game around. In particular, Microsoft Azure has started to be recognized as a viable competitor for AWS. Most people still use AWS, but the money for cloud infrastructure is getting split more and with Azure in particular. This appears to be especially true in Europe.
The biggest surprise when looking back at 2017 was the recurring theme of security, particularly around technology that people take for granted. A quick recap: WannaCry, Equifax, Shadow Brokers, 200M voter records exposed, every account in Yahoo, CloudFlare became Cloudbleed and that day S3 crashed the internet. As more of our data is created and shared, because it is inherently open, taking a security-driven design approach is rising. Creating a balance of access and authorization with not only the content but also the delivery is essential. While FaceAuth hasn’t replaced OAuth2, the advances in security need to be pushed across different areas of your technology stack and how consumers interact with those. We hope that 2018 is less surprising and more progressive in this aspect.
The biggest event in 2017 was actually more of a collective “aha” moment – that point in the physical-virtual-cloud evolution when, weighed down by the sheer scale of all our stuff, and finally, fully and truly enabled by cloud, we started thinking about things or stuff as services and not as things anymore. Not infrastructure, not platforms, not software, not stuff that we statically size and buy, use and discard, in a stop-start fashion, but instead as services that we use to create, consume and collaborate over content – because at their core, all jobs are about content – and when we’re done with these services, they are done. Thus in 2017 we saw this shift in mindset and, as a result, increasingly more enterprises reaping the lower CAPEX benefits of the service-based model.
This year we’ve seen a huge uptick in organizations getting over their “security” concerns (most organizations have a false notion that their internal security is on par with cloud providers like Microsoft or Amazon) and moving substantial portions of their IT infrastructure to the cloud. The increase of DevOps practices in organizations and realized capitalization of on-premises data centers have fueled the rapid adoption of cloud.
Last year I forecast that that container hype will keep soaring while adoption will stay small. “Pitifully small” were my exact words. “Don't get me wrong,” I wrote “It's not that I don't think containers won't take off. They just won't take off in 2017… Despite the hype, containers have a few more years before they are ready for the mainstream.”
I was wrong. Mandates from upper management to migrate to the cloud have put far more wind behind Docker’s sails than I anticipated (even though I still maintain it’s not always the right solution). That momentum is almost certain to continue and expand into 2018.
We reached the tipping point for public cloud, going from early adopters to mainstream customers, thanks to an eventual recognition that public clouds are not less secure and that, in many ways, they were actually offering a very strong security model. Beyond this adoption tipping point, the move of workloads to public clouds is actually accelerating, fueled by the fact that Kubernetes has won the container orchestration battle. Kubernetes is the unifier that the cloud era was waiting for. These two trends are reinforcing each other.
Function as a Service (serverless) has found a good set of real-world use cases.
In 2017, one of the biggest events was the level of validation the cloud received in regards to it being a superior choice for data storage, management, and protection. While, onsite data repositories of well-known and highly respected organizations continued to make headlines in regards to failures/loss of service, as well as numerous data breaches/stolen sensitive business and personal data.
Surprise of 2017: Networking is becoming cool again and has experienced a breakout year in 2017. Just looking at the size of transactions over the past year, such as the recent VMware purchase of VeloCloud and Cisco acquisition of Viptela, it is clear that networking is of the utmost importance to the enterprise and telco cloud alike. Google, Facebook, and Amazon have built their own software-driven networking management solutions.
Cloud biggest surprise: Microsoft. After being largely written off, under Satya Nadella’s leadership, they’ve really done a fantastic job both strategically and on execution. Talking to customers, they were barely on the list as an afterthought in 2016, and now they’re on the shortlist second only to AWS.
The biggest change I see with IT leaders is an increased realization that when it comes to cloud, one size does not fit all. Organizations are or will be leveraging multiple on and off-premises cloud platforms. What’s surprising is that IT organizations are struggling when it comes to choosing best-fit cloud platforms for workloads. In a recent Datalink commissioned survey by IDG titled, “Stakes Rise for IT: The IT Transformation Journey,” 52% of respondents reported that they had repatriated one or more workloads. Repatriation oftentimes can be tied to a lack of due diligence before moving workloads to the public cloud. To avoid the need to repatriate, IT leaders have learned that they need a thorough understanding of workload requirements (e.g. security, compliance, etc.), application dependencies, business processes, and costs, etc. before any workloads are moved to the public cloud.
"In 2017, we were surprised to see an increased use in technologies related to cryptocurrencies, like Blockchain, and their impact on the communications technology industry, reversing regulatory trends in net neutrality.
I think one of the biggest events of 2017 was the release of VMware Cloud on AWS. While there is a lot of considerations to leveraging this new offering, the ability to have a vSphere platform running on AWS hardware will initially seem very attractive to VMware customers. Time will tell how the usage, costs, and movement of virtual machines plays out. One thing that is important to remember is that public cloud is not always the most appropriate place for all workloads. The public cloud outages earlier this year serve as a reminder that it is not always wise to put all your eggs in a single cloud basket.
I think what surprised many IT professionals in 2017 was seeing the drastic implications and sometimes dangers of using the public cloud. Major outages from the likes of AWS S3 and Azure finally shed some real light on the fundamental importance of companies keeping greater control over their most critical data. In 2017 - and sometimes in relation to these outages - we also saw many CIOs and IT leaders realize that public cloud, due to less than transparent fees and subscription costs, isn’t always the more affordable alternative, as it’s often marketed. There are a time and a place for public cloud, but it’s not every time and every place, especially with the most critical data in mind.”
In 2017 and previously, the focus has been 100% the cloud, and there has been a push for complete adoption of the cloud. The reality is that an all-cloud-only model will never work. It is not on-premises versus the cloud. It’s on-premises and the cloud. A hybrid cloud model, that incorporates micro-datacenters at the edge, centralized data centers and on-premises, is now a reality for today’s businesses.
The biggest surprise was the incredible growth of AWS, which grew 42 percent year over year and now accounts for 11 percent of Amazon’s total revenue. Everyone predicted it would grow, but that’s incredible and speaks to the mainstream adoption of cloud as a core pillar of organization’s infrastructure strategy. Even after encountering a major outage this year, organizations continue to increase their investment in the cloud. Equally important, was the mainstream enterprise adoption of AWS cloud services, both EC2 and S3. All indicators are this trend will continue to accelerate in 2018.
- How quickly AWS deployments became huge within enterprises. In 2016, an enterprise might have had a few VPCs. By 2017, many enterprises had hundreds of VPCs deployed — an increase from the one- or two-digit range to three digits.
- How long it’s taking multi-cloud deployments to take off. AWS continues to dominate and to be the only game in town for many enterprises.
- How many applications are not moving to the public cloud. Almost all the public cloud adoption is happening with greenfield applications; brownfield migration seems stuck.
- The sheer number of embedded dependencies involved in migrating workloads and applications to the public cloud. These dependencies are likely the reason that so few existing applications are being moved to the cloud.
- The degree of tension at the technical people and processes level within enterprises. Cloud teams and cloud ways of operating are disrupting organizations and creating internal tension, particularly with the IT teams responsible for managing traditional on-premises networking functions.
- The small size cloud teams within enterprises. The lion’s share of technical budgets are going to cloud teams, with very little CapEx investment in data center equipment. And yet, a handful of cloud people are responsible for managing maybe hundreds of VPCs — with each VPC representing essentially a virtual datacenter — compared to the enormous headcount still devoted to on-premises, datacenter-based functions.
- The fact that people still think it’s cheaper to run applications on-premises or in a private cloud. There’s enough data amassed to show that the TCO of public clouds is better than on-prem data center or private cloud deployments.
- 2017 was a year of large momentum for cloud analytics. We saw even the highest regulated industries going all-in on cloud analytics in order to take advantage of technical and cost efficiencies far beyond on-premise solutions.
- The pace and place of automated and AI-assisted technology in decision making. Machine Learning and AI technology have made significant advancements in just the past six months. This automation will have a profound impact on the use of analytics; uncovering insights in large data volumes and provide easy and contextual insights for users.
- Analytics pairings; a tech-recipe for digital acceleration. Not surprising that research shows growth leaders use analytics, but analytics in 2017 was at an intersection alley of a growth digital innovation spectrum as IoT, sensor, streaming data, machine learning, blockchain, and business data networks combine to deliver accelerated business growth opportunities.