In a market as fast paced and constantly evolving as cloud technology, it's no surprise that trends can change overnight or that CIOs are kept up all night thinking of ways to strike the balance between keeping systems ticking-over and continuing to innovate. There have been some important changes in the market this year – some incremental and some major leaps – that I expect will continue to impact the regional cloud computing market well into next year.
The continued quest for cloud based applications
There has been a big shift in IT consumption models for enterprises, with many CIOs becoming more aware of the benefits of cloud based applications and increasingly exploring Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The evolution of traditional licensed based software moving to the cloud has had an impact on the delivery of applications, and facilitated in the creation of application based user interfaces that can be accessed from a range of devices.
As such, enterprise CIOs are leveraging SaaS models to create opportunities, pick and choose the best applications for their market and to manage them through a single pane of glass. I expect to see both hardware and software providers trying to tie in to the SaaS market, either by establishing reference designs or evolving software packages to become more demand subscription based.
With certain platforms providing direct access to SaaS providers, there are now easier ways in which applications can be delivered, such as bypassing the Internet to alleviate security and performance concerns. For example, Office 365, which was available only via the Internet, can also be accessed now by private connections via Azure Expressroute.
Interconnection will remove significant barriers to IT growth
Corporate networks are currently strained by the global dispersion of workforces (75% of enterprise employees reside in locations outside of a company's headquarters) and the proliferation of multiple users who access the network via multiple devices in multiple locations. Centralised, siloed IT architectures, often trapped in on-premise data centers, can't scale to get closer to end users and deliver the high-performance connections users demand.
Meanwhile, interconnection via the public Internet will continue to be plagued by reliability and security concerns. For all these reasons, enterprises are increasingly designing interconnection-oriented infrastructures to enable direct and secure links to cloud and network providers and various other partners. In this interconnected era, companies will increasingly rely on instantaneous interconnection with each other to create new value and succeed.
The benefits of this interconnection are real and quantifiable. According to the “Enterprise of the Future” report by Equinix, more than a third of respondents who have already deployed interconnection solutions report greater than $10 million in value created, with 58% reporting this value came from increased revenue opportunities.
Not all clouds are created equal, but adopting a multi-cloud approach is a good equaliser
In the early days of cloud, enterprises would work with one cloud provider for one application, but over time these providers started to innovate at varying paces and offer different features. This led users to look at how they could integrate multiple clouds into a system to best suit their needs, which has led to the adoption of multi-cloud platforms.
However, this interoperability requires orchestration to ensure users know where to divert and how to manage their traffic. Companies are looking for a central switching point that offers access to these clouds, while service providers would want to be part of an ecosystem where they can rapidly connect to enterprises and carriers. This makes orchestration across providers increasingly important, with hardware vendors responding by creating solutions that can interoperate between cloud providers.
Security platforms in the cloud and cloud security will be a focus for next year, along with how integrators can create a centralised billing system for multi-clouds. With providers offering a bundle of services and subscriptions to their customers, they will have to work out how to measure and bill for these. With services coming from a range of vendors, CIOs need to make sure their selected service providers are capable of handling accurate and timely billing data.
Innovative hybrid cloud architectures
Hyper-convergence gained considerable ground in 2015, as solutions continued to shrink and come together, and enterprises have continued to explore hybrid cloud architectures in 2016.
In the hardware market, hyper-convergence has led to smaller footprints and brought servers and storage together in one box along with additional new functions. Some enterprises are now looking at how to best integrate legacy infrastructure with public cloud providers, while others are exploring new equipment designed and optimised to work with cloud solutions.
We are seeing more CIOs of small and mid-size enterprises focusing on hyper-convergence, in particular ‘cloud in a box' – integrated virtualisation, storage and compute resources - that enable them to easily and nimbly migrate to the cloud.
As ever, the cloud market may be difficult to pin down sometimes, but it sure is exciting to be a part of.