6 trends shaping IT cloud strategies today

From cost containment to hybrid strategies, CIOs are getting more creative in taking advantage of the latest offerings and the cloud’s economies of scale.

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Cloud computing has helped many enterprises transform their IT practices over the past five years, but experts agree that the market is entering a second wave for public, private and hybrid cloud services.

According to a Forrester Research survey, 38 percent of enterprise decision-makers said they are building private clouds, with 32 percent procuring public cloud services and the remainder planning to implement some form of cloud technology this year. The hybrid cloud is also heating up, with 59 percent of respondents saying they are adopting the model. Fueling this accelerating adoption is the need for enterprises to scale their compute resources to better serve customers, Forrester Research Dave Bartoletti tells CIO.com.

Amazon Web Services kickstarted the first cloud computing wave when it launched basic compute and storage services in 2006. As of February this year AWS is now operating at a greater than $14 billion run rate, with companies such as Capital One, LiveNation, Ancestry going all in on the company’s cloud infrastructure.

“We recognized that we were spending a lot of time, energy, effort and management bandwidth to create infrastructure that already exists out there in a much better state and is evolving at a furious pace,” says Capital One CIO Rob Alexander.

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But the options don’t stop at AWS. Microsoft, Google and IBM are also opening new data centers at a rapid clip, luring big companies to their clouds. Many specialty clouds have also cropped up in the years since Amazon first opened shop. Here we take a look at four trends currently shaping the second wave of cloud adoption.

Co-location services are on the rise

With most CIOs looking to cease running their own data centers but uncertain about which cloud horse to bet on, many are turning to co-location services from Equinix, Digital Realty and others, Forrester’s Bartoletti says. Co-los allow CIOs to move their systems to managed data centers, where they benefit from convenient connectivity to various public cloud and SaaS services.

“The beautiful thing about a co-lo is you’re one hop away from a direct high-speed connection to any public cloud provider,” Bartoletti says. “It makes it easier to have multi-cloud strategy.”

This also makes it easier for CIOs to test services from AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud without fully committing until they’re ready to migrate.

Cloud cost containment

CIOs engaging with multiple cloud providers are likely waist-deep in complex cloud vendor management, an area for which many vendor and sourcing managers are inexperienced. AWS, Microsoft and Google are making it more difficult by offering various cloud service pricing and consumption plans. AWS, for example, charges customers of some of its cloud services by number of messages sent, or number of messages sent in an hour.

“Cloud cost management is a huge challenge and it’s only getting more complex,” Bartoletti says, adding that an IT leader told him he had to hire a person just to help choose and negotiate cloud contracts.

Even so, IT executives are getting better at containing cloud costs as their practices mature. Bartoletti says that a cloud architect for a large software company shaved $300,000 off of a $2.5 million cloud bill by monitoring his consumption. Also, cost management tools from the likes of Cloudability, Cloud Cruiser and Cloudyn are available.

Hyperconverge your private cloud

Bartoletti says that while more Forrester clients are citing security as a reason to shift to public cloud services not every CIO wants to accept risks associated with entrusting their customer and other sensitive data to a third-party vendor. Like their public cloud counterparts, private cloud services require advanced virtualization, standardization, automation, self-service access and resource monitoring. Stitching these capabilities together into a cohesive system is daunting and expensive.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions promise to help, offering pre-integrated compute, storage and networking resources that help organizations get their cloud implementations running faster. Forrester recommends that organizations consider HCI as the foundation for their private cloud development, particularly for new workloads that demand rapid, automated scale-out. “You can take 100 of [HCI boxes] and you have a big pool of compute, storage and networking with one management tool,” Bartoletti says. “They’re making a lot of headway for helping companies build private clouds that operate like public clouds.”

There’s a container for that

The use of containers, which enable developers to manage and easily migrate software code, has blossomed of late. Many companies are using them to enable portability between cloud services from AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud as they build out their devops strategies for faster software production, Bartoletti says. Vendors are supporting Docker and other runtime environments in CloudFoundry, OpenShift and other open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) systems.

“Every public and private cloud platform supports container development. You can run OpenShift and CloudFoundry on Google, CloudFoundry on AWS and Azure,” Bartoletti says. “The action is moving up the stack.”

But the new paradigm means new challenges; companies will need to grapple with new security, monitoring, storage and networking issues that arise as containers are deployed broadly in production. “Your first step should be to evaluate the pros and cons of on-premises private PaaS versus a managed public cloud development platform; you might need both,” Bartoletti says.

Lift and shift those cloud apps

Some companies are also seeking to refactor apps to run on public cloud systems, leveraging migration services, rather than simply dumping existing apps into a public cloud. The optimum option to move an application is to rewrite it to take advantage of cloud’s elasticity, although this lift-and-shift migration can be costly. “Lift-and-shift migration tools will accelerate the rate of cloud migration, given their low cost for bulk application migrations,” Bartoletti says.

Enterprise apps come to public cloud

Several companies are hosting enterprise applications in AWS, suggesting that CIOs have become more comfortable hosting critical software in the public cloud. Dollar Shave Club runs Spark analytics software in AWS. Cardinal Health runs Splunk in AWS. Several others are running business apps, such as SAP, in AWS. Bartoletti says you can expect this trend to continue as CIOs rely more heavily on public cloud providers.

“Enterprise are turning great ideas into software and insights faster and the cloud is the best place to get quick insights out of enterprise data,” Bartoletti says.

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