by Joe Kinsella

IT forecast: Cloudy with a chance of digital transformation

Feb 15, 2019
Cloud ComputingDigital TransformationTechnology Industry

Like the weather, the accuracy of technology predictions can change with the wind. I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry will continue to challenge one another and how business demands will force continuous innovation.

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Cloud continues to undergo intense innovation. Around this time last year, I predicted Cloud 2.0—which puts heterogenous cloud at the future of application architecture—would finally go mainstream. This year, we’ll move beyond just a tipping point and onto a new era of cloud: Cloud 3.0. 

So, what will Cloud 3.0 look like? If re:Invent is any indication of what we can expect in the next year, we’ll continue to see impressive cloud adoption across all industries and with this, the continued creation of solutions and integrated data tools that best meet user needs.

As I gaze into the horizon, I forecast another year full of cloud, cloud and more cloud all as a foundational element of businesses’ digital transformation (and, yes, this will remain a buzzword). With that in mind, here is how I expect the cloud to take shape in the year ahead.

Multicloud will reign supreme

Over the course of this year, multicloud will become the most dominant approach as organizations deploy diverse clouds and operations within a single heterogeneous infrastructure in order to meet their different services and needs. It will continue to be used as a key strategy in bringing choice to the organization to pick and choose specific solutions as business requirements become more challenging due to increasing demand for digital transformation. 

Leaders will choose multi-cloud strategies to avoid dependence on a singular cloud provider and mitigate the risk of a single point of failure so to reduce impact and financial risk across the entire enterprise. In a time when security threats are at their greatest, leveraging two or more service providers will greatly decrease the risk of disaster during downtime.

Public and private cloud—hard to tell where one ends and the next begins

We’re reaching a turning point for organizations to migrate critical workloads to public cloud as business leaders strive to stay ahead in digital transformation with faster access to emerging technologies, on-demand capacity and unlimited scalability. And with the public cloud entering the data center through solutions like Amazon Relational Database Service, the rigid line between public and private cloud is slowly being diminished.

So, with the cloud world no longer being simple black or white, how will we adjust to this new ‘grey scale’ commoditized cloud world? Fundamentally, APIs and control plans will become increasingly more important, and strategies will need to focus on when and where streams are being run and who is managing them. IT management will need to have a clear plan in determining what should be outsourced and create a contingency plan for when adjustments need to be made.

Heterogeneous cloud will extend on premise

The public cloud is inevitably permeating the data center through AWS Outposts and Azure Stack—on-premise solutions which transport providers’ software stacks into customer data centers—and will have an impact on heterogeneous cloud. Historically, bringing the public cloud into the data center has been impacted by two impediments 1) cost of networking and 2) gravity of data. With these offerings, organizations will now be able to run platform services that are in applications directly within their own data centers (as opposed to across providers). This shift coincides with advancements of microservices (e.g. RDS on top of VMWare) that will eliminate the cost of networking and gravity of data issues.

Virtual machines vs. containers? It’s not either—it’s both

This year at re:Invent, Amazon announced Amazon Firecracker, the company’s first ever open source project. The introduction of Amazon Firecracker was not only a milestone moment for Amazon, but also signals a new wave of solutions to help end the age old (okay, maybe not THAT old) debate of virtual machines vs. containers. Firecracker is a new virtualization technology that allows users to launch lightweight micro-virtual machines (microVMs) in non-virtualized environments in a fraction of a second. This means organizations can take advantage of both the security and workload isolation provided by traditional VMs and the resource efficiency that comes along with containers. I foresee more microVMs will enter the market over this next year, proving that in the battle of virtual machines vs. containers, it’s not either—it’s both.

The conflict between governance and agility

 IT governance is intertwined with business goals and policies, and how an organization uses the cloud will be affected by their level of involvement and risk around governance. And today, there are no real standards for governance as there are numerous management point tools that offer different insights.

The success of cloud services is often a double-edged sword as the public cloud is advancing at an accelerated rate and much faster than pre-cloud business services, which inevitably brings us to a standstill. There is a surge in demand, but organizations do not have the capacity to fulfill expectations when it comes to security, reliability, operability and governance. 

New cloud technologies are changing the nature of services and in turn, are creating new governance and compliance challenges for enterprises. Moving to a new cloud system will require redefined roles and capabilities, and looking ahead, this oversight and management could become an impediment to an organization’s ability to move forward and evolve. As businesses strive to innovate, creating complex services in a timely manner while minimizing the potential risks could become very difficult.

Like the weather, the accuracy of technology predictions can change with the wind. I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry will continue to challenge one another and how business demands will force continuous innovation. While we can’t be 100% sure of what tomorrow’s forecast will bring, I have no doubt that the future will remain cloudy.