6 trends shaping IT cloud strategies today

From multi-cloud strategies to cost containment and container orchestration, CIOs are getting more pragmatic and prudent when taking advantage of the cloud’s economies of scale.

cloud trends ts

Cloud computing has become the de facto platform on which enterprises are fueling digital transformations and modernizing IT portfolios. Organizations are increasingly finding business agility or cost savings by renting software through vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google and IBM. 

The global public cloud market will hit $178 billion this year, up from $146 billion in 2017, according to Forrester Research. Public cloud adoption in enterprises will cross 50 percent for the first time. With so many large organizations offloading compute resources to focus on strategic digital initiatives, the tipping point was inevitable.

Here CIO.com looks at the key trends shaping cloud adoption today.

Rise of multi-cloud

The days of enterprises dabbling in AWS are dwindling. CIOs are hedging their bets but dropping applications into two and sometimes three public clouds. For example, Honeywell is using IBM and Microsoft Azure, and General Electric and Accenture both consume AWS and Azure services.

Lauren Nelson, a Forrester Research analyst who tracks the cloud market, says CFOs are encouraging this approach to avoid putting too many apps in a single cloud basket to keep their options open. "They want to remain vendor-neutral to mitigate vendor lock-in," Nelson says.

But this remains easier said than done. While compute and storage is often similar between providers — conversion tools help companies move data from one cloud to another — the issue gets murkier where networking, application and developer services are concerned, Nelson says. Enterprises would do well to use templates that ensure portability of applications and data between vendors.

Forrester recommends CIOs conduct a thorough lock-in risk/reward analysis, and build a risk mitigation plan.

CIOs getting serious about disaster recovery

Enterprises traditionally operate multiple data centers that provide redundancy for most critical applications running on premises. That approach has yet to translate to public cloud computing services, increasing the risk of an outage having disastrous consequences to your business.

Jake Burns, vice president of cloud services for Live Nation, says many companies aren't backing up services they run in the cloud. But that will change in 2018, as more CIOs acknowledge the importance of the virtual safety net. CIOs will adopt multi-cloud strategies, running copies of their software with several cloud vendors, or run applications in more than one data center of their cloud providers.

"Understanding this concept and putting in countermeasures to protect against that is going to be a big trend by the end of this year," Burns says. DR costs can soar easily, so budget accordingly.

Cloud security: No longer a bolt-on

For the past several years, data protection, encryption and workload security automation and monitoring have largely been add-on services in cloud systems. Forrester's Nelson says that cloud vendors will offer much more integrated alternatives for cloud security that can augment or replace point solutions.

What hasn’t changed: Vendors maintain a need-to-know-only stance on cybersecurity, providing customers little assurance that they are doing what they claim to do, says Nelson. She adds that CIOs have a legitimate fear of loss of brand reputation in the event of a breach.

As a result, Forrester recommends applying a "zero-trust" security model within and across cloud platforms. Ask vendors what guarantees they provide that their solutions work across IaaS, PaaS and SaaS platforms, and how they can replace third-party tools with IaaS/PaaS native monitoring or SaaS native encryption, paying attention to full control of encryption keys, data sovereignty and privacy. "Pursue a zero-trust security model regardless, as a hedge against breaches outside your domain of control," Nelson says.

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,” says Forrester analyst Dave Bartoletti. He says 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.

Container orchestration gets real

Adoption of containers, which enable developers to manage and easily migrate software code, caught fire in the past few years, underpinning many companies’ cloud computing and DevOps efforts. But as testing and proof-of-concepts gave way to production, enterprises found they needed to orchestrate the deployment of containers.

Enter Kubernetes, a Google-forged platform that Forrester predicts will dominate container orchestration. “Kubernetes will win the battle for container orchestration over Docker’s built-in swarm mode and Apache Mesos — in much the same way Docker won the battle over container runtime and format in 2015,” Forrester explains in a cloud trends report.

But Kubernetes skills are in short supply, and Forrester recommends CIOs who haven’t already done so craft a plan for container orchestration. This include what you need to learn, who you need to train, and what outcomes your development and infrastructure teams hope to accomplish.

Cloud culture club

To fully leverage the value of faster software delivery, many organizations are revamping their developer culture, including instituting agile and DevOps methods to help take advantage of the agility and scalablity the cloud offers. Forrester recommends CIOs identify IT leaders to help drive culture change around and cloud, and who will send engineers to training programs such as IBM Bluemix Garage, Pivotal Labs and Red Hat Innovation Centers, among others.

"These programs help break old habits, reinforce desired behaviors, and improve developer focus," Forrester wrote in a report. "If your cloud objectives depend heavily on developing code quickly, at scale, using the most-innovative new platforms and tools, you will need to change your development culture first — and it’s not easy."

Related cloud computing articles:

NEW! Download the Winter 2018 digital edition of CIO magazine