How does the typical enterprise view the cloud, and will a consensus ever emerge as to how clouds are to be architected and utilized?
Believe it or not, we are still very early in the cloud transition, and the truth of the matter is, we could be a good two to three years away from seeing the cloud firmly established as the dominant form of IT infrastructure. In that time, expect to see a myriad of platforms, architectures, service configurations and other advancements, many of which will fail to gain traction or emerge as hot prospects only to fade over time.
But if you could take a snapshot right now, what would be the dominant themes within the cloud computing movement, and do they have the stuff to stand the test of time?
Multi-cloud strategy would be a pretty safe bet. According to RightScale, more than 80 percent of enterprises have plans to distribute workloads across multiple clouds, up nearly 10 percent over 2014. More than half plan to use hybrid architectures, while about 27 percent are looking at either multiple private or multiple public cloud deployments. This is backed up by 451 Research, which estimates that more than half of the enterprise workload will occupy either a hybrid or private cloud configuration by 2017.
Not all of the news is good, however. According to Enterprise Strategy Group, 57 percent of IT executives report security operations becoming more difficult in the cloud, particularly in hybrid deployments. Issues range from more complicated firewall management to an inability to monitor and shield application deployments and challenges related to policy development and enforcement. In many instances, the lack of an automated security apparatus becomes a key inhibitor to the continued deployment of dynamic applications and services, and this is likely to continue as the number of network-connected devices and other facets of the Internet of Things come online.
But perhaps more important than how the cloud is being built and secured is how it is being employed. By and large, it seems that the new infrastructure is seen as the basis for a new generation of enterprise applications and services. SkyHigh Networks recently surveyed more than 15 million cloud users across 350 enterprises and found that cloud service adoption is up 43 percent in the past year. But even more intriguing is the fact that development and collaborative services are among the leading drivers of cloud adoption, with companies like GitHub and SourceFource seeing growth as high as 97 percent. By contrast, traditional applications like Office 356 and Gmail are growing at half that rate.
And it seems that some applications are ripe for an overhaul as the cloud either simplifies keys functions or makes them obsolete. A prime example is Enterprise Content Management (ECM) which, according to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), is failing to keep up with advanced services like file sharing. Even though enterprises have deployed a plethora of ECM solutions over the years, more than 60 percent report low user adoption, primarily because similar capabilities are already embedded in the cloud. At the same time, many legacy ECM platforms fail to provide adequate oversight of email and other unstructured sources that are increasingly seen as integral to emerging analytics capabilities.
Trying to nail down the future direction of the cloud is like trying to grab a fly with tweezers. Before you even start your attempt, the target has flown off in a new direction.
But eventually things will settle down. The enterprise has proven highly adept at fostering what works and shedding what doesn’t, even if sometimes it takes a little time to see the difference.
There probably won’t be a single cloud model, but there should be plenty of leeway for enterprises to fail and then rebuild.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.