It’s fair to say that the cloud is fast-approaching the tipping point as the dominant means of deploying enterprise infrastructure. But while the broad outlines are coming into view, the exact architecture and the host’s location are still very much “up in the air.”
The latest estimate on cloud deployments came from 451 Research this week, which pegged the current cloud workload at about 41 percent of the enterprise total with a likely rise to 60 percent by the middle of 2018. In breaking down the numbers, the firm noted that the majority of deployments are taking place on private clouds and public SaaS infrastructure, and that going forward the private side will see largely flat growth while SaaS will jump by 23 percent. As well, IaaS deployments, currently only 6 percent of the total, will double to 12 percent in the next two years.
While this is good news for public cloud service providers, it by no means supports the notion of some in the industry that on-premises infrastructure is doomed. As the size and cost of hardware come down, organizations should find that capex and opex of local resources will not be nearly as burdensome as they are today. And with their own modular systems supporting scalable private clouds, enterprises should be able to blunt the more ominous trend among knowledge workers these days: the preference for so-called shadow IT. According to the Ponemon Institute, a good half of all cloud services holding corporate data today are not governed or even vetted by IT departments.
Clearly, however, the enterprise is going to have to come to terms with the public cloud. This won’t be as easy as it sounds because, as Oracle’s Chuck Hollis noted on Forbes recently, it’s not the technology nor the security that prevents most CIOs from pulling the trigger, but the processes. The fact is, most public clouds do not support enterprise workloads as they are now. This forces organizations to recreate their processes and procedures for an entirely new environment – something most business executives are extremely loath to do. Offloading unimportant data is one thing; replacing a tried-and-true sales management platform in the cloud is something else, especially when all of the migration, integration and other transitional factors are taken into account.
Unfortunately, economic pressures are likely to force most enterprise hands sooner rather than later. New cloud- and mobile-facing business models like Uber and Airbnb provide easier and less expensive services to an increasingly tech-savvy customer, and companies that do not move in the same direction are sure to suffer. As HPE’s Mark Potter points out on InfoWorld, the natural inclination to preserve the status quo is a real danger to future productivity when forward-leaning companies like Google and Facebook are building their business models around “breaking things.” This is why companies like HPE advocate hybrid clouds, which afford the highest degree of flexibility when it comes to deploying new services without disrupting the old. (Disclosure: I provide content services to HPE.)
Whenever something new comes along, it is hard to view it in terms of the possibilities it presents rather than immediate problems it purportedly solves. In the cloud, too much of the focus to date has been on how it provides a more flexible, cheaper alternative to the expensive, silo-ridden data center. What the enterprise industry really needs to do is recognize that the cloud is not just a better way to support legacy applications and workloads, but a means to remake the business model around entirely new applications and workloads.
Many start-ups have already accepted this notion, and they are not waiting until the rest of the business world catches on.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.