As a buzzword, it seems the term “cloud” is here to stay. But as a novel new way to build and provision data resources, the cloud is quickly moving into the IT mainstream to the point where it will soon be the standard means of data interaction.
Verizon is the latest to point this out, noting in its latest market research that the technology has become so ubiquitous that it is now part of the normal operating pattern at many organizations across the globe. The report, culled from data collected by leading research houses such as 451 Research, Forrester and Gartner, indicates that nearly two-thirds of enterprises are on the cloud in one form or another and that spending on cloud infrastructure and services is increasing at nearly a 40 percent annual clip. And perhaps most significantly, more than 70 percent of enterprises are expecting to use their clouds for external-facing production applications by 2017, blunting the notion that the cloud is deemed unfit for mission-critical functions.
Already, the cloud accounts for more than half of all data center traffic, according to Cisco, and that is expected to climb to 76 percent by 2018. Much of the activity so far has focused on the development of private clouds, but now that familiarity with the technology is at a critical point, expect to see broader adoption of public resources, which will ultimately evolve into hybrid cloud platforms providing highly scalable, federated data infrastructure.
Rather than talking about how enterprises will adopt “the cloud” over the next few years, perhaps it is time to shift the conversation to what kind of cloud will prove most beneficial. Forbes’ Mike Kavis expects broader deployment of Platform as a Service (PaaS) architectures now that most organizations are finishing up the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) component. Feedback from his clients suggests that interest in PaaS is at a fever pitch, either layered atop existing IaaS architecture or built around new virtualization techniques like containers. This will naturally lead to broad use of cloud-based dev/ops, the success or failure of which will ultimately determine if the cloud has been a true success for the enterprise or just another passing fancy.
And the most unusual aspect of all this is that we still don’t have a clear idea of the ultimate cost of the cloud. Expectations are high that leasing cloud resources will be cheaper than building them, but as Cloud Technology Partners’ David Linthicum points out, there are many ways in which hidden expenses can come back to bite you. For instance, TCO that can be easily calculated in a stable data center environment can be all over the map when applied to a dynamic cloud environment. As well, few organizations appreciate the cost of cloud-savvy IT personnel who command premium wages due to the high demand for their services. And with issues like governance and security usually thrown in after the cloud architecture has been implemented, it isn’t unheard of for costs to be 20 or even 30 percent higher than initial expectations.
In the end, though, you can’t really tell how cold the water is until you jump in, even if you stick your toe in first. The cloud will undoubtedly deal its fair share of surprises to the enterprise over the coming decade, but it is still the most promising technology to come along in a generation.
It would be nice if the road ahead was crystal clear, but unfortunately that is the nature of the business we find ourselves in.
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.