State of the cloud today

Adoption of cloud is rising rapidly and across a wide variety of industries, while cloud architecture has been re-envisioned and re-designed according to software-centric principles. This stage in the development of cloud computing is impacting the industry in critical ways. To understand the impact, we need to examine the context and features of the cloud as it stands today.

Firstly, more budget has been allocated for IT to empower the business. In an IDC survey of end-users on their adoption of and plan for cloud services in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, CIOs across Asia indicated that expenditure on public cloud services and technologies was set to increase by 50% to US$7.5 billion in 2013.

The survey also indicated that the share of IT spending on cloud technologies and services is likely to increase significantly in 2015 – the number of respondents who indicated that they would not be allocating any budget to cloud dropped from 22% in 2013 to just 1% in 2015.

This expansion of budget can be seen as an evolution in the role of IT, which therefore demands a shift in IT mentality. IT leaders today need to adopt the mindset that they are business leaders and educators. Given the paramount role that technology plays across business units and departments, IT now assumes a pivotal role in business operations and outcomes. To rise to the challenge, IT leaders must build and grow relationships with their stakeholders and develop a thorough understanding of the specific needs of business units adopting cloud – while educating them in how cloud can simplify their day-to-day tasks.

In this regard, cloud providers must also tailor customer service to the diverse needs of their customers. Just like the IT department, cloud providers should have a deep understanding of their customers’ business objectives and challenges in order to deliver the optimal technological solution.

Secondly, the traditional physical elements of the data center are continuously migrating towards software-defined models. According to global market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global software-defined data center market is expected to grow to US$5.41 billion in 2018 from an estimated US$396.1 million in 2013. The software-defined model gives customers greater control over their workloads and helps facilitate predictable performance — a key benefit that was noticeably missing from cloud services in the past and prevented customers from receiving the best value for their investment. This level of control, flexibility and ROI is only the beginning.

Thirdly, cloud hardware is moving towards a commodity platform that is intended to fail in place rather than have a level of resiliency. In this context, commodity platform refers to white labeled hardware that is not from an industry name such as HP, Cisco, Dell, etc. These platforms are becoming more popular in cloud provider environments because of density and low cost.  The term ‘fail in place’ refers to allowing hardware to fail while the hypervisor moves the guest operating system away from the failed hardware to a functional location. Availability of the guest operating system and application is improved because the incident is reduced to the relocation of workload versus repair of hardware.

Additionally, in the past, everything had to have a mate for resiliency to occur: two network cards, two storage controllers, redundant fans, etc.  This was all held within a server chassis which was expensive to maintain and took up a lot of space. However, in the current software-defined environment, modern clouds have taken away a lot of the physical bulk with software and virtual components. As such, redundancy at the compute level has been reduced from the server level to the chassis level. For the customer, this is more of a cultural change than anything else.

With mobile applications and 24/7 commerce driving higher levels of availability, modern services now do not solely rely on the presence of multiple physical devices in a single location. In this aspect, services that are aware of changing availability patterns and can migrate workloads to different data centers or geographic locations provide an advantage to the 21st century business leader.

Lastly, security is increasingly taking centre stage as more enterprises move mission-critical applications to cloud environments. With IDC indicating that the Asian storage software market is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2017, there is much at stake in terms of data, and it is understandable that worries about data protection persist. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, encryption protects data in the cloud and can be deployed in different forms to match the cloud environment.  There are multiple methods for encrypting data in the cloud – from full disk encryption to hypervisor based encryption and everything in between. Encryption can mitigate risks in specific use cases and offer great options for businesses unable to hire full-time security talent.

In conclusion, as we examine the current context and features of the cloud today such as the ability to empower business, the gradual migration to software-defined models, the shift away from resiliency and the increasing importance of security, we can better understand how it will impact the industry. Given the rapid development of cloud computing, it is critical for CIOs to respond and act accordingly to ensure that the potential of the cloud is fully tapped for the business. 

John Hines is Area Vice President, South Asia and India, Verizon Enterprise Solutions