2013: The Next Frontier of Cloud

Cover Story

2013: The Next Frontier of Cloud

By Erin Harrison, Executive Editor, Cloud Computing  |  October 16, 2012

This article originally appeared in Cloud Computing Magazine Q4 2012

By many accounts, 2012 was the year cloud moved past the hype phase into the adoption stage. In fact, cloud computing is expected to grow 19 percent in 2012, becoming a $109-billion industry compared to a $91-billion market last year, according to Gartner (News - Alert).

Certainly it can’t be disputed that more cloud implementations are occurring across industries, all over the world, but many IT decision makers still need convincing that shifting away from on-premises computing is the way to go.

One of the biggest drivers of cloud is the growth of data, which is doubling at a rate of every two years, according to IDC (News - Alert). As movement to cloud environments triggers increasing demand for a place for all of that data to reside, the biggest segment of cloud adoption is cloud storage. The total number of subscriptions to cloud-based storage services is set to reach more than half a billion by the end of the year, according to research firm IHS (News - Alert).

In the next 10-12 months, cloud storage use will expand by 25 percent, and by 2017, the firm forecasts a whopping 1.3 billion users will subscribe to some sort of cloud storage platform.

Predictions aside, IT needs to prepare for how cloud is changing the IT infrastructure as 2013 will be the year when companies buckle down and tackle the operational issues of cloud computing. In fact, many industry experts maintain cloud remains in the experiential stages of growth, and that there is no evidence that cloud has moved past the hype phase.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that cloud is moving past the hype phase. That said, there are a range of operational issues that require attention,” Cloudscaling CTO Randy Bias recently told Cloud Computing. “One basket of issues revolves the HR and organizational changes that elastic cloud demands. IT departments have to learn how to support business units that, more and more, will be controlling the app dev budgets and calling the shots.”

In its annual Hype Cycle report, which was released in late summer, Gartner said “confusion remains the norm” about the cloud computing industry.

“Many misconceptions exist around potential benefits, pitfalls and, of course, cost savings. Cloud is often part of cost-cutting discussions, even though its ability to cut costs is not a given,” according to the report. “There are also many reasons to talk about the capabilities enabled by cloud computing: agility, speed and innovation. These are the potential benefits that can be overlooked if hype fatigue sets in.”

However, software giant Oracle (News - Alert) contends cloud is quickly moving beyond the early adopter stage and toward the mainstream. The driving force is not the cost savings professed by cloud evangelists, but rather the business agility benefits cloud can bring to organizations, according to Rex Wang, vice president of product marketing at Oracle.

“About a third of our customers are already using cloud computing in some way, and more are developing their own cloud adoption plans. While cost savings was the most common driver for cloud computing, today faster innovation and greater business agility is getting the attention of business and IT leaders,” he said. “Many of our most forward-thinking customers are leveraging cloud-based solutions to deliver better customer service, build products faster, operate more efficiently, and enable greater access and more effective collaboration.”

If 2012 was the year of adoption for cloud, 2013 is poised to be the year of second-generation cloud, or “Cloud 2.0,” according to Bob Rizika, CEO at ProfitBricks U.S., which launched its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) in July.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company, founded in Berlin, Germany in 2010, claims it can increase the size of servers on demand – scaling up vertically – rather than invoking the usual public infrastructure technique of scaling out horizontally, adding more virtual server nodes.

“Next year, you are going to hear a lot about the software defined network – prior to 2013, you had to build your infrastructure from what was available – 2013 is going to be the year you are going to be able to build it,” Rizika told Cloud Computing.

Public, Private & Hybrid

In terms of cloud models, it’s becoming clear that companies won’t adopt a single cloud deployment model, but instead they will use a combination of various cloud services. The ability to manage this hybrid environment will be the difference between success and failure. With hybrid, enterprises get the best of the physical world – performance, stability, reliability – coupled with the best of the cloud – rapid deployment, scalable, consumption-based billing.

Currently, however, there is greater adoption of private clouds over public clouds, according to Wang. Both are growing, he says, but public clouds are growing faster than private. 

“We see adoption of SaaS (News - Alert) applications continuing to grow rapidly, and we have also seen a sharp increase in PaaS for developers building new apps or extensions to existing apps. IaaS continues to be popular, and there are new entrants in this space, so they need to differentiate themselves,” said Wang.

Many organizations have a multi-phase plan to adopt cloud, so it’s important for cloud solutions to coexist and integrate with legacy solutions, he adds.

“Companies are also finding that they will adopt solutions from multiple clouds, because up to this point in time there has been no single cloud that delivers all the necessary functionality, so organizations will need to integrate across multiple clouds and their on-premise systems as well,” Wang explained.

Hybrid is positioned to take major steps forward in the year ahead, according to Bias.

“Progress can be seen in the emergence of open source alternatives that give enterprises and service providers legitimate alternatives to the walled gardens of virtualization cloud vendors,” he said. “You see this in the growth of OpenStack, the growth of Eucalyptus, and the attempt to jump on the open bandwagon by CloudStack.”

Meanwhile, BlueStripe Software is seeing IT organizations getting a handle on security and deployment concerns for their cloud projects, but those problems are well down the path of being solved. IT is struggling with deployments of large complex systems when it comes to managing the end-to-end infrastructure of supporting those applications, according to BlueStripe Software COO and cofounder Vic Nyman.

BlueStripe provides an application performance management platform that gives IT visibility into what IT components make up important business applications, where the application transactions go in those systems, exactly where transactions are spending time and why.

“As the next waves of private and hybrid cloud projects arrive for more and more important business applications, enterprise IT teams are demanding management controls for availability and reliability that match then needs of their businesses: not only 24/7 availability, but also 24/7 good customer experience,” Nyman explained. “More important, they are demanding the ability to manage the availability and performance of user interactions against the infrastructure supporting them.”

Roadblocks Ahead: Security & Education

Security and quality of service continue to be the most commonly cited concerns for public clouds, and there have been several breaches this year, Wang notes. 

“It goes without saying that whether on premise or in a public cloud, data and applications must be safe, secure and highly available. First generation clouds often outsource the management of their cloud applications to a third party and rely on multiple partners to complete their solution,” he explained. “Understanding who has access to your data and having the ability to quickly isolate a problem if something goes wrong can therefore be a big challenge. Customers gain greater confidence when solutions are delivered by a single vendor with all the technology pieces, know-how and accountability to deliver true enterprise grade cloud solutions.”

Security questions will be answered incrementally over time as successful deployments continue to take hold, according to Bias.

“There will be setbacks, and each will have bad PR associated with it. It’s just going to take some time,” said Bias. “The biggest macro trend we see in 2013 is the growth of elastic infrastructure cloud as a preferred cloud model to address future needs in the enterprise.”

The success of cloud technologies in general has led to real projects for enterprise IT organizations mostly in the form of private cloud and hybrid cloud projects where they are placing important revenue and transaction-based applications on these new platforms, Nyman adds.

The challenge is that these business applications are large, complex and interconnected. The problem set expands from basic cloud deployment and utilization to how tens, hundreds, and thousands of these systems are interacting in the cloud, he says.

“Imagine an end user problem who is experiencing slow performance. Now, imagine the IT support team who has to track down where the problem is occurring across thousands of components in new cloud technology that is designed to separate the application from the systems: it’s a support team’s nightmare,” Nyman explained. “In order for private cloud and hybrid cloud technologies to succeed, they will have to have the reliability and availability management at least as good as the platforms they are trying to replace.”

Another challenge that needs to be addressed is education, according to Bias.

“CIOs are beginning to see the need for an on-premise elastic infrastructure in addition to their virtualized infrastructure, but they don't know how to get there,” Bias said. “Ideally, they need an elastic infrastructure that is compatible with a public elastic cloud, not only in APIs but in architecture. This is only now becoming possible, and the market need to be educated about how to get there.”

The true measurements of moving past the hype phase will be when IT teams begin to deploy business critical applications to the new cloud platforms and not just secondary and supporting applications, according to Nyman.

“The most important issue is to realize that just because cloud abstracted the application away from the underlying platform that it didn’t absolve the support teams of dealing with underlying platform issues causing end user application problems. If anything, cloud technologies raise the bar on that challenge,” he said. “In 2013, IT organizations will have to adopt transaction and service-oriented approaches to management and monitoring that can follow the end user issues across any platform being used: physical servers, hybrid cloud or public cloud.”

Edited by Braden Becker
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