My cloud computing predictions for 2014

The year 2013 is coming to an end and it is once again time to look into the crystal ball for the next year. To this end, I’ve picked out ten topics that I believe will be relevant in the cloud area.

1. The AWS vs. OpenStack API discussion will never end

This prediction is also valid for the years 2015, 2016, etc. It sounds like fun at first. However, these discussions are annoying. OpenStack has more important issues to address than the never-ending comparisons with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Especially since the troubles constantly come from outside, that does not help. If the OpenStack API is supposed to be 100% compatible with the AWS API, then OpenStack can be renamed in Eucalyptus!

The OpenStack community must find its own way and make it possible for service providers, away from the industry leader AWS, to be able to build up their own offerings. However, this mammoth task is again only in the hands of the provider. Eventually, OpenStack is just a large construction kit for building cloud computing infrastructures. What happens at the end (business model) is not the task of the OpenStack community.

Read more: “Caught in a gilded cage. OpenStack providers are trapped.

2. Security gets more weight

Regardless of the recent NSA scandal, the security and confidence of (public) cloud providers have always been questioned. In the course of this (public) cloud providers are better positioned to provide desired data protection than most of the world’s businesses. This is partly due to the extensive resources (hardware, software, data center and staff) that can be invested in the development of strong security solutions. In addition, as data protection is part of (public) cloud providers’ core business, its administration by the provider can ensure smoother and safer operations.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. This applies to both private and business environments. The hard-won confidence of the recent years is being put to the test and the provider would do well to open further. “Security through obscurity” is an outdated concept. The customers need and want more clarity about what is happening with their data. This will vary depending on the world’s region. But at least in Europe, customers will continually put their providers to the test.

Read more: “How to protect companies’ data from surveillance in the cloud?

3. Private cloud remains attractive

The private cloud is financially and in terms of resource allocation (scalability, flexibility) not the most attractive form of cloud. Nevertheless, it is, despite the predictions of some market researchers, not losing its significance. On the contrary, here, despite the cost pressures, the sensitivity of the decision makers who want retain control and sovereignty over the data and systems is underestimated. This is also reflected in recent figures from Crisp Research. According to this, only about 210 million euros were spent on public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in Germany in 2013. By contrast, investment for private cloud infrastructure has exceeded 2.3 billion euros.

A recent study by Forrester also shows:

“From […] over 2,300 IT hardware buyers, […] about 55% plan to build an internal private cloud within the next 12 months.”

This does not mean that Germany has to be the land of private clouds. Finally, it’s always about the specific workload and use case, which is running in a private or public cloud. But there is clear trend towards a further form of cloud computing usage in the future.

4. Welcome hosted private cloud

After Salesforce has also jumped on the train, it is clear that enterprise customers can not make friends with the use of a pure public cloud. In cooperation with HP, Salesforce has announced a dedicated version of its cloud offering – “Salesforce Superpod”.

This extreme change in Salesforce strategy confirms our results from the exploration of the European cloud market. Companies are interested in cloud computing and its properties (scalability, flexibility or pay-per-use). However, they admit to themselves that they do not have the knowledge and time, nor is it their core business to operate IT systems; they instead let the cloud provider take care of this, expecting a flexible type of managed services. Public cloud providers are not prepared for this, because their business is to provide highly standardized infrastructure, platforms, applications and services. The remedy is that the provider secures specially certified system integrators alongside.

Here is an opportunity for providers of business clouds. Cloud providers that do not offer a public cloud model, can on the basis of managed services help the customer find the way to master the cloud and can take over the operations, supplying an “everything from one source” service offer. This typically does not happen on shared infrastructure but within a hosted private cloud or a dedicated cloud where a customer is explicitly in an isolated area. Professional services round off the portfolio with integration, interfaces and development. Due to the exclusivity and higher safety (usually physical isolation), business clouds are more expensive than public clouds. However, considering the effort that a company must make to operate itself in one or another public cloud to actually be successful or in getting the help of a certified system integrator, then the public cloud cost advantage is almost eliminated.

5. Hybrid cloud remains the continuous burner

The hybrid cloud is always a hot topic during the discussions about the future of the cloud. But it is real. Worldwide, the public cloud is initially mainly used to get access to resources and systems easily and conveniently in the short term. In the long run, this will form into a hybrid cloud, by IT departments that bring their own infrastructure to the level of a public cloud (scalability, self-service, etc.) to serve their internal customers. In Germany and Europe, it is exactly the opposite. Here private clouds are preferred, because the topics privacy and data security have a top priority. Europeans must and will get used to the public cloud to connect certain components – even some critical systems – to a public cloud.

The hybrid cloud is about the mobility of the data. This means that the data are rather held locally in an own infrastructure environment, shifted to another cloud for processing, e.g. public cloud, then being placed back within the local infrastructure. This must not always refer to the same cloud of a provider, but depending on the cost, service level and requirements more clouds are involved in the process.

6. Multi-cloud is reality

The topic of multi-cloud is currently highly debated, especially in IaaS context, with the ultimate goal being to spread the risk and take advantage of the costs and benefits of different cloud infrastructures. But even in the SaaS environment the subject must necessarily become of greater importance to avoid data silos and isolated applications in the future, to simplify the integration and to support companies in their adaptation of their best-of-breed strategies.

Notwithstanding these expectations, the multi-cloud use is already reality in companies using multiple cloud solutions from many different vendors, even if the services are not yet (fully) integrated.

Read more: “Multi-Cloud is “The New Normal”“.

7. Mobile cloud finally arrives

Meanwhile, there are providers who have discovered the mobile cloud slogan for their marketing. Much too late. The fact is that, since the introduction of the first smartphones, we are living in a mobile cloud world. The majority of all data and information, which we can access from smartphones and tablets, are no longer on the local device but on a server in the cloud.

Solutions such as Amazon WorkSpaces or Amazon AppStream support this trend. Even if companies are still careful with the outsourcing of desktops, Amazon WorkSpaces will strengthen this trend, from which also vendors such as Citrix and VMware will benefit. Amazon AppStream underlines the mobile cloud to the full extent by graphic-intensive applications and games that are processed entirely in the cloud and only streamed to the device.

Read more: “The importance of mobile and cloud-based ways of working continues to grow“.

8. Hybrid PaaS is the top trend

The importance of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is steadily increasing. Observations and discussions with vendors that have found no remedy against Amazon AWS in the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environment so far show that they will expand their pure compute and storage offerings vertically with a PaaS and thus try to win the favor of the developer.

Other trends show that private PaaS and hosted private PaaS try to gain market share. With the Application Lifecycle Engine, cloudControl has enclosed its public PaaS in a private PaaS that enterprises can use to operate an own PaaS in a self-managed infrastructure. In addition, a bridge to a hybrid PaaS can be spanned. IaaS provider Pironet NDH has adapted the Windows Azure Pack from Microsoft to offer on this basis an Azure PaaS in a hosted private environment. This is interesting, since it closes the gap between a public and a private PaaS. With a private PaaS companies have the complete control over the environment, but they also need to build and manage it. Within a hosted version, the provider takes care of it.

9. Partner ecosystems become more important

Public cloud providers should increasingly take care to build a high quality network of partners and ISVs to pave the way for customers to the cloud. This means that the channel should be strongly embraced to address a broader base of customers who are potential candidates for the cloud. However, the channel will struggle with the problem of finding enough well-trained staff for the age of the cloud.

10. Cloud computing becomes easier

In 2014 more offerings will appear on the market, making the use of cloud computing easier. With these offers, the “side issues” of availability and scalability need to be given less attention. Instead, cloud users can focus on their own core competencies and invest their energy into developing the actual application.

An example: Infrastructure-as-a-service market leader Amazon AWS says that IT departments using the AWS public cloud no longer need to take care about the procurement and maintenance of the necessary physical infrastructure. However, the complexity has shifted to a higher level. Even if numerous tutorials and white papers already exist, AWS does not stress upon the fact that scalability and availability within a scale-out cloud infrastructure can be arbitrarily complicated. These are costs that should never be neglected.

Hint: (Hosted) Community Clouds

I see a growing potential for the community cloud (more in German), which currently has no wide distribution. In this context, I also see a shift from a currently pronounced centralization to a semi-decentralized nature.

Most companies and organizations see in the public cloud a great advantage and want to benefit in order to reduce costs, to consolidate IT and equally get more scalability and flexibility. On the other hand, future-proof, trust, independence and control are important “artifacts” that no one would like to give up.

The community cloud is the medium to achieve both. It combines the future-proof, trust, independency and control characteristics with the benefits of a public cloud that come from a real cloud infrastructure.

Some solutions that can be used as a basis for creating own professional clouds already exist. However, one should always keep close watch on the basic infrastructure that forms the backbone of the entire cloud. In this context, one should not underestimate the effort it takes to build, properly operate and maintain a professional cloud environment. Furthermore, the cost of the required physical resources needs to be calculated.

For this reason, for many small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as shared offices, co-working spaces or regular project partnerships, it makes sense to consider the community cloud. This type of cloud environment will offer the benefits of the public cloud (shared environment) while providing the future-proof, trust, independence and control requirements, alongside cost advantages that can be achieved among others by dynamic resource allocation. For this purpose, one should think about building a team that exclusively takes care of the installation, operations, administration and maintenance of the community cloud. In this case, the availability of own data center or a co-location is not a prerequisite. Instead, an IaaS provider can serve as an ideal partner for a hosted community cloud.