If there is one recommendation for today’s corporate CIOs, it’s this: buckle up and get ready for a longer and more aggressive trip into the clouds. Speak to any industry analyst who covers cloud computing and the trend lines show that the consumption of cloud services is only going to grow over the coming years. In recent analyst reports, experts expect that almost half of IT spending will be on cloud-based tech through 2018, with that number reaching nearly three-quarters by 2020. Similarly, analysts speculate that more than half of enterprises will have fully articulated an organization-wide digital transformation platform strategy by 2020, with the cloud acting as a central component for those initiatives. Let’s take a look at a few cloud trends that we expect to come into play for 2019 and beyond.
#1: As a Service, As You Wish
Driven by cost models, easier access, scalability and the shift toward a more opex-centric model, it’s obvious that the number of cloud-based offerings in public and private sectors will grow in 2019. We expect to see more organizations take advantage of the simplicity and high-performance that the cloud guarantees. For telecom operators, this includes the potential of shifting what have traditionally been in-house business models - either homegrown or supported third-party vendors - to a cloud-based as-a-service model.
Look at traditional business support systems, for example, which either reside in-house or are supported by a third party via a managed services model. The next iteration is the move to the cloud, in which critical transactions infrastructure sits in the cloud. This shift allows operators to launch new cloud-centric services, such as B2B offerings, SD-WAN and other services in as little as 8 weeks. Compared to the traditional 6-12 months that were required with a self-deployed solution and the business outcome for the cloud is clear.
#2: Living on the Edge
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By moving up the value chain beyond the cloud, the industry is already starting to look beyond the centralized nature of where the cloud is today. It hasn’t taken long for a large percentage of cloud computing transactions to become monopolized by so few business entities. Today, service providers, media companies and enterprises rely on just four companies for the majority of their infrastructure compute, storage and related machine learning functions. Because there are a few 800-lb gorillas maintaining dominance in the centralized cloud computing arena, the edge is where things actually start to get interesting.
Users get better performance or experiences when the transaction nature or delivery is managed near the source of the data, rather than hundreds of miles away from a large data center; this is where edge computing comes into play. Most digital operators have already invested time, labor and equipment upgrades to ensure that last-mile broadband delivery is ready for new digital services. Bringing the computing power to the edge helps ensure that all connected devices like digital assistants and AR/VR gaming systems, as well as video security, IoT or OTT services can be supported effectively. Managing the tremendous amount of static data will inevitably become the growth engine for new services, including expanded enterprise cloud applications and other B2B services infrastructure markets.
#3: Hybrid Cloud is a Stepping Stone, but not Without Unified Orchestration
Because many car buyers have concerns about the range of electric cars, the plug-in hybrid vehicle has become the stepping stone to a fully electric vehicle. The same is true with enterprises that are looking to engage with more cloud-centric technology. Taking the leap into a full cloud transformation is daunting and has proven to be more challenging for some than others. A solution to this complexity is the hybrid cloud, a cloud computing environment that uses a combination of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with robust domain orchestration between the two platforms.
Many companies use in-house, onsite architectures as well as third-party, offsite environments. As a result, decision-makers must ensure that both ecosystems function well with one another and do not replicate unnecessary resources to cause downtime and latency. A proper hybrid cloud strategy requires a balance of automation, best practices and integration. This means managing and simplifying resource usage, performance, scalability and other network management aspects through a single, consolidated platform. Maintaining end-to-end manageability will be critical in the future as the virtualization market expands, drives creative evolution and introduces more sophisticated services and functions.
#4: Cloud Connectivity and the Ever-Changing Security Threats
Central to the success of the cloud is a comprehensive security framework. Many already consider cloud data centers and related applications to be more secure than on-premises solutions that are used internally by service providers and enterprises. With the recent rollout of GDPR in Europe, data protection and privacy are not only significant concerns for cloud users, but also for government regulators that are responsible for ensuring all requirements are actually met. With complex threats coming from hackers who may use tools like ransomware, the risk of data theft, financial transaction interruptions or loss, and potential human errors in data management are top of mind for any corporate Chief Security Officer.
Today’s hyperscale cloud providers have spent significant time to improve the security and reliability of their cloud platforms, giving service providers and customers the peace of mind that critical applications will be monitored, abnormal behaviors will be identified and threats will be neutralized. Service providers must similarly shield all networked systems from vulnerability or risk serious degradation not just in performance, but in customer experience. Service providers have the complex and ongoing need to create the right balance of agile cloud infrastructure and related services and deliver on operational efficiency while maintaining a constant, secure environment. The end result should be the protection of infrastructure against the current, planned and, of course, unknown future threats, all without compromising on system performance.