Let’s face it. Cloud computing just isn’t that exciting anymore – mainly because it’s no longer something people feel compelled to debate or question. Not only do we continue to hear of success in the cloud, but recent studies have shown that cloud computing is exceeding expectations, especially for those who started early. As San Francisco’s CIO Marc Touitou said in a recent #CXOTalk, the question is not whether you have a cloud strategy it’s “what is it?” But don’t let this fool you. Though cloud computing is becoming a mainstream business model, that does not mean it is any less valuable.
1. Cloud Becomes an Unsung Hero
It is often said that timing is everything. Sadly for cloud, it is reaching its peak at the same time other technologies such as mobility and big data are grabbing the spotlight. The irony is that cloud computing is a key enabler for those other technologies that are taking center stage. In 2014 expect cloud computing to take on a greater role in enabling mobility, big data solutions, and the delivery of composite applications, while getting less and less mention. A true sign of a maturing technology.
2. Expect More Cloud Outages
Another characteristic of maturing technologies is that the infrastructure upon which they were built begins to age. That will certainly be the case with many cloud environments. As this equipment ages the likelihood that something will malfunction increases. Thus, we can expect some of the infrastructure that supports cloud environments to begin to malfunction, to suffer degraded performance as capacity and usage increases, or to fail or suffer performance degradation following a patch or upgrade. While the discipline to avoid these outages certainly exists, and many of the best cloud providers are practicing it, some providers and consumers will be unpleasantly surprised by this. While new entrants and smaller organizations may be more vulnerable, even larger providers may not be immune.
3. Brace for a Skills Crisis
For quite some time many who watch our industry have been reporting that businesses are struggling to find sufficient personnel with cloud computing skills. The confluence of rising cloud adoption, increased demand for skilled personnel in other new areas of technology such as mobility and big data, and the increase in demand for cloud services to support new technologies such as mobility (which also leverage cloud computing) will create a skills crisis. It’s a bit of a vicious circle that we need to figure out how to turn into a virtuous one. In preparation businesses should aggressively hire, begin training their top talent now, and consider creative ways to get the skills they need through other means such as partnerships with cloud providers and crowdsourcing.
4. Danger: Aggregate Data Ahead!
Teams creating modern apps and environments will unknowingly create compliance violations, break privacy laws, or release sensitive data. How? As businesses build composite applications, mobile apps, and (especially) as they create big data environments, they are beginning to bring data and application components together from disparate sources. In their original environments each set of data may be completely innocuous. However, in aggregate it may tell a story that even the team that brought it together may be unaware of. Furthermore, the people who provide the data for use in this way may be unaware of the fact that their data is being combined with that of others.
5. No Choice But To Govern
One of cloud computing’s most visible advantages is how simple it makes acquiring resources. As is often the case, this advantage can also be a critical disadvantage. Stories of budget holders surprised by very large cloud service charges are becoming well known, as employees acquire cloud resources on their own without considering their full cost. The fear this drives into the hearts of budget owners is exacerbated by countless stories of employees buying excess capacity, holding expensive resources long after they were no longer needed, or even forgetting they even had acquired those resources. Adoption of cloud computing will continue to increase, fueled not only by its own benefits but also in support of mobility, big data, and other initiatives. This will create even more opportunities for this type of inadvertent misuse of resources, not to mention issues resulting from use of cloud services with too little (or too much) security or resilience. As a result, businesses will be forced to adopt solutions that will help them address the scale and complexity of the issue.
No More Unicorns and Rainbows
It has been a very long time since I have heard the words “fluffy unicorn rainbows” in a cloud-related discussion. Businesses have truly begun to understand and, more importantly, realize the value cloud computing can deliver. For those of us watching the cloud computing industry, 2014 should be another exciting year. Though I don’t expect anyone else will notice, and perhaps that’s a good thing.