2016: The year of IT-driven solutions to business problems

Discover how this year's cloud evolution will transform enterprise operations.

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It wouldn't be the beginning of a new year without two hallmarks: resolutions and predictions. My 2016 resolution is to help companies understand the importance of strong financial management when moving into hybrid clouds. Every day, I'm reminded by examples I hear, read, and experience which remind me that, if you don't start with a strong financial management foundation, things quickly get out of control in the highly scalable and automated world of cloud.

As for my predictions, they too focus on hybrid cloud. In 2015, we saw the C-suite begin to recognize the pervasive force of both private and public cloud, and 2016 promises to be the year of hybrid cloud as the two merge into a single offering. 

Here are my 2016 cloud predictions:

Hybrid cloud adoption gains momentum

Gartner research shows 15% of enterprises are currently using a hybrid cloud computing model, signaling that we are at the hybrid cloud tipping point. This is the year when companies will turn the corner on public cloud resource consumption, applying the lessons learned from private cloud management. Applications will migrate from internal-only private clouds to hybrid clouds, taking advantage of the time to market, scale, and economic advantages of public cloud while leveraging the control, security, and investments of the private cloud. Enterprises will start slowly, navigating challenges such as creating a single IP address space spanning internal and external resources. Of course, not all applications are cloud-ready, so plenty of lessons on application architecture and integration will be documented along the way.

Reigning in shadow IT

Shadow IT exists because of the challenges IT faces with new business requirements for agility, efficiency, and elasticity. Hybrid cloud gives IT the missing secret decoder ring, facilitating its transition from Technology Manager to Solution Enabler. The threat of shadow IT will begin to abate and IT can accelerate the downfall by helping the business manage the adoption of SaaS solutions. Given the rapid proliferation of SaaS over the past few years, the biggest challenge facing most organizations is knowing where they stand today. Getting a snapshot view of consumption is the key first step to identifying opportunities for consolidation and optimization, addressing security risks and establishing a common operating environment. Cloud without a strong operational, financial, and technical foundation is a recipe for disaster, and the longer IT goes without the right controls in place, the harder it becomes to put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

Moving towards platform-agnostic

Why are containers so important? All of a sudden, containers, and Docker in particular, became the rage in 2015. From a business point of view, containers promise some degree of portability between cloud vendors reducing vendor lock-in. To IT, containers provide a convenient management mechanism for building and deploying solutions. However the greatest promise of containers, in my opinion, is how they can enable the adoption of Cloud Service Brokers (CSB)  CSBs automate the deployment and management of resources across clouds to meet the business objectives of an application, such as availability, cost, and location. CSBs are the foundation of a technology- and provider-agnostic cloud platform on which the business applications of the future can be orchestrated. As a result, a successful agnostic cloud platform leverages the power of a CSB at its core.

Consolidation of public cloud providers

I continually hear how cloud is a volume game; to be successful, you have to operate at the scale of an Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. While there certainly are arguments for scale, the reality is scale is only one of the competitive dimensions of cloud. I firmly believe the reason Amazon is the 900-pound gorilla in cloud is their pace of innovation, which forces the market to react to their strategy. Amazon certainly derives tremendous benefits from the insights gained operating at their scale, as do Google and Microsoft. However, the door is open for others to innovate in other ways even at smaller scales. As long as companies try to compete with the Big Three on scale, they'll slowly tighten the noose around their own necks, eventually seeking opportunities to divest, such as CenturyLink, or shutdown as in the case of HP Helion. While I won't say the Big Three are wearing the Emperor's clothes, I will state unequivocally there are plenty of gaps in their armor to be exploited for the company with the right vision, leadership, and willingness to take risks.

It's no surprise I love cloud computing and am a huge advocate of public cloud. I see 2016 as the year in which the promises of cloud that I've been advocating for years begin to bear fruit. As leaders lose touch with the physical resources of cloud, as well as their care and feeding, I believe their view of technology will fundamentally change. Processors, storage, memory, and bandwidth will become commodity resources. Security, compliance and financial management will be built into a request, provisioning, and deployment model, automated by a range of brokers controlled in business terms, like cost, risk, and customer satisfaction.

I hope my glasses aren't too rose tinted, but I believe each of my predictions build toward an IT-driven process to deliver solutions to business problems, something I've heard countless business executives ask for over my 20-year career.

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