Rain clouds ahead: 10 bold predictions for the cloud industry in 2016

Warning signs for the cloud heading into 2016.

storm businessman clouds rain rough seas

While I don't like interrupting anyone's business plans in particular, I have a jaundiced eye towards how clouds are bringing us rain, and how in 2016, the rain will drench us and try to drown us in data.

1. More cloud services shakeout/shakeup

Already we've seen the shakeout begin. HP Helion is now adjunct to HP's old ally Microsoft and its Azure Cloud. Microsoft, which is in turn now scared to death of unlimited storage and the resources it's chewing up, imposed strictures to OneDrive. No more happy terabytes with a license of Windows 10. 

Portals as a business investment are down. Yahoo tried to do things with Flickr, but now seems poised to sell much of their non-Alibaba holdings. There are many minor portal players still in the game, but Facebook, the world's greatest time suck, challenges all.

Here's where I believe that something will happen: cloud storage will grow slowly, but steadily (see No. 3) because as we all know, nobody erases anything, and data will grow to fill the space allocated to it. How much junk is snoozing in your SAN? Been on Pinterest or Instagram recently?

2. Digital encryption divides will cause massive cloud exception handling

As the SHA-1 encryption protocol is retired, websites will be pushing users from the cliff of dead encryption. SHA-1 doesn't take much computing power to use, and its users are generally those with old phones, ancient operating systems on slow desktop and notebook hardware, and even early (and cheap) tablets. Will users of low-value equipment be able to successfully transition back to the web?

Once the lights are turned off on SHA-1, easy-to-do encryption by millions of older devices will be eliminated. So will those users' ability to run simple https web pages.

3. Chromebooks become the cloud access device of choice

As cloud app savvy increases, the need for huge notebook storage and processing power is in decline. Instead, we have cloud apps, simplicity, and generally less stuff to worry about being stolen or replaced. It becomes much more troubling for companies that make traditional stuff, as production lines shift rapidly towards Chromebook sleekness as the alternate device to a smartphone.

4. Your television now rats you out to the cloud (and maybe IoT, too!)

Huge unsorted piles of data are being generated by your holiday gift of digital ears in the living room. Yes, that cute little Samsung television is trying to take as much data as is rationally possible and transmit it to motherships for purposes of analysis.

At Best Buys or the Big Box, you'll need to carefully read the terms of service (oh, right, it's in the box) prior to connecting that TV to your Wi-Fi. And wear your bathrobe, please.

Great piles of data grub might be something you've actually enabled yourself via Amazon's Echo, Siri, Cortana, and the myriad new verbal assistants that not only are incredibly handy, but which know your location and are dutifully listening for your next command.

When will the temptation for organizations to just, well, analyze everything you do commence? How are you sure it's not happening right now? Plenty of people put black tape over the cameras on their tablets (perhaps for good reason, too) knowing that the cloud is like a sieve for your personal information. And IoT Analytics will strengthen as an industry. My stepson once wore tinfoil for a short period of time, carefully on his head. He was a pioneer.

5. OpenStack recipes for cloud containers become dominant

So you wanted to cook in The Cloud, eh? You're not alone. Now that there's an Open Container Initiative with seeming teeth, battles over deployed systems security provenance may be quieted, at least for a while. Value-added pieces evolve, with Food Channel-like organizations booming to provide Container Stir Fry, Seasoning Salts, and the infrastructure bits.

This also means that the dreaded specter of inter-stack organization harmony will be given more than superficial lip service, as each release of OpenStack requires even more studied intimacy at the API levels. Glue apps and components will do their best to become stickier and stickier as the elements of OpenStack look less like a stack and more like a homogeneous methodology. My prediction: OpenStack Releases actually slow down as adoption climbs, and more cooks get into the OpenStack kitchens, potentially causing drain sludge.

6. New for 2016: Huge Organization-as-a-Service (or, HOaaS)

Huge-Organization-as-a-Service (HOaaS) like the Dell-EMC-VMware merger will become commonplace, as Oracle, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, and even Rackspace attempt to eat Amazon's lunch. Dazzling, dizzying, and absolutely opaque-to-compare offerings will emerge, with price lists published bi-weekly (daily in Washington, DC) in an attempt to spark a cloud services market share war, if only for stockholder visibility as everyone tries to remain relevant.

The HOaaS idea, time-honored, is that organizations that are busy, resource-challenged, or in need of that certain propellant that takes them either wholesale or a little bit into The Cloud sometimes need to obtain all of their kit from just one contact that they can scream at when things go awry—or they want to expand it all. The One Stop Shop approach has merit for many reasons, and in The Cloud, captivity may not be as difficult, due to an increasing number of cloud transport/mirroring apps. 

This is a space where some organizations will put on bright, shiny new clothing, dubbing themselves newly evangelized (and Suddenly Agile!) service providers, while behind the curtains, the same old smoke and dance will fail to enchant all but their leaden client base. HOaaS will need to be fleet-of-foot to survive the tracks laid down by the leaders.

7.  Content distribution networks meet NFV 

CDNs are blossoming like tulips in Holland. They're the only way that many cloud providers are surviving, as NetFlix, iTunes, and even captive CDNs from Microsoft and Amazon attempt to service their clientele. But the ability to rapidly reconfigure and take advantage of regionalized content distribution for cloud-to-branch and SafeHarbor quarantine means rapid configurations as situations warrant.

Open a pack of NVF—network virtualized functionality—sprinkle across your network bottlenecks, and suddenly inter-carrier operations and network reconfigurations become a cinch!

Ok, perhaps it's not going to be prevalent in 2016 or even 2017, but the primitives are starting to emerge that allow large cloud clientele to do rapid network reconfigurations that permit major CDN functionality changes—especially within the spreading circuits of major cloud providers done in minutes, not months.

Will NVF and SDNs mean the difference between servicing all the queues or extreme network cloud constipation? We'll soon find out!

8. 2016: The Year of the Consumer Cloud

Although Microsoft and phone service providers have begun to impose constraints on the concept of “unlimited,” the number of online streaming and storage services will rise and clog networks like no time in history, I predict. Whether social media, services applications, or raw storage, consumers are adapting to offloading their lives into The Cloud.

Why? Chromebooks, tablets, and other generally cloud-serviced devices will continue to dominate sales. People hate to back up. Some have never done this. Worse: some businesses never do this. Still worse: some government agencies don't either. 

As HTML5 grows up, web services—oops, “cloud services”—will continue to grow. Consumers, finding that that a 16GB iPhone or 32GB NextBook are simply too small for their storage needs will be happy to avail themselves of network storage, backup, archiving, and not having to take out the trash.

In some ways, The Cloud is like computational crack: once addicted, walking away might be murderous.

9. The international data blockade year begins

Without new treaties, cloud services and providers will now need to sequester data into various new international geographic regions. The European Union now bars many kinds of international data transfers, allowing Safe Harbor agreements that once permitted such transfers to push cloud providers into dividing data—and data business locales.

Data must now have provenance, kind of like fish and wine, so that we know varying rules and regulations—largely meeting the needs of privacy—aren't violated. Many cloud hosting organizations are opening multi-national hosting sites for nexus, so as to comply with privacy regulations. How does a German traveling in Aruba deal with data sequestering? How about my upcoming trip to Barcelona? Can I email home? What about those ads I'll click on while in Catalunya? Does my click stay in Catalunya, or is it MY click, and can it go home with me? Must Cortana speak Catalunyan and not Castillian Spanish? Can I use sign language?

The devil of the details of what Safe Harbor and data sequestering mean must become the crux of policy—not easily negotiated in a U.S. Presidential election year. In the interim, many in the cloud services sector are looking very closely at outcomes as infrastructure becomes replicated into the EU, but also Canada, and soon, great walls of data will become the norm…until something else happens.

10. Cars meet cloud

Although a slow maturation in automobile (and service vehicle) data has been around for a while, virtually all cars today have a transponder built in to them. Whether it's autopilot or GPS suggesting the nearest Starbucks, cars will talk to the cloud, each other, hoarders and sifters of Big Data, and perhaps emergency responders (as some do now).  There is money to be made. As usual, it's money first, and not security and safety. This fact will become amplified in 2016, I predict.

What's woefully apparent is that car cloud security is as primitive as a bad password on a good day. It's become the crux of lots of laughter and mayhem at BlackHat. So gruesomely bad are the minimums—car door locks—that key replicators pop up in disguise on eBay frequently. And nothing talks to nothing.

There is little interoperability among car manufacturers, each of whom traditionally invents its own secret sauces, and with luck, OEMs them to each other. Once automotive cloud sites are breached—which they inevitably will be—the hardwired-thinking and design of automotive cloud technology will be devilishly difficult to repair, recall, or retrofit. Worse, at 80mph on a Wyoming freeway, it could mean death and litigation, the size of which must cause insurance company actuaries to awaken in cold sweats in the middle of the night.

But hey, it's the cloud. Damn the security, full profits ahead!

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.