IDG\nDespite the public cloud seemingly grabbing the lion\u2019s share of attention in the cloud market, private and hybrid cloud computing markets have been growing robustly as well and experts predict they will only gain importance in 2018 and beyond.\n\u201cFew companies have enjoyed the expected benefits of private infrastructure-focused clouds, but a renewed focus on developer empowerment, stepping into cloud on-premises first, and a raft of new tech stack (will) spark new private cloud interest and experimentation,\u201d Forrester research analyst Dave Bartoletti and colleagues predict in their 2018 look-ahead for the cloud market. \u00a0\n+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Windows Server in the cloud: Can you, should you and with which provider? and What is hybrid cloud computing?\u00a0+\u00a0\nThere\u2019s data to back up the prediction: Research firm IDC estimates that traditional data centers this year accounted for 62% of IT infrastructure spending, with 23% of the market going to public cloud and 15% going to private cloud. By 2020, data centers will drop to account for 50% of the market with public cloud at just under a third of the market and private cloud capturing 20%. Translation: Data centers are becoming less important and public and private cloud are both growing to becoming more important.\nSo as private and hybrid clouds continue to grow, what should be expected from these markets in 2018 and beyond?\nHybrid cloud strategies become clear \nEach of the major IaaS public cloud vendors seemed to spend 2017 clarifying its hybrid cloud strategy, setting 2018 to be the year of adoption.\nPerhaps the biggest effort in this realm is from Microsoft which finally, after more than two years of marketing it, released Azure Stack - a private cloud IaaS platform that is meant to mirror the Azure public cloud. Early deployments of Azure Stack are already hitting the market.\nAmazon Web Services, meanwhile, has partnered with Silicon Valley\u2019s virtualization giant to offer VMware on AWS hybrid cloud offering. Google Cloud Platform partnered with both VMware and Nutanix. Oralce and IBM have their own in-house hybrid cloud offerings.\nWith these offerings are now in the market, 2018 will be a year to assess how much traction they gain and what their best use cases are. \u00a0\nBattle for the private cloud \nAs organizations have moved workloads to the public cloud, they\u2019re now gaining valuable knowledge about what the public cloud is best used for, and what it\u2019s not. Rackspace executive vice president Scott Crenshaw says the company has seen a reckoning of customers wanting cloud-like access to infrastructure and application-development resources but in more dedicated or hybrid environments. He believes platforms like VMware, Microsoft Azure Stack, OpenStack and many others from vendors like Red Hat and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will continue to gain momentum in 2018 as organizations find the right mix of using public and private clouds. \u201cThe economic value of private cloud will become increasingly apparent, which is going to lead to wide-scale migration to these hybrid environments,\u201d he says.\nContainers and PaaS as hybrid cloud platforms\nThe mega-trend that\u2019s driving the entire cloud computing market is enabling application developers to innovate and create new business value as fast as possible. Maria Azua Himmel, senior vice president of distributed systems at Fidelity, says that requires not committing to any one infrastructure platform, but instead using both private and public clouds. \u201cAny company that\u2019s using the cloud is going to end up using multiple different tools, multiple different platforms,\u201d she notes. How does Fidelity manage that hybrid environment? One key is to use containers to ensure applications can run in any infrastructure environment. Fidelity uses a combination of a PaaS and automation tools, like Terraforms, Jenkins, Docker and Artifactory. As organizations continue to containerize their applications and optimize their app-dev pipeline, container orchestration and management will be integrated into private and hybrid clouds.\nOptimizing connections to the cloud \nAs Azua notes, very few organizations solely use a private or public cloud and in reality they have workloads in each. Any substantial use of a hybrid cloud can benefit from having an optimized network connection to the cloud. A market of interconnection providers has expanded rapidly in recent years to support this. Companies like Equinix, Digital Realty and QTS offer managed and co-location services that have direct connections to the public cloud, including AWS, Microsoft, Google or many others. As hybrid cloud computing becomes the norm in 2018 and beyond, establishing, managing and optimizing these connections will be a priority.\nPublic cloud services come on-premises \nIn 2015 Amazon Web Services announced Lambda, a serverless platform and a first of its kind that uses event-driven computing constructs (also sometimes referred to as functions as a service or FaaS). 2018 could be the year serverless computing makes its way out of the public cloud and into on-premises data centers. Companies like Microsoft, Red Hat and others are attempting to create serverless functionality in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments. Red Hat, for example, has embraced OpenWhisk, an open source FaaS originally developed by IBM. Microsoft has its own functions platform to bring this born-in-the-cloud technology on-premises.\u00a0\nAnother technology being closely watched to potentially come into private and hybrid clouds is machine learning. Public cloud providers seem to be in somewhat of an arms race building out ML and artificial intelligence platforms that customers can integrate into their application-development pipeline. Expect 2018 to be a year where private and hybrid cloud vendors talk about how to bring machine learning and AI capabilities in these environments.