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The multicloud environments of a year or two ago are very different from the multicloud environments of today. And today's environments may have even less in common with those that will be in place tomorrow.
As enterprises gain more experience with cloud computing, their concerns, strategies and even the tools and vendors they are using are constantly evolving. To find out how multicloud trends are shaping IT environments, Datamation examined some of the latest research from vendors and independent analysts.
Based on that research, we put together the following list of top ten multicloud trends that IT professionals need to understand:
- The public cloud takes center stage.
- Azure booms amid multicloud adoption.
- Alibaba becomes a cloud computing leader.
- DevOps and automation enables multicloud.
- Cloud-native applications run in containers.
- Customer demand drives interoperability.
- Different clouds for dev/test and production.
- Developers create using microservices.
- Increased concerns about cost containment.
- New security tools to protect multicloud environments.
In the early days of cloud computing, enterprise concerns about cloud security led to strong interest in the private cloud. But as organizations have matured and adopted multicloud strategies, they are becoming increasingly focused on the public cloud. In the RightScale State of the Cloud survey, the number of enterprises that said the public cloud was their top priority climbed from 29 percent in 2017 to 38 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of organizations focused on building a private cloud has dropped sharply from 23 percent in 2016 to just 8 percent in 2019.
Given those numbers, it’s not surprising that 89 percent enterprises are planning to increase their spending on the public cloud, and most of those are planning to increase spending at least 20 percent. In fact, one out of five expected to double their public cloud spending.
By contrast, a third of enterprises plan to keep their private cloud spending the same or decrease it. And among those that are planning to increase spending, most are anticipating more modest growth; only 7 percent plan to double private cloud spend.
While many multicloud environments have both public cloud and private cloud elements, enterprises are shifting more workloads and dollars to the public cloud.
Early on, enterprises adopted multicloud strategies more or less by accident as different groups of employees began using different cloud vendors. Now they are becoming more intentional in their multicloud strategies as IT decision makers begin to understand the potential benefits of a multicloud strategy.
This evolution seems to be resulting in strong gains for Microsoft Azure. While Microsoft has been the number two public cloud provider for some time, in the third quarter of 2018, Azure had the fastest growth of any public infrastructure as a service, platform as a service or hosted private cloud provider, based on analysis from Synergy Research Group. While it still has a long way to go to catch Amazon Web Services (AWS), which also posted gains in the most recent quarter, Azure is pulling away from the rest of the pack. It seems that as organizations look to add another vendor in addition to AWS, they often are choosing Azure.
Another noteworthy multicloud trend is the growth of Alibaba. In the past, the cloud computing market was dominated first by the top three, then later the top four vendors. Now, the Chinese vendor seems to have broken through in the leaders' pack with a 4 percent market share, and analysts are discussing the top five vendors as a unit.
While the smaller vendors saw their overall slice of the market decline in the third quarter, Alibaba joined AWS, Azure and Google in making market share gains. Synergy Research noted that the top five vendors, including Alibaba, control almost 75 percent of the market.
While Alibaba still doesn't have the same brand recognition in the United States that the other leading cloud vendors enjoy, multinational companies increasingly see it as a very good option for serving Asian markets.
Many multicloud enterprises are also DevOps enterprises. In the DORA 2018 State of DevOps report, which was sponsored by Google Cloud and others, 67 percent of respondents said the primary application they work on was hosted in the public cloud, and 40 percent said that they were personally using multiple clouds.
Automation is a key element of DevOps practices, and as a result of the overlapping trends toward DevOps and multicloud, more organizations are using automation tools that support multicloud cloud environments. In the EMA State of Enterprise Automation 2018 report, sponsored by CA Technologies, 55 percent of those surveyed said that they use cloud automation. The research also found that enterprises expect to grow their use of these tools. Enterprises said 19.2 percent of their cloud configuration was currently automated, and they expected that to grow to 25.3 percent within twelve months.
Automation isn't the only technology used heavily by DevOps teams — they also rely on containerization to simplify the deployment process and enable portability. As DevOps teams develop cloud-native applications, they are increasingly deploying them in containers, particularly Docker containers, and using orchestration tools like Kubernetes to manage them.
In the RightScale survey, 83 percent of enterprises were either using or planned to use Docker. Kubernetes was also extremely popular, with a full third using the technology today and other 38 percent planning to do so in the future. And many organizations are using cloud services based on these open source tools.
Containers are particularly popular in multi-cloud environments because they make it easier to shift workloads from one service to another or from one vendor to another.
Containers are related to another key multicloud trend — the demand for greater interoperability.
Today's applications often depend on multiple cloud services and multiple cloud vendors. For example, one internal application might pull data from Salesforce.com, SAP and a data warehouse hosted in Google Cloud, while authentication is provided by Microsoft Azure and the application itself runs on AWS.
Cloud vendors know that their customers are deploying these sorts of hybrid architectures, and in response, they are increasingly relying on open source software and open standards. In addition, they are releasing more APIs and forming partnerships with companies that are sometimes also their competitors.
The end result benefits the enterprise users, who have more options and become less likely to fall victim to vendor lock-in.
Another interesting multicloud trend is that organizations are increasingly using different vendors for their dev/test environments than they use for their production environments. This trend ties directly into the greater container use and the interoperability trend. Because all the major vendors support open source container tools like Docker and Kubernetes, development teams have the option of using whichever vendor they prefer for their development and test environments. If another vendor is more attractive for production, because of cost concerns or other considerations, the organization can easily move the application to another public cloud for deployment.
With greater interoperability, also comes the possibility for greater use of microservices architecture across a multicloud environment. In microservices architecture, developers create an application out of many separate, loosely coupled building blocks, called microservices, that are independently deployed and maintained.
The big draw of microservices is that it can enable faster application development and deployment. (And since that it also a key driver for DevOps, teams taking a DevOps approach often develop microservices applications). In addition, it can make the code easier to update and maintain.
As cloud interoperability increases, organizations have greater opportunities to create applications that rely on microservices running in several different clouds. That could be advantageous for enterprises that want to take advantage of the unique features offered by some providers or for enterprises that are very concerned about controlling costs.
All cloud computing users, including those with multicloud strategies, are becoming more worried about costs. Many organizations embrace cloud computing because they are hoping for cost savings, but realizing those savings takes work, particularly as cloud usage grows.
In the RightScale survey, 80 percent of enterprises said that managing cloud spend was a key challenge. In fact, managing cloud costs was the top challenge cited by intermediate and advanced cloud users, and the second biggest challenge overall. In addition, the top cloud initiative, cited by 58 percent of respondents, was optimizing existing cloud use for cloud savings.
In keeping with this trend, look for organizations to engage with cloud brokerage services and to deploy more tools that can track and optimize cloud spending.
The last multicloud trend on our list involves the emergence of new security tools. When enterprises use more public and private clouds, cyberattackers have more potential routes of access into corporate networks. Companies are finding that their old security approaches that relied heavily on barriers to keep unwanted individuals out of the network are no longer adequate.
Instead, organizations are adopting defense-in-depth and proactive defense tactics that can help them find, stop and mitigate attacks in progress. They are deploying next-generation tools like user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), endpoint detection and response (EDR), breach and attack simulation (BAS) and others.
A key requirement for all these new tools is the ability to monitor and protect multicloud environments. Again, this is another trend that is likely to increase as enterprises rely on multiple clouds to run their mission-critical workloads.