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The Great Cloud Diaspora: 10 Years of Change

It has been 10 years now since Amazon set the digital world on fire with the introduction of Amazon Web Services. Or as most of us today call it, public cloud. Since then, the landscape has grown increasingly cloudy, with a variety of new models merging with old models merging with data centers to give us a veritable cornucopia of choices today, all falling under the incredibly broad umbrella of “cloud”.

clouds today 2017

Shortly after public cloud made its debut, virtual private cloud became a thing. Recognizing the importance enterprises place on control and security, virtual private cloud became the way in which organizations could extend to the cloud without intermingling with, well, just about anybody. Understandably, we weren’t all that certain of how noisy neighbors or resource sharing was going to impact key business measures like application performance and regulatory requirements on security controls and therefore virtual private cloud offered some reassurance by providing “privacy” with the flexibility of public cloud.

As soon as “cloud” became “THE THING”, application service providers (ASP) rebranded themselves as cloud under the banner of Software as a Service (SaaS). Businesses have long struggled with the decision to “build or buy” and SaaS gave them a third option, “rent”. Most of the gains in “cloud” during its early years were due to SaaS. While pundits declared cloud in general an undeniable success, the reality was that SaaS was propping up the entire market for years as organizations shifted from buying software to renting it from the same vendors who shifted their own business models to accommodate this change.

It was inevitable from the beginning that cloud, as an operating model, would eventually be adopted by organizations as an architectural foundation for the applications (and there are many) they insist on maintaining on-premise. As the drivers for adoption shifted from a focus on cost savings to gains in agility and speed (thanks to the influence of the rising digital economy), organizations increasing looked to private cloud (on premise) as a means to enjoy speed and agility without compromising on their specific requirements that precluded a move to public cloud.

The digital economy includes IoT and its cousin, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), and both are rapidly pressing on organizations and cloud providers alike. These technologies and a growing emphasis on performance of apps in general, has driven the emergence of another hybrid technology often referred to as “colo cloud” because the longer (and admittedly more accurate) description is exhausting to say and to type. Colo cloud (or cloud interconnect locations if you want to be more precise) are experiencing phenomenal growth due its innate ability to sate organizations’ need for security and control (on the colocation side) along with the flexibility and cost-savings of public cloud (the interconnect side). Addressing nearly primal needs for security, control, and it turns out, performance, colo cloud will no doubt continue to see gains in adoption over the next couple of years. cloud strategic impact 2016-2017

Which pretty much brings us to today, with multiple cloud formations on the enterprise buffet from which organizations can pick and choose and mix and match. That’s why we tend to say “hybrid is the new normal”. While perhaps not an entirely accurate use of the term “hybrid”, it does offer the connotation intended, which is to say that organizations are consuming cloud in just about every model that has been born in the past ten years. And not only are they consuming it, they continue to view it as having a strategic impact in significant numbers. 

Cloud, in all its forms, remains at the top of the technologies organizations in our State of Application Delivery survey consider as having a strategic impact on the business. Mobile applications, another disruptive force in the digital economy (and some might say powering it), is the only non-cloud technology to rise above cloud. In 2016, 45% of organizations pegged mobile applications as having a strategic impact, above all of the various cloud formations. In 2017 that’s dropped to a mere 33% of organizations, moving it beneath the various forms of cloud. (You’ll see more on this in January 2017, when we release the full results. So stay tuned!)

Cloud is no longer a single operating model whose archetype is Amazon’s EC2. Over the past ten years it has morphed and expanded into a variety of models that all share the same core concepts of abstraction, automation, orchestration, and utility computing. Each one has arisen out of specific needs that were not met by the other models. And each one is a legitimate form of “cloud” that is strategic in its own right.

As will be whatever comes next. And rest assured, “whatever” will come next. Because if the last 10 years have proven anything, it’s that a good idea cannot be contained by a single model, and that as challenges arise, new forms will evolve to address them. Diaspora happens, and in the case of cloud, that’s been a good, good thing because choices mean freedom for organizations to embrace the digital transformation in ways that don’t require them to compromise on core requirements, whether those be security or performance, control or costs.

Here’s looking to ten more exciting years of cloud computing.

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