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Why I'm No Longer Talking About the Cloud

By Ian Waters
| | 8 min read


Ok, that’s a lie. I talk about cloud the whole time, it’s pretty much my job, but bear with me, there’s a point I want to make. Cloud is everywhere, by next year Gartner predicts that more compute power will be out there on IaaS and PaaS platforms than in all the enterprise data centers in the world. Cloud is the mainstream choice for hosting applications, it isn’t the future—it’s now the installed base.

Yes, I understand that there are certain organizations (notably defense and government) that are still 100% on-premise, and I understand that many companies are increasingly adopting dual data center strategies that blend a private cloud data center with public cloud, but we are pretty much at the tipping point. In fact, the maturity of the market is demonstrated, in a way, by the rise in private cloud spending. Forrester observed a jump from only around a third of companies in the UK spending on private cloud in 2016, to more than 60% in 2017; a trend which continued in 2018.

There has been some commentary on this UK data that this is evidence of the Brexit effect. However I think that’s a bit too convenient a headline. Speaking to many organizations of all shapes and sizes at our events around the UK and Europe I don’t observe any reticence around cloud, or indeed Brexit shaping many IT trends. I think it’s more likely that since 2016 the definition of private cloud has tightened up with the emergence of transferable architectures like Azure Stack or Google Cloud’s recently announced Anthos, which enable companies to design on-premise with the promise of cloud migration or dynamic mobility of workloads between private and public clouds. My take is that this development has now caused analyst firms to ring fence what was previously designated “on-premises” spend as “private cloud” spend.

How Does Private Cloud Spending Demonstrate Maturity?

The reason why I say private cloud spending demonstrates maturity is because, for the majority of larger organizations, it’s no longer about whether you do cloud, but how you do cloud. This has been the case for at least a couple of years, but I observe that companies have now established frameworks around their cloud implementations and migration, and in the majority of cases this includes private cloud, alongside public cloud and SaaS. Companies are looking holistically at how cloud is reshaping their architectures, and part of this is often a realization that certain applications need to stay on-premise. However this doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the cloud scale design benefits that private cloud can deliver.

There is no shortage of data points to support the assumption that the cloud market is now, finally, mature.

Gartner’s The Future of the Data Center in the Cloud Era suggested that multi-cloud would be a common strategy for 70% of enterprises this year (2019), so we’re past the point of “whether cloud?” for 7 out of 10 companies, but rather “which cloud, and how many?” IDC frames public cloud spending as a $370 billion market by 2022, in the press release to support their Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Spending Guide. They report a healthy 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.5% through to 2022. And Forrester themselves report in their blog that nearly 60% of North American enterprises rely on public cloud, five times the number that did five years ago.

So, Ahem, Why Am I No Longer Talking About Cloud?

Ok, back to the point.

In all the technology transitions of the last few decades there has come a point where the technology we’ve all been promoting and discussing for an age just becomes the thing. Thinking back to a previous technology transition, I remember repeatedly presenting the many benefits of MPLS as a WAN technology, and how it was going to transform connectivity for enterprise (which it did, but is now itself being disrupted with SD-WAN). I could say the same for talking about how virtualization was going to transform how we host and deliver applications from our data centers.

With both these transitions there was a point where they just became the way you did things, and the same is likely now true for cloud. Yes, there are still some companies who are not there yet, just as there are likely still some companies operating frame relay networks, but in terms of the overall market maybe it’s time to shift the conversation.

Don’t Tell Me Why, Tell Me How

As with many of these things I sense our customers have got to this point first, as the focus does seem to be much less of talking about cloud and more around implementing cloud. As cloud deployments go from being pilots to full-scale production instances, or from practical choices for new applications to architectural principles for the entire IT strategy, we build our management and implementation muscle. Cloud and applications delivered from the cloud are core and so must be treated with the same discipline around risk and lifecycle that core on-premise applications historically have been.

Deployment architectures may have changed but we haven’t outsourced our responsibility to ensuring those applications are delivered to our customers and employees, and this is shaping what we do at ThousandEyes around providing visibility into digital experience. We help many of the worlds biggest brands do the cloud right by maintaining quality, visibility and control while they do it. To find out more check out our resource center and in particular our Public Cloud Performance Benchmark Report which shows you how you can make the best decisions on performance in the cloud.

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