The most important cloud advances of the decade

The technology gained momentum in the 2010s as companies started moving workloads off premises and cloud giants emerged.

Top 5 things to know about open source and the cloud Cloud software is impeding open source software companies from making a profit. Tom Merritt explains the five things you need to know about open source and the cloud.

Cloud computing has been perhaps the most transformative technology in the past several years and has changed the nature of how organizations work. Although cloud took root before 2010, the technology gained serious momentum in the 2010s, as evidenced by the number of offerings and companies that started moving some workloads off premises--followed by most or all of their businesses.

More than a third of organizations see cloud investments as a top three investing priority, which is impacting market offerings, according to Gartner. The firm also predicted that by the end of 2019, more than 30% of technology providers' new software investments will shift from cloud-first to cloud-only. 

Here are some of the most notable cloud advancements of the past decade.

Cloud giants are born

By 2010, the three cloud giants—Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google—had all launched their cloud businesses. It was also the year that saw the birth of OpenStack, the leading open-source cloud software platform. Worldwide spending on public cloud started the decade at $77 billion, according to Statista, and was projected to finish it at $411 billion—more than five times that amount. 

SEE: Cloud providers 2019: A buyer's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

AWS cloud formation public release

Realizing the scalability and elasticity of cloud services requires that cloud environments are defined by code. AWS CloudFormation, launched in 2011, brought a supported, consistent way of defining AWS cloud deployments to environments of all sizes, noted Brian Alletto, a senior architect at digital consultancy at West Monroe Partners.
 
"This provided a key building block of infrastructure as code within the AWS ecosystem and facilitated the rapid expansion of pre-built solutions available 'off the shelf' to any AWS administrator,'' Alletto said.

The rise of serverless computing

The serverless model is one in which functions are typically executed in the cloud. For all intents and purposes, serverless computing was essentially born at the 2014 AWS re:Invent conference, with Amazon Web Services' announcement of Lambda. Microsoft and Google soon followed with their own platforms.

Despite its name, serverless computing does not eliminate the need for a server. Rather, the software code is outsourced to the cloud provider's infrastructure, where the application is automatically run at scale based on the request. The cloud provider maintains the server and manages resource allocation to burst and contract resources elastically as required. Pricing is based on the amount of resources consumed rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity. 

SEE: Serverless architectures: 10 serious security problems (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Containers and microservices

Containers, which enable developers to manage and easily migrate software code, have surged in popularity. In 2013, Docker was released, but it was the initial release of Kubernetes in 2014 that really got the ball rolling, according to Alletto. That "began the widespread adoption of container-based architectures by enterprise IT shops and the required standardization of container-based solutions among all the major public cloud providers," he said.

451 Research predicted that the application containers market would grow from $749 million in 2016 to more than $3.4 billion by 2021. Fifty-three percent of organizations are either investigating or using containers in development or production, according to a Cloud Foundry report.

The use of cloud containers has become the new normal because they enable workload portability, said Kishore Durg, senior managing director of Accenture Cloud for Technology Services. "So you can take something that was written in one place and run it anywhere. That's huge." 

Containers have spawned microservices, DevOps, hybrid/multicloud scenarios, and application modernization and migration, Durg said. Running apps on smaller services reduces cost and drives higher resource utilization and efficiency. Containers also gives businesses the ability to accelerate the development of newer technologies for competitive advantage, he said.

SEE: More from our Decade in Review series (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Cloud native services

Arguably, one of the most important cloud computing events of the decade is the rise of cloud native services, according to Durg. "It is changing people's perception of cloud—from being viewed as a cheaper data center to becoming a true system of innovation."
 
Cloud native services gives companies almost instant access to services that would have taken months for companies to develop on premise, he noted.

In 2018, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), a vendor-neutral home for cloud-native projects, had an end-user community of over 50 members including powerhouses like all the major cloud providers, as well as companies like AT&T, NEC, Accenture and Bloomberg.

"Cloud native services are arguably what has ushered in the era of agile development in the enterprise," said Durg. 

Connectivity to the cloud

At the outset, companies "were creating wonky VPN connections,'' said George Burns III, senior consultant of cloud operations at digital consultancy, SPR. Dedicated connections to Amazon Direct Connect began in 2011, and Azure Express Route in 2014, among others. Now, connectivity has become "commoditized so well that almost any business can connect their existing infrastructure to the cloud,'' Burns said.

The past decade also saw the rise in use of virtual private clouds, where a slice of public cloud is portioned off for private use, and VPNs to access clouds, said David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting. "Now they can have a VPC, which is leveraging a virtual private-public network," he said. "That was a big change and not expected to happen, and suddenly, all the objections people had around what public cloud is fall away."

Explosion of SaaS

Traction for software as a service began in the early 2000s, but it wasn't until late 2016-early 2017 when SaaS moved out of startup space and people began using it in the enterprise space, said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. The worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 17.5% in 2019 to total $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018, according to Gartner.

The fastest-growing market segment will be cloud system infrastructure services, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which is forecast to grow 27.5 percent in 2019 to reach $38.9 billion, up from $30.5 billion in 2018. The second-highest growth rate of 21.8 percent will be achieved by cloud application infrastructure services, or platform as a service (PaaS).

One of the significant trends in SaaS has been the ability to access APIs at the services level, according to Linthicum. "I can invoke something from my app behind the scenes without having to have a user interface intervene,'' he said.  

"Cloud services are definitely shaking up the industry," said Nag. SaaS growth has been outpacing the growth of on-premise, license-based software, he added. 

Growth of hybrid cloud

Hybrid clouds, the pairing of private, on-premise clouds with public clouds took off in a big way in the past few years as a way for organizations to hedge their bets and balance what they doing internally while dipping their toes into public cloud.

"People move to hybrid cloud to ultimately move to public or multicloud,'' said Linthicum. "They love hybrid because it means 'I'm up for anything' and then it essentially doesn't paint them into a corner or raise the hackles of people in the organization even five years ago, pushing back on public cloud only."

He said that 95% of the hybrid clouds being built will combine legacy mainframe systems connected to one of the big cloud providers. Gartner estimates that by 2021 90% of organizations will deploy multiclouds or a hybrid (public-private) cloud model.

SEE: Top five on-premises cloud storage options (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Backup and recovery

Organizations began backing up workloads to the cloud around 2014, but that was mainly for testing, said Burns. It was really the following year "when we pushed workloads to public cloud … once we had websites up we started pushing our backup files to Amazon S3."

In 2015, Rackspace, traditionally a hosting and managed services provider, announced a major strategic shift to cloud provider managed services, said Alletto. "This announcement both validated the business models of newer, cloud-only competitors while signaling availability of large-scale managed services for enterprise IT shops' public cloud environments."

Now, business continuity and disaster recovery "is baked into everything we do,'' adds Burns. "The ability to purchase granular resources enables us to think about disaster recovery at step one and not after launch into production."

Linthicum agreed, saying "suddenly, in the last three years people began to focus on BCDR (business continuity and disaster recovery)." The assumption was that if organizations used cloud they would automatically be resilient but in the past three years, backup solutions started to inflect, with the advent of AWS Glacier, he said. "People realize they're still in charge of backing up their data."

Shift from capex to opex

One of the biggest trends in cloud was the change in how organizations purchased technology resources. Around 2016, there was the realization that they could save significant amounts of money on hardware and data centers, and instead buy services on an as-needed basis.

Linthicum puts the timeframe a little further back and said companies began valuing agility and time to market as value identifiers. "We can normally save someone 20 to 30% in operational costs by moving to the as-a-service model," he said. "I used to say, 'People will come to cloud for cost savings and they'll stay for the agility.'" 

Cloud consolidation

In 2018, the top five IaaS providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Alibaba) accounted for nearly 77% of the global IaaS market, according to Gartner. The firm is also projecting that between 2020-2023, the number of cloud managed services providers will be consolidated from 3,000 to about 1,500, said Nag.
 
"Clearly, smaller players are getting pushed out of the business,'' he noted. This is due to the fact that getting into the cloud business requires a significant investment. "Providing IaaS requires building data centers and significant capex and if you don't have deep pockets it becomes difficult to sustain this business."  

Consolidation is the end state of any tech trend we've had in the past and cloud is no different, said Linthicum. "Ultimately, people will … spend [on] the most resources that will promote the most value. Buy-in for cloud computing is so high that the larger providers that will prevail and consolidation will occur."

A plethora of startups and disruptors in cloud

The past decade has seen the rise of born-in-the-cloud companies. From video streaming to ride sharing services, these companies were able to move faster and more cheaply than if they had started their businesses 15 years ago, observed Linthicum, all thanks to cloud computing.

"They've leveraged cloud as a force multiplier as a weapon for their business,'' he said. "I've been on many panels … where if [startups] were asked what was the one technology that enabled them to be as successful as they are if backed into a corner, they would say cloud computing."

Cloud governance

Moving to cloud also became more acceptable for organizations in highly regulated industries due to the emergence of cloud governance, which provides consistent policy enforcement "and a cloud security framework that dictates the security obligations of a cloud computing provider and its users to ensure accountability," according to TechTarget.
 
Most people are wrestling with complexity issues when they move to the cloud, "and the only way to get around it is governance … because it's almost an untenable issue if we don't have governance over costs, services and resources we're managing," said Linthicum.

"It's 80% of the questions I answer," in terms of how cloud governance works. Governance has been around since the advent of cloud computing, he noted, "but now we're just discovering it." The public cloud providers are typically not selling this feature, he added; it is mainly third parties because the solutions are heterogeneous and operate across multiple clouds.
 

Growth of multiclouds

A Gartner survey of public cloud users from earlier this year highlights a big shift to a multicloud computing strategy. The survey results show that 81% of the respondents are working with two or more providers.

"Most organizations adopt a multicloud strategy out of a desire to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions," explained Michael Warrilow, a vice president at Gartner.
 
This is also enhanced by the trend of migrating to the cloud in a simple "lift and shift" approach, which moves data with as little work as possible, said Linthicum, typically by refactoring or redoing the applications and data so they work more efficiently on a cloud-based platform.

Also see

Cloud computing concept.

Image: iStockphoto/metamorworks