Businesses are employing an ever-growing number of technologies to harness the improved efficiency, collaboration, and customer value offered by digital transformation. However, one digital platform stands out as a key influencer of digital change across various sectors, providing the foundation for a vast array of digital projects. Cloud computing—the process of storing and processing data entirely over the Internet—is helping organizations reduce costs while driving innovation and productivity.
A recent survey conducted by EMC (now a Dell subsidiary) found that companies that took an aggressive approach to hybrid cloud implementation were three times more likely to be on track to achieve their digital objectives. In addition, companies that harness the cloud to enhance productivity grow some 19 percent faster than their non-digital counterparts.
Cloud computing provides numerous benefits to companies across virtually every sector, including project agility, scalability, cost efficiency, and the ability to dematerialize aging IT infrastructures. In many cases, it empowers organizations to mount more advanced digital transformation efforts, serving as a bridge into the future.
For these reasons and others, more and more businesses are embracing the cloud. The public cloud market is expected to surpass $146 billion in 2017 (far exceeding its 2015 valuation of $87 million), and a recent market analysis conducted by Cisco projected that international cloud IP traffic will nearly quadruple by the year 2020, increasing by a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent. As the cloud experiences accelerated growth in the coming years, its evolution will likely be fueled by the following trends:
So-called “containers” are popular among cloud adopters because they provide a more streamlined, secure method to manage software code in cloud environments. By allowing developers to virtualize individual applications within a digital shell of sorts, containers help to minimize operating system compatibility issues and keep any errors confined to single applications, thereby preventing abnormalities from compromising entire virtual machines or servers.
Businesses can easily transfer containers to different servers, and this increased portability and efficiency often assists in reducing costs. In addition, containers allow companies to more feasibly deliver micro-services for cloud-based applications. In the coming years, containers will become more widely available; research firm Forrester predicts that Linux containers will be available across all major public and private cloud platforms by the first quarter of 2017.
Tools to Support Cloud Migration
As the technology becomes more commonplace, cloud platforms are offering the robust features and security to attract larger enterprises. While once used primarily by small firms and start-ups, the cloud is now poised to support a growing number of enterprise organizations in the coming years. According to the Silicon Valley group of McKinsey & Company, this acceleration of cloud adoption among large companies will significantly reduce the total number of firms utilizing traditional IT infrastructure, slashing the percentage from 77 percent in 2015 to a projected 43 percent in 2018.
This trend is likely to fuel the development of migration resources that assist companies in reformulating their apps for cloud environments, a process that offers more opportunities to improve efficiency than simply transferring apps as-is into a public cloud. The migration process can be lengthy and expensive, especially for larger enterprises, but new products and services will soon create more attractive options for bulk app migrations.
When making the transition to the cloud, many enterprises choose to adopt hybrid cloud solutions, either combining traditional IT and cloud platforms or relying jointly on a combination of public and private cloud services. While such a configuration can allow a firm to benefit from the portability and scalability of the cloud while preserving more sensitive data in on-site systems, it poses new challenges in the realms of IT management and integration. In the near future, experts expect companies using private clouds to increasingly make use of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, which help to create cohesive in-house cloud systems offering much of the standardization, automation, and accessibility benefits of larger public platforms.
A Growing Focus on Cloud Security
The growing number of companies using the cloud also means an increase in innovation and the development of best practices related to the technology’s safe and efficient usage. This is especially true in terms of security. Although cloud implementation is ramping up across industry boundaries, security concerns stand as one of the major barriers dissuading some firms from migrating to the cloud. Going forward, security will become a basic utility of cloud services, with data and technology standardization becoming prominent tools in the fight against cyber threats.
Cloud providers are also beginning to harness the capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning for security purposes. Many of the major players in the public cloud sector have launched the development of AI cloud security systems that learn and adapt to evolving cyber threats. Additionally, user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) tools will become vital in the monitoring and defense of cloud platforms. Market research firms estimate that, by 2018, some 20 percent of organizations will have leveraged these innovations and others to develop governance programs specifically for data security.