Did Last Year's Cloud Predictions Pan Out?
App containers were one of the biggest trends in cloud this year, and Docker is leading the container ecosystem’s growth. Docker CEO Ben Golub had one of the prime speaking slots at the inaugural Rackspace Solve conference in San Francisco in July.

Did Last Year's Cloud Predictions Pan Out?

Containers, open source cloud, hybrid IT models, and a handful of other big trends shaped the industry in 2014

Before we dive into our annual cloud predictions, we here at Data Center Knowledge are going to look back on 2014 to see if last year’s cloud predictions panned out. A lot happened in 2014; too much to cover everything. So, let's paint the year in cloud using wide brushstrokes.

Application Containers

Credit to Rackspace CTO John Engates, who was a fervent and optimistic proponent of containers this time last year. Containers provide an easy way to spin applications up and down on any type of infrastructure, and they have definitely commanded the cloud world’s attention this year.

Docker released its first commercial product this month. Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure added support and services for Docker containers. Docker was integrated with Windows Server, and virtualization giant VMware added container support to VMware infrastructure. IBM, Microsoft, and Red Hat joined Google’s open source container project. Rackspace added native Docker support.

Several startups providing services around Docker raised money.

In summary, the startups and the giants have embraced containers. Much of the container technology is open source, which leads us to the second prediction from last year.

Open Source: from Alternative to Prime Time

The days of looking to a specific vendor for a complete roadmap are now in a death rattle. Innovation in cloud is spearheaded by open source.

DevOps partly drives this trend. As the developer’s role in technology infrastructure decisions grew, so did the use of open source. A recent survey found that nearly everyone is planning to employ DevOps, and cloud providers like Cisco’s Metacloud noted not only increasing Dev team involvement in decisions, but increasing success with private cloud when Dev teams were involved.

A handful of giants opened up big time. Microsoft open sourced the entire .NET framework, IBM opened its POWER server architecture, taking the trend all the way down to server firmware. The OpenPOWER Foundation recently added Rackspace to a growing consortium.

In Platform-as-a-Service, the Cloud Foundry Foundation launched. The open source PaaS project used to be run solely by VMware-controlled Pivotal, but the software company decided Cloud Foundry would grow much faster as an independently governed endeavor.

Open source is also driving the big data cloud.

OpenStack, the open source cloud architecture, saw incredible growth and participation, even among enterprises and the largest tech companies. IBM fully endorsed OpenStack across its entire cloud portfolio this week, and HP has become one of the top contributors to the project.

Popular open source technologies like Docker, Kubernetes, Apache Mesos Apache Spark and etcd formed the foundations of hottest tech startups. Everybody needs to play nice in the cloud world, and open source is the way vendor ecosystems are hooking up.

From Public or Private to Public AND Private

Both private and public cloud models are taking root. While many new companies are born in the cloud, medium-to-large enterprises continue to employ a hybrid strategy.

Hybrid is shaping IBM's cloud strategy. Big partnerships like Microsoft and Accenture were formed to address hybrid cloud needs. Data center providers like Equinix see hybrid cloud needs driving colocation sales.

It was the most popular trend in a recent survey from 2nd Watch

Cloud: Birthplace of Value-Added Services

Pricing wars among cloud giants led many to believe that cloud’s influence would turn compute and storage into a cheap commodity. While there has been a race to the bottom, the most successful companies this year tuned offerings to provide value beyond raw cloud infrastructure.

In conjunction with the emergence of the hybrid model came a need to outsource management and operations to further optimize infrastructures. Raw compute is available if you need it, but the picture for many is more complex. The growth of private cloud means many are looking to leverage operational flexibility of cloud but in a contained, managed way.

CenturyLink and Internap both are offering a wide variety of cloud and services, adding value above and beyond raw cloud as part of the strategy.

Cloud storage providers are acquiring capabilities to combat commoditization of cloud storage, adding value to businesses in particular.

Two Models of Cloud Brokerages, One Winner: Cloud Federation

DCK said two vastly different models were emerging, and declared one would be the winner. The first is a traditional brokerage, with very little difference compared to a stock brokerage, for example. The second is Cloud Federation, where clouds are still aggregated, however the aggregator provides value.

Several vendors sought to create application marketplaces transposing the Apple App Marketplace model onto Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. The successful marketplaces offer value above and beyond listing a catalog of options: they either provide a core piece of the picture, or management, monitoring, billing, and optimization of multiple clouds.

An example of a core piece of the picture would be Verizon providing the enterprise network in its Secure Cloud Interconnect (though it is more an aggregation of direct links to six clouds rather than a wider brokerage). OnApp is an example of the second, leading the pack in terms of a federated cloud service.

The logistics of cloud federation are complicated, but Synergy Research believes OnApp has a head start. We predicted that the pure brokerage model wouldn’t find its legs. Although there were some upstarts, this model has yet to have an impact.

Cloud and the “Internet of Things”

The Internet of Things basically means turning everyday devices into devices that broadcast data via the Internet. RF Code, known for its sensors, said it sees a big IoT play in the company’s future.

The first wave of commercial smart devices hit the market with reasonable success, and industrial companies began thinking around data gathering from end points.

Microsoft added real-time IoT tools to Azure. IBM added IoT capabilities into its Bluemix PaaS. IoT even has a consortium with a jumping membership.

The Specialized Cloud

This prediction goes hand-in-hand with value-added services, as the major value add can be tuning cloud services to specific groups. Rackspace focused on DevOps cloud services; Peak offers cloud only through the channel; Datapipe focused on federal cloud needs with the acquisition of Layered Tech. DigitalOcean grew exponentially and landed big funding on the back of offering a cloud specifically for developers.

One popular method of differentiation remained targeting specific groups to combat a “one-size-fits-all” mentality by the giants. Clouds are identifying with verticals, specific groups within a company like developers or business size.

IT as Business Driver

The prediction was that IT is transforming away from departmental cost to business driver. “IT needs to become enabler rather than slowing things down,” said Rackspace's Engates last year.

Hand in hand with DevOps, IT underwent a transformation last year. Developers are becoming operations. It’s about deriving value from data and driving innovation through technology. IT is the product now, not something in the background assisting, but driving the economy.

Cloud and CDN Blur; Network's Role Grows

The network is undergoing a cloud transition. In 2013 we predicted Software Defined Networking would become a focal point, and that CDNs would tune for the cloud world.

SDN is a way to make data center networks agile by creating virtual (or logical) networks on static hardware infrastructure. Because the network is virtual, network configurations are done automatically and quickly, which also opens up a lot of automation possibilities. It is top of mind for all the network players who view SDN as the way to find their place in a cloud world.

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