UPDATED 22:00 EST / DECEMBER 23 2019

Cloudy crystal ball CLOUD

For 2020, the crystal ball remains positively cloudy

Each year around this time we’re inundated with predictions from tech executives. Most are rather predictable, but there are always a few that stand out for going against the grain.

So for this year’s cloud predictions, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting examples — along with a few cherry-picked from around the web — and add a little opinion of my own.

Cybersecurity

“As more organizations move to the cloud, providers’ infrastructure will increasingly become a high payoff target that, if compromised, could have devastating effects on the economy and national security. We believe state adversaries will redouble their efforts to attack cloud systems in 2020.”

Greg Conti, senior security strategist, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc.

I agree with the first part of the prediction but not the second. Cybercriminals are pretty lazy. They go after the easiest marks, and there is no shortage of opportunity to take advantage of phishing victims, sloppy access controls are misconfigured servers. Why attack Fort Knox when there are local jewelers who leave their back door unlocked?

“We predict the acceleration in cloud migrations will result in a massive data breach in 2020, the size of which could be as significant as Equifax, given the amount of data these companies hold and their increased willingness to migrate critical data.”

Rob McNutt, chief technology officer, ForeScout Technologies Inc.

That’s a safe prediction given that it has already happened. And it’s likely to happen again, given the tendency of cloud infrastructure users to leave data exposed. Palo Alto Networks recently said it uncovered 34 million vulnerabilities across major platforms over the course of 18 months, nearly all the result of customer error. You can bet last summer’s Capital One Financial Corp. breach won’t be the last.

Data gravity

“Large enterprises are refusing to add capacity to their on-premises Hadoop deployments and instead invest in the public cloud. But they are still not willing to move their core enterprise data to the cloud. Data will stay on-premises and compute will be burst to the cloud, particularly for peak demands and unpredictable workloads. Technologies that provide optimal approaches to achieve this will drive the rise of the hybrid cloud.”

Haoyuan Li, founder and chief technology officer, Alluxio Inc.

Not so sure about that. Gartner Inc. expects that 75% of enterprise databases will be deployed or migrated to a cloud platform by 2022, although, admittedly, that may include private clouds. Various research firms that aren’t Gartner see compound annual growth rates of 22.5% and 23.7%, so somebody’s putting their data there. We do agree that there will be demand for solutions that process on-premises data in the cloud, but it’s usually simpler and faster to move the data to where it’s being operated upon.

“Businesses will expedite the move of their operational data away from legacy providers like Oracle and SAP to cloud-native database management solutions. The need for data management systems that are purpose-built for AI and ML functions will skyrocket. This will continue the shift of workloads to cloud providers.”

Peter Guagenti, chief marketing officer, MemSQL Inc.

If you believe that Gartner forecast, then Guagenti’s prediction is right on the mark. That’s one reason Oracle Corp. is desperate to grow its cloud presence and SAP SE has customers on a forced march to S/4 HANA. The company that controls the data owns the customer, and who will dominate the cloud database market is still an open question.

The future of multicloud

“In 2020, I believe we’ll see the rise of the “omni cloud,” or what multicloud will become. Basically, the abstraction above the physical public clouds, providing common ways to access storage, processing, databases, compute and high-performance computing. This will likely be more of an idea than an actual thing in 2020, but it will be game-changing in terms of how we deal with complex heterogenous cloud deployments.”

David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer, Deloitte LLP Consulting, quoted in Enterprise Cloud Solutions Review

“Hyperscalers want to do it all in the cloud but in 2020 cloud customers will proclaim that they want to pick the best storage, the best artificial intelligence software, the best CPUs, the best content delivery network and so on and have it all work together. Standards will emerge so that it will be much easier for cloud service providers to put it all together for their customers. Executives make sure they’re getting the best service for the amount they’re paying.”

David Friend, CEO, Wasabi Technologies Inc.

Customers definitely want this – and standards are emerging – but this will be a case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Cloud providers give lip service to supporting best-of-breed applications but none — with the possible exception of Google LLC – is doing much to enable it. Still, customers usually get their way in the long run.

“In 2020 enterprise tech customers will finally realize that pursuing a multicloud strategy is worthless. It takes enormous effort and adds a lot of complexity for the relatively meager benefit of hedging against outages and vendor lock-in. The goal of hedging against failures is just not meaningful when prolonged outages among major cloud providers have been practically non-existent. It ends up being more expensive for end-users to build the same system in multiple clouds than to build for your cloud of choice.”

Paul Dix, co-founder and chief technology officer, InfluxData Inc., quoted in Enterprise Cloud Solutions Review

This is a refreshingly blunt assessment, especially compared with the cautious tone executives usually adopt. And I totally agree. Most multicloud users I’ve spoken to were forced into their position due to acquisition or customer demand. If given a choice, they would prefer to pick one cloud platform and stick with it.

“Serverless computing is the first hint of a programmable public cloud: developers upload code and run at whatever scale they can generate. New languages and APIs will allow innovators to easily harness millions of computers and exabytes of data to invent rich, sophisticated experiences we have yet to imagine.”

Joe Hellerstein, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Trifacta Inc.

Cool idea, though you could argue that cryptominers figured this out first. Hellerstein is correct that programming languages haven’t kept up with the massive potential of using infinitely scalable underlying platforms. Think SETI writ large. 

Partly cloudy

“Sometimes it’s impractical to move data to the public cloud. So, why not move the cloud service to where the data is? We’ve already started to see cloud services run independently of cloud data centers, such as running Amazon Relational Database Service on-premises. I expect to see far more examples of this in 2020 and beyond. The physical location of where a service runs ultimately becomes an implementation detail.”

Chris Wolf, vice president, advanced technology group, VMware Inc.

“Cloud vendors are quickly expanding their regional data center availability. There are currently 54 Microsoft Azure regions, 22 AWS regions and 20 Google Cloud Platform regions. Oracle Cloud just announced a goal of 36 regions available by the end of 2020. This will drive greater need for data location and better governance tools.”

Penny Gralewski, solutions lead, Commvault Systems Inc.

There’s no doubt cloud infrastructure is fragmenting, and companies such as VMware and Commvault both stand to benefit from that. So do hyperconverged infrastructure providers, colocation companies, managed service providers and consultants who will have to tie everything together. Remember when cloud was simple?

Miscellanea

“In 2020, customer-first subscription models tailored to cloud-driven strategies will emerge to deliver value and peace-of-mind. Organizations will no longer have to contend with burdensome contracts that are inflexible, limiting and not conducive to business continuity.”

Aruba Networks Inc.

I’d argue this has already happened in IT software and services. The more interesting developments may be in how this trend spreads to other sectors. I recently heard the CIO of a large maker of construction equipment say his customers are now asking for “rock-crushers-as-a-service.” It could be that the revolutionary pricing models that software-as-a-service firms introduced nearly 20 years ago will have far broader implications than we ever imagined.

“By 2024, the World Health Organization will identify online shopping as an addictive disorder as millions abuse digital commerce and encounter financial stress. As technology grows more sophisticated, marketers will be able to more accurately predict what consumers want, how to price products and where to position them. But this comes at a price. As consumers purchase more products they don’t need and can’t afford, businesses will need to take responsibility to warn potential buyers, similar to how U.S. casinos must promote responsible gambling.”

Top 10 Trends in Digital Commerce, Gartner

Good luck with all that. You haven’t seen my credit-card bill.

Photo: Unsplash

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