The cloud is everywhere. Only three years ago it was still unclear as to how cloud adoption would unfold — or if it would unfold — in regulated industries. But heading into 2018, it's safe to say every business uses some form of cloud services. Driven by the explosion in data sources in recent years and the pressure to use that data meaningfully, the cloud provides organizations not only with a place to store data but also access to applications that can act on it.

Spending on cloud services demonstrates just how rapidly usage has grown. In 2015, Gartner predicted that, globally, enterprises would spend $140 billion on on-premises data center systems. Since then, the rapid adoption of public and private cloud services has sparked a major reallocation of IT budgets. Enterprises are moving away from relying solely on on-premises data center systems and are boosting spending on IT infrastructure for deployment in cloud environments.  The result, according to IDC, is that cloud services and infrastructure spending will reach $266 billion annually by 2021.

The picture is even more complicated than that. Businesses are using and deploying private, public and hybrid clouds in a number of ways, shaping the direction of the space over the next 12 months. 

1. Multi-Cloud Strategies

Issy Ben-Shaul is CEO and co-founder of Velostrata, a San Mateo, Calif.-based cloud migration specialist. He believes next year will find enterprises looking at multi-cloud strategies rather than strategies built around a single cloud. More specifically, he said, they will split their production workloads across more than one public cloud.

“Enterprises don’t want to be locked in. If an enterprise can get significant cost reduction on infrastructure, this can mean millions of dollars in savings a year. Furthermore, different clouds offer different innovation and functionality. Enterprises would like to use best of breed for the different workloads to take advantage of what all clouds must offer,” Ben-Shaul told CMSWire.

2. Industry-Specific Clouds

John Engates, chief evangelist at Windcrest, Texas-based managed cloud services provider Rackspace, agreed with Ben-Shaul. Engates predicted industry-specific clouds will become the norm to meet the unique needs, capability requirements and specific regulations of different industry sectors.

3. Move to Private Cloud

Alex Lesser said next year will be marked by a move to private clouds, as organizations look to gain control over their computing resources. Lesser is executive VP at
Lake Forest, Calif.-based PSSC Labs, which provides supercomputing for organizations working with big data. 

“Cloud services such as AWS are notorious for sky-high monthly bills filled with hidden 'gotchas' especially for companies that require a lot of computing power. In addition to unexpected line items on the monthly invoice, cloud customers can also be hit hard by the indirect costs of performance problems and cyberattacks,” he said.

Yet as cloud computing grows in popularity, cracks are appearing in its foundation. He pointed to February 2017, when AWS suffered an outage caused by an employee's misconfiguration that was so bad, it couldn’t get into its systems to communicate with the customers who were knocked offline. 

4. Invisible Infrastructure

Organizations will be looking for cloud offerings that will hide their infrastructure and make them invisible according to Lynn Elwood, vice president of Cloud and Services Solutions at Waterloo, Ontario-based OpenText.

Elwood told CMSWire that in 2018, organizations will demand seamless integration of cloud, on-premises and hybrid infrastructure, allowing users to do business regardless of where applications live.

“Organizations will continue moving to the cloud, but that does not mean they will look for immediate rip-and-replace strategies. Especially among large enterprise, organizations will look for partners to help them complete their digital transformations, while leveraging the significant technology investments already in place,” she said.

5. A New Approach to Data Ownership

Elwood added that new cloud ecosystems (many of which are borderless) and new regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will change the way we look at data ownership in 2018. Many organizations currently believe they own the data they collect and can pretty much do with it what they please. The GDPR will shift this view of data ownership to focus on the individual. The GDPR and similar rules will mandate that organizations protect individual consumer's data or risk hefty fines and reputational damage.

6. Data Migration Challenges

Penny Gralewski is solutions lead at Tinton Falls, NJ.-based information management specialist Commvault. She said the superior storage capabilities and the access to hundreds of data-specific applications will result in enterprises reaching out to independent software vendors and partners to help them move large volumes of data to the cloud. Citing Commvault’s 2017 Executive Cloud Survey, she said 68 percent of IT leaders surveyed said the volume of data they needed to move was preventing the transfer of even more apps and data to the cloud.

Learning Opportunities

“Multi-cloud will increase, while IT streamlines management tools. IT budgets will likely be shifting from spending money on duplicate management systems — like legacy data backup, data recovery or disaster recovery point products — to instead diversify their cloud storage options. IT teams need to be able to move, manage and use that data across clouds,” she said.

7. Challenges to Traditional Storage

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hedvig provides software defined storage solutions to companies looking to virtualize their data center. Founder Avinash Lakshman said 2018 will see traditional storage vendors struggling to find relevancy. As a cloud mentality becomes commonplace, traditional backup software and hardware solutions — a place where enterprises spend significant sums — will lose shares faster than in the past three to five years.

Software-defined storage and distributed systems approaches are new to many organizations so backup is a comfortable place to start. Backup solution vendors that have been around for a decade or more will find it challenging to hold their ground against agile startups that bring new approaches to the data protection game.

8. Kubernetes Reaches Mainstream

Lakshman also said it's impossible to talk about the cloud in 2018 without talking about Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications originally designed by Google and donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Like Docker for containers, Lakshman said, Kubernetes has become the de facto cloud orchestrator. He said he could have made this prediction last year and it would be just as true. “The recent embrace of Kubernetes across the industry — including Microsoft Azure, Docker, and Mesosphere DC/OS — shows that the open-source container orchestration system has proven its effectiveness in providing simpler cloud deployment, better scaling and more efficient management,” he said. “In 2018, the IT world will become conversant, if not fluent, in Kubernetes, its concepts and terminology and start to expand inside enterprises and clouds.”

9. Diversified IT Environments

David Messina, CMO of San Francisco-based Docker, believes 2018 will be characterized by a diversification of IT environments.“Whether relying on Windows or Linux or bare metal or the cloud, companies want the flexibility to implement the best tools and infrastructure for their respective needs, and rightfully so,” he said. “We can expect to see IT environments continue to grow in diversity in the coming year, but that doesn’t mean problems have to surface as a result.”

As calls for accelerated cloud strategies increase, it's becoming clear that outdated Platform as a Service (PaaS) frameworks are not equipped to handle the demand of managing all the applications that are part of today’s modern enterprise.

“In 2018, we expect to see PaaS adoption stall as enterprises recognize the time to value is too prolonged for the current and future pace of business,” Messina said. “This will give way to accelerated Container as a Service (CaaS) platform adoption as enterprises look to migrate more workloads to the cloud, while achieving greater agility, innovation and cost-efficiencies."

10. Hybrid Cloud

Laurent Bride, CTO of Redwood City, Calif.-based Talend, which provides big data, cloud storage, data integration and data management services to enterprises, thinks hybrid environments will become more widespread over the next year. “In 2017, we saw an increasing number of companies shift from kicking the tires on the use of cloud and big data technologies to implementing enterprise deployments, with many taking a hybrid approach. In 2018, more will follow suit,” he said.

Executives across many industries are realizing they need to allow users to securely access data efficiently without having to request authorization from multiple systems and to build infrastructure so their teams are fully equipped to handle big data analytics.