5 cloud computing trends for 2018

What can you expect in the year ahead? Multi-cloud and containers loom large, IT leaders and cloud experts say
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Cloud computing may be the new normal, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s static. Rather, cloud and related technologies, practices, and culture – think containers, microservices architecture, DevOps, and the like – will continue to change at a breakneck pace.

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With 2018 upon us, we asked a range of IT leaders and cloud experts to dust off their crystals balls and share what they’re expecting for cloud and related areas in the year ahead. Read on for five cloud forecasts for IT leaders and their organizations to watch:

1. Multi-cloud goes mainstream – and open source is the portability enabler

Heptio CEO and co-founder Craig McLuckie, one of the original developers of Kubernetes, believes 2018 will be the year when multi-cloud strategies become the norm in IT, especially as organizations that now feel confident with their initial, single cloud environment look to add a second (or third, or....you get the idea.)

“Most enterprises now have workloads running in the cloud, and many are starting to evaluate who their second cloud provider will be,” McLuckie says. 

As Alessandro Perilli, Red Hat GM, management strategy, pointed out earlier this year, this is a natural and advisable execution of a multi-cloud, multi-vendor strategy: 

“Start by managing each vendor individually – most companies start in this way – for a quick return on investment and to build up the expertise necessary for the next phases,” Perilli advises.

[ Read our related article, How to manage multiple hybrid cloud vendors: 8 tips. ]

McLuckie notes that the reasons for looking to expand to other platforms and environments vary by organization, they all lead to the same basic result: Multi-cloud. “In some cases it is simply a question of procurement policy – few companies of scale can afford to rely on a single provider. In other cases organizations see potential quality of service, capability, or price advantages in solutions offered by other providers.”

To achieve those and other benefits – workload portability and optimization come to mind – open source will need to play a starring role, McLuckie says.

“Open source technology by its nature will emerge as an important consideration as it represents a powerful way to avoid vendor lock-in to a specific environment,” he explains. “More sophisticated organizations will start to value building stronger relationships with open source communities directly as a way to meet their needs.”

2. IT turns from cloud adoption to cloud optimization

2018 also appears poised to be a phase when the cloud narrative shifts from adoption to optimization, according to Jeff Budge, VP of advisory consulting and product management at OneNeck IT Solutions.

“Optimization will appear in many different dimensions, including cost, multi-cloud governance and management, and data optimization,” Budge says.

Cloud costs are already a major topic, but Budge expects IT leaders to laser in on their optimization and management next year, particularly as cloud strategies mature. 

Similarly, with multi-cloud environments proliferating, there will be increasing emphasis on all of the issues that fall under the broad header of: How the heck do we manage all of this?

“As customers have progressed in their cloud journey, they have come to realize it will require a mix of cloud types to meet their company’s needs,” Budge says. “In the current day, that generally means administration and management of this mix of clouds involves ‘chair swiveling’ from cloud console to cloud console.”

Budge predicts there will be a lot of buzz in the “single pane of glass” cloud management tools space next year.

In particular, Budge expects data optimization across a diverse cloud portfolio to become a top priority: “Data integration, data sovereignty, data security, data encryption, data, data, data,” Budge says. “As companies are identifying the right cloud mix for their application portfolio, there will be a huge push on the implications of data.”

3. Hybrid cloud expands and powers related trends

As trends like digital transformation and edge computing continue, the case for hybrid cloud models is likely to grow inside many IT shops, says Sergio Farache, senior vice president, global cloud solutions at Tech Data.

“Several elements, from cost of communication, intellectual property, proximity and reliability of applications, will require hybrid computing environments,” Farache says. 

“Enterprises’ data and applications are increasingly spread between in-house platforms, SaaS, IaaS, and edge IoT,” says Sagi Brody, CTO at Webair. “In other words, hybrid IT is becoming a fact of life.”

As a result, Brody notes that IT leaders and their teams will need to manage a much broader portfolio than in the olden days, and that will likely entail making smart decisions about what to keep in-house and what to move elsewhere.

“CIOs and CTOs must be deliberate in determining which aspects of their future hybrid IT environments should be managed and orchestrated internally, and where they may prefer to shift responsibility and liability to third parties,” Brody says.

4. Containers, orchestration, and microservices join the “A” list

Containers, orchestration, and microservices have been hot topics in IT for a while; expect the buzz to translate into wider adoption in the coming year.

“As cloud computing continues to evolve, we’ll see microservices architecture and container orchestration technologies become mainstream,” says Viktor Farcic, senior consultant at CloudBees.  

The relationship between the three is very much symbiotic – containers and microservices go together like milk and cookies, and an orchestration tool keeps everything manageable – which is why we’ll see their usage rise in concert with one another.

“We’re already seeing enterprises turning to microservices-based architectures, but when packaged and deployed using traditional methods, microservices can be costly and complicated. That’s why we’ll see the continued rise of containers,” Farcic says, adding that Kubernetes will cement its pole position as the leading orchestrator. “Kubernetes will become the standard for cluster computing. 2018 will be all about Kubernetes and its ecosystem. We’ll see many software vendors base their strategies on the support of the Kubernetes ecosystem and almost everyone will adopt Kubernetes or offer solutions based on it.”

Heptio’s McLuckie has a similar forecast, in that containers and orchestration will reach the point where software vendors start delivering container-ready solutions, saving customers time and money when it comes to integration and other tasks.

“During 2018, as containers become more mainstream and standardization initiatives [such as] OCI for Linux application containers and the Certified Kubernetes program, start to take effect in the industry, more traditional software vendors will start to increasingly look at the related technologies as the starting point for their solutions,” McLuckie says. “We will start to see more and more solutions being delivered as container-package and dynamically managed offerings that build on the container and orchestrator ecosystem.”

Nic Grange, CTO at Retriever Communications, also expects Kubernetes to hit hit the IT mainstream this year, especially in hybrid cloud environments, in part because of workload portability. Grange also points out that IT teams getting started with containers and microservices don’t have to run them in a cloud environment immediately, or at all – but if they decide to migrate those applications later, it’s easier to do so.

“Most IT departments are used to deploying applications directly to the operating systems, but technologies like Kubernetes move up the level of abstraction which makes it easier to move applications between on-premises and the cloud,” Grange says. “IT departments will have to adapt to this to allow their business to be competitive and responsive to market changes by reducing the cost of changing directions.”

That flexibility is important for another reason, too, one that underpins the growth of multi-cloud strategies and hybrid cloud environments. IT leaders know full well the importance of being able to match workloads to the right environments. SAS CIO Keith Collins points out that the idea that you can simply “wrapper legacy applications in containers to lift and shift the workload to the public cloud” isn’t the reality in many IT shops. Instead, IT leaders carefully match workloads and various environments.

5. CIOs learn to scale DevOps in a lean way

As DevOps matures in parallel with cloud, Rainforest QA CIO Derek Choy predicts his fellow IT leaders will face growing pressure for it to deliver on its potential to help deliver high-quality services faster and more frequently – and he thinks CIOs and their teams are up to the task.


“We’ve reached a critical inflection point in DevOps adoption. CIOs will face pressure in 2018 to ensure their businesses are releasing software at speed and quality, without adding cost,” Choy says. Indeed, that’s a key promise of DevOps, but Choy notes that much of the software development lifecycle, even in DevOps shops, is still very people-intensive. As teams embrace automation and cloud-native tools like Kubernetes, expect teams to deliver at greater scale without necessarily adding tons of new bodies.

“In 2018, CIOs will figure out how to automate DevOps to scale while meeting business goals for headcount and recruitment," Choy says.

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Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.