Top Trends: Here's how the cloud will blossom in 2016

By Deepak Ghodke

The cloud used to sound like a big scary monster—but no more. Companies of all sizes and shapes around the world are embracing the cloud, and the trend will continue. But increased cloud use isn’t just about storage: cloud analytics continues to come on, and competition among cloud companies is heating up. This leads to partnerships few could have predicted, including alliances between competing companies and even between functions that are becoming synonymous, like cloud analytics and mobile BI. Here are some of the ways we expect the already fertile cloud to blossom in the New Year.

It’s a data land grab

The race is on for your data. From Salesforce to Amazon Web Services, the big cloud players want organizations everywhere to move their data into their ecosystems—and not just typical internal data assets either.  Data from web platforms like Workday, Zendesk, as well as from machines and devices are now prime targets for the cloud giants.

Representational image: Reuters

Representational image: Reuters

Are we surprised? Not especially.  Data assets are now to companies what oil resources are to nations.  This means that any cloud service provider looking to cement themselves as a mission critical foundation for companies needs to make a play for all of an organization’s data on their platform.

The idea of a building an enterprise data lake in the cloud has already begun to take hold. It’s especially attractive given cheap storage options that cloud players provide as well as the always attractive zero capital expenditure of hosted solutions.  Companies that have already taken the step of moving their data warehouses to the cloud will be especially open to easy paths for including non-traditional (but increasingly vital) data sources in ever-scalable platforms. This could include everything from IoT assets to social media metrics – all with the intent of building an increasingly connected analytics view of a company’s resources and customers.

Partners get dragged into the cloud price war

The battle between major cloud players has been waging for years and the front line has largely been customer’s wallets. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft trading blows on how cheaply they can offer their cloud services isn’t new.  However, each is now set to escalate the competition to involve key partners.

When you’re playing for keeps, convincing others to join your side is sometimes about the size of check you can write. Partners of the big cloud service providers might be receiving additional backing as an incentive to deepen relationships.  The end game comes down to these partners assisting with the onboarding of customers onto preferential cloud platforms.  With partners able to take advantage of the deeper resources of large cloud organizations, the ability for them to in-turn offer their own servicesfor lower prices adds a new dimension to the cloud contest.

Big companies go cloud in a big way

The tipping point is upon us. Cloud adoption is well past the perception of something that “only start-ups do.”  Large enterprises from every conceivable industry are transitioning their entire infrastructure and data ecosystems into the cloud.

In an effort to do everything from offer better in-store customer service to fully leverage advances in manufacturing, companies from even most traditional and change-resistant sectors are seeing the writing on the wall:  cloud technology strategies cut cost and risk.  That messages is impossible to miss, especially as CIO’s peer 5 years into the future and the alternative of massive unsustainable overhead stares menacingly back.

Cloud analytics helps IT

Keeping tabs on cloud deployment costs, and their capacity to expand rapidly, will lead IT leaders to rely on powerful analytics solutions that are on-hand all the time.

If a prime lure of cloud technology strategies is cost reduction and efficient resource utilization, then CIOs must be able to verify that they’re getting those benefits.  Cloud analytics solutions that allow for digging into both usage and billing data will give IT leaders the power to quickly spot potentially costly services and prevent budget overruns. And they’ll be able to do it all from mobile devices, in the middle of meetings.

Hardware giants get creative to stay cloud relevant

The leviathans of the server, networking, and chip supplier industry refuse to accept that they’ve been commoditized into the background. They will continue to make big gambles to be strategic in a world now controlled by cloud players.

Whether it’s the Dell-EMC merger or HP’s impending split into two companies, clearly the seemingly unshakeable titans of the technology hardware space are feeling the ground quaking.  The cloud revolution means that the deep ties these kingpins used to have with customers are being severed at an alarming rate, and the result is increased dependence on business from the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Interesting alliances are now on the table along with potentially radical new lines of business designed to pivot these deep-rooted organizations into positions of renewed value to their customer bases.  Underestimating the genius these companies are capable of would be a huge mistake since many of them have fully staffed labs and innovation centers purpose built to help them creatively think outside the box.

Moving data to the cloud gets closer to copy/paste

Self-service data integration and data prep solutions may have been the rage in 2015, but 2016 will be all about simple methods for pushing data from inside organizations as well as from web platforms into cloud data ecosystems.

With self-service cloud analytics and data prep now a reality, the chance of letting an individual move data into a cloud ecosystem quickly and easily (and without a technical background) is on the horizon.  Simple solutions that largely decouple the complexity of data integration, staging, and transformation and focus solely on letting business users drop data into preferred cloud databases and warehouses are on their way.

European data rules will highlight commitments to cloud data

The invalidation of the long standing Safe Harbor Principles by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) means U.S. companies moving user data across the Atlantic will need to be explicit on where they stand on data privacy, or run the risk of losing their customer’s faith.

Major cloud players wasted no time issuing statements about their dedication to customer data privacy after the CJEU’s ruling on Safe Harbor.  For those big enough to already have dedicated infrastructure in Europe the message is easy.  For those that don’t, 2016 will be a test.  Do they roll the dice and hope that a new agreement is hammered out that allows them to continue to be able to operate solely in the U.S., or do they ensure customer loyalty by committing to European data infrastructure and proactively get in front of the data privacy debate?

Cloud marketplaces pose a dilemma for software companies

Big cloud infrastructure players got smart early on and developed marketplaces to give their customers easy and direct access to their favorite 3rd party solutions without ever having to leave the platform.  The growth of these marketplaces is undeniable. As a result, marketplace sellers are faced with a customer loyalty conundrum.

The attractiveness of an environment teaming with smart, technology adoptive users makes marketplaces offered by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and Google a no-brainer to join for software and services companies. However, it adds a layer to the direct relationship these companies are used to having with customers thus creating a significant challenge when it comes to brand and loyalty.

2016 will see tech companies debating if the gain in revenue at the loss of direct customer engagement is worth it.  Smart companies will reject this choice altogether and find ways to leverage cloud marketplaces to their fullest while still delighting customers directly and building strong and committed relationships.

Hybrid cloud strategies get easier

One foot in the cloud and one foot on the ground? When it comes to a technology roadmap, this largely lost the “playing safe” stigmata and is now openly accepted as the right path for some organizations.  As a result, solutions and services built to support this model will bloom like never before.

Everything is always in transition.  Even for companies that want to be “all-in” when it comes to cloud adoption, it’s not always possible. Legacy solutions, compliance, and a host of issues can keep a portion of an IT roadmap anchored on premise.  Still other organizations prefer it that way.  The big cloud club has slightly eased it’s “if you’re not all cloud you’re doing wrong” messaging and started to openly build practices around supporting hybrid deployments.  This in turn validates smaller solution players already catering to this need in the market, and will undoubtedly encourage additional entrants into the space.

Make no mistake though, this is not a polarity shift in the momentum of organizations adopting a cloud approach. If anything, the fact that hosted infrastructure giants are softening their messaging (somewhat) on the hybrid approach merely signals their confidence of the existing momentum already in their favor.

Mobile and cloud analytics become increasingly the same

In a world where devices are always connected and where your data increasingly resides in the cloud, words like “mobile” and “cloud” cease to matter and it simply becomes about answering questions quickly and communicating results.

Opening night of baseball season and a team executive sits in the stands watching as fans stream into stadium.  Curious to know how many people have come through the gates so far she pulls out her smart phone and opens an app that connects her to a dashboard fed by live data from a high capacity database in the cloud which in turn is capturing results streaming directly from handheld ticket scanning devices at every entry point.

Mobile analytics? Check. Cloud analytics? Also check. Does the executive care? Nope. The details don’t matter, as long as it works and the executive can, with a simple gesture, compare the current numbers against previous opening nights and then, just as easily, share that discovery with any number of team members. The “how” of cloud and mobile analytics will quickly become unimportant as the simplicity of them working together as a unified solutions makes the distinctions irrelevant.

As the cloud becomes the new normal, it’s increasingly clear that there is no new normal: change is the constant. But as the providers, forms, and purposes of the cloud continue to morph, we can also count on more people than ever doing the same thing in the cloud: storing and working with data fast and efficiently.

(The author is India country manager at Tableau Software)

Updated Date: Nov 24, 2015 11:46 AM

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