What Cloud World Forum 2014 tells us about cloud

The sixth annual Cloud World Forum wrapped up yesterday and here’s what the event tells us about the state of cloud IT in the enterprise world.

OpenStack is gaining serious traction

OpenStack’s big users and providers claimed the cloud technology is truly enterprise-ready because of its freedom from vendor lock-in and portability features. Big internet companies such as eBay are running mission-critical workloads on OpenStack cloud.  Even smaller players such as German company Centralway is using open source cloud to power its infrastructure when TV adverts create load peaks.

HP says it is “all in” when it comes to OpenStack. It is investing over $1bn in cloud-related products and services, including an investment in the open-source cloud. RedHat has just acquired eNovance, a leader in the OpenStack integration services for $95m. Rackspace and VMware are ramping up their OpenStack services and IBM has built its cloud strategy around OpenStack.

Skills shortage around developing OpenStack APIs into a cloud infrastructure seems to be the only big barrier hindering its widescale adoption.

Rise of the cloud marketplace

Cloud marketplace is fast becoming an important channel for cloud transactions. According to Ovum analyst Laurent Lachal, company JasperSoft gained 500 new customers in just six months with AWS marketplace. Oracle, Rackspace, Cisco, Microsoft and IBM have all recently launched cloud services marketplaces. 

What it means to the users? Browsing the full spectrum of cloud services will become as easy for customers as browsing apps in the Apple App Store or Google Play. “As cloud matures, established marketplace seems like a logical evolution. It is a new trend but it gives users a wealth of options in a one-stop-shop kind of way,” said Lachal.

Vendor skepticism on the rise

Bank of England CIO John Finch, in his keynote, warned users of “pesky vendors” and cloud providers’ promises around “financial upside of using the cloud”. Legal experts and top enterprise users urged delegates to understand the SLAs and contract terms very clearly before shaking hands with the cloud providers.

Changing role of CIOs

Cloud is leading to the rise of Shadow IT and CIOs must don the role of becoming the broker of technologies and educating enterprise users on compliance and security, it became apparent at the event. Technology integration, IT innovation and service brokerage are some of the skills CIOs need to develop in the cloud era.

Questions around compliance, data protection, security on the cloud remain unanswered

Most speakers focusing on the challenges around cloud adoption mentioned security, data sovereignty, privacy, compliance and vendor-friendly SLAs as its biggest barriers

Not all enterprises using cloud are putting mission-critical apps on public cloud

Lack of trust seems to be the main reason why enterprises are not putting mission critical workloads on public cloud. Bank of England’s Finch just stopped short of saying “never” to public cloud. Take Coca Cola bottling company CIO Onyeke Nchege for instance – he’s planning to put mission critical ERP systems on the cloud but private cloud. EBay runs its website on the OpenStack cloud – but a private version it built for itself. One reason customers cite is that mission critical apps seem to be more static and don’t need fast-provisioning or high scalability.

“It is not always about the technology though. In our case our metadata is not sophisticated enough for us to take advantage of public cloud,” said Charles Ewan, IT director at the Met Office.

But there are some enterprises such as Astra Zeneca (running payroll workloads on public cloud) or News UK that manages its flagship newspaper brands on AWS cloud.

Urgent need for cloud standards in the EU

Lack of standards and regulations around cloud adoption, data protection and sovereignty and cloud exit strategies is making cloud adoption messy. Legal technology experts urged users to be “wise” in their cloud adoption until such time that regulations are developed. But regulators and industry bodies including the European Commission, the FCA and Bank of England are inching closer to developing guidelines and regulatory advice to protect cloud users.

Everyone’s trying to get their stamp on the cloud

The more crowded than ever Cloud World Forum saw traditional heavyweights (IBM, HP, Dell, Cisco) rub shoulders with a slew of new, smaller entrants as well as public cloud poster-boys such as AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure. Technology players ranging from chip providers to datacentre cooling services sellers were all there to claim their place in the cloud world.