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Trying to predict what will happen with the future of cloud computing is not an easy business and thanks to the speed of change it can be quite hard to talk about the next few years with any great deal of confidence.
That is not as much of a problem for Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, because he lives and breathes the cloud and has more of an insight than most.
In his keynote slot at IP Expo, Russinovich tackled the question of what was coming down the track in the cloud world and what it would mean for both the channel and customers.
He managed to attract a full house to hear his thoughts and provided plenty of statistics and predictions to back up his three main points.
His first observation was that machine learning and big data were a major trend and it was already starting to have an impact on people's lives with cyber security, financial systems, internet search engines, medicine and home automation all using machine learning.
He said that data was exploding but at the same time was becoming cheaper and the value was now in managing that information and mining it for business insights.
He said that by 2020 25bn devices would be connected and the IoT market woul be worth $1.7 trillion in five years time.
What that meant for the channel was a growing opportunity to provide IoT management services and to help customers get on top of their expanding data providing machine learning and algos as a service along with big data ingestion and storage services.
For users there were also questions: "What processes can benefit from machine learning? They need to be thinking about it. Every business everywhere will be touched in some way by machine learning. They also need to think about how they are going to handle the data explosion."
His second trend was around the growth of microseervices with an expectation that more firms would start to use containers and would be prepared to pay for a range of microservices including loose coupling, independent updates, independent scale and partitioning.
The response from the cloud provider community he expected to see to the microservices trend was containers-as-a-service to emerge as a proposition and for microservice PaaS platforms to emerge.
Customers needed to ask themselves which applications would work well being built on microservices and which PaaS would meet their needs.
The final trend Russinovich highlighted is one that is close to Microsoft hearts, the hybrid cloud strategy, which it has been banging the drum about for years.
He suggested there were several reasons why hybrid cloud would continue to major feature of the market including: network latency issues, the need for private cloud because of compliance and issues around data centre sovereignty.
Already there were some strong use cases for public cloud including development and testing and for backup and disaster recovery. But that did not remove the need for private clouds.
"We see all different aspects of hybrid with services including storage, backup, database, application integration, cloud management, which would give hybrid consistency," he said.
He quoted numbers that revealed that 74% of enterprise customers felt that a hybrid cloud would support business growth and 65% of firms were committed to spending on hybrid technology next year.
What that means for the channel is very much painting a picture of what most of them do today delivering hybrid networking, helping customers with on-premise and cloud integration and providing a consistent management and access to application platforms.
Most of what he pitched as a cloud vision comes with the recommendation that customers of course move to Azure. That is something for them to think about but for the channel the encouraging part of the keynote were the slides that highlighted their opportunities.
At no point did his vision of where the cloud was heading fail to include the corresponding opportunities for cloud providers. That in itself could have formed a fourth trend that the channel will continue to play a major role in the future.