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While cloud has established itself as the preferred way for many enterprises to consume IT resources, organisations in some vertical markets have taken markedly longer to come round to its charms.
Chief among them is the financial services sector, but 2018 has seen a marked rise in the number of banks, building societies and insurance companies going public with their cloud migration plans, and the same is true in the public sector.
Despite the government’s long-standing cloud-first mandate for central government departments, regulatory, data security and sovereignty concerns have made it hard for some to really get moving on cloud, but progress picked up noticeably in 2018.
There have been several major changes within the supplier community, including high-profile senior management changes, business strategy tweaks and merger news, that hint at a market that is coming of age, while still having to work through its growing pains.
With this as a backdrop, Computer Weekly takes a look at the top 10 cloud stories of 2018.
NHS Digital marked the start of 2018 with a declaration that cloud is a safe space for health and social care organisation to store patient data, as it moved to allay long-held concerns within the sector about entrusting sensitive data to off-premise environments.
The declaration was welcomed at the time, with industry watchers predicting an uptick in adoption across the NHS in response, in much the same way that the central government-focused cloud-first mandate has prompted other public sector organisation to embrace cloud too.
2. Microsoft staff allegedly pen open letter urging software giant to drop bid for US government cloud deal
Microsoft found itself under pressure from its own staff in 2018 to drop out of the running for a lucrative 10-year cloud contract with the US Department of Defense over concerns that it could lead to the firm’s technology being used to “wage war”, “end lives” and “enhance lethality”.
Microsoft employees outlined their misgivings about the company’s potential involvement in a letter, in which they also called upon individuals working for other firms known to be competing for the deal, including Amazon, Oracle and IBM, to lobby their employers to exit the bidding process too.
In what is becoming something of a yearly occurrence for the firm, public cloud behemoth Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered a sizeable outage in March 2018 that resulted in more than 200 websites and internet services offline for close to two hours.
Although the incident was resolved relatively quickly, industry watchers seized on the news as an example of just how far-reaching the consequences can be for users when a single supplier encounters downtime.
Amazon and Apple were among a number of tech firms forced to publicly refute a Bloomberg report in October 2018 that alleged its servers had been bugged by Chinese government agents at some point during their manufacture.
The report alleged that chip-like bugs, described as being the size of a grain of rice, could be used by attackers to create a “stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines”, and were installed on the server motherboards by subcontractors working in SuperMicro’s supply chain.
Oracle and AWS have been embroiled in a long-running war of words, as the latter has made a concerted effort in recent years to flesh out its database proposition for the enterprise, while marketing its wares as a cheaper, more open alternative to its rival’s offer.
In response, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison has previously made the point that if its technology is so bad, why does Amazon.com continue to use it, and the online retail giant responded in 2018 by removing it from its operations once and for all.
Barclays Bank is in the midst of a sizeable, multi-year, agile-focused digital transformation project, but in 2018 it emerged that this work was putting the firm on a path to go all-in on the AWS public cloud.
While the news represents a sizeable customer win for Amazon, it is also indicative of how attitudes towards using cloud within the highly regulated financial services sector are softening, enabling the market to shake off its image as a laggard when it comes to embracing off-premise life.
Google is firmly established as one of the top three public cloud providers, and the work that has gone into readying its cloud platform and services for enterprise use – under the careful gaze of its CEO Diane Greene – has played a huge part in that.
However, Greene announced in November that she will soon be leaving the firm in pursuit of philanthropic adventures elsewhere, to be replaced by ex-Oracle president Thomas Kurian in January.
Greene said she only ever planned to be CEO for two years and ended up staying for three, but industry watchers were quick to suggest that there might be more to her departure than meets the eye.
IBM’s proposed $34bn mega-merger with open source technology giant Red Hat sent the rumour mill into a spin at the end of October 2018, as speculation about what the deal meant for both parties began to circulate.
According to IBM, the deal will establish it as a leader in the hybrid cloud market, as Red Hat’s open source credentials will mean the firms can collectively help enterprises speed up the time it takes to migrate their applications and workloads off-premise.
The hyperscale cloud giants go to great lengths to keep the locations of their cloud-powering datacentres a secret, and AWS is no different. But in October 2018, whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published details of the alleged location and codenames of more than 100 of its datacentres.
AWS did not confirm or deny the veracity of the information, and Wikileaks said its motivation for going public with the list was simply a continuation of its anti-secrecy agenda.
The past few years have seen OpenStack expand its roots from simply providing enterprises with a means of building private clouds, with its software now used to underpin network function virtualisation projects, edge computing deployments and public cloud builds.
In line with this, its supporting foundation has started turning its attention to encouraging enterprises to make open source technologies pervasive throughout the entire IT stack, as part of its repositioning as a champion of open infrastructure builds.
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