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Enterprise use of cloud technologies gathered pace in 2015, as firms looked to wind down their datacentre investments and move more of their IT infrastructure off-premise.
While this trend played out, debate about how far the enterprise would be willing and able to go in the cloud raged on, with most providers offering the view that many will move to adopt a hybrid approach to IT consumption.
But for how long emerged as something of a divisive point for the cloud industry, with some declaring hybrid cloud as a stop-off on the enterprise’s journey to the public cloud, while others hailed it as the final destination.
However, with IT market watcher Gartner claiming hybrid cloud is still “two to five” years away from mainstream adoption, it seems we’re still some way from seeing a victor crowned in that debate.
Here, Computer Weekly takes a look back at some of the biggest cloud stories and trends from the past 12 months.
1. Google hits back at enterprise cloud security concerns
While security is often cited as a reason not to move to the cloud, this year has seen a marked softening of this view in the enterprise.
Even so, that didn’t stop Google from setting the cat among the pigeons with its comments about how data stored in the cloud is inherently safer than information stored on-premise.
The declaration was made by Greg DeMichillie, director of product management for Google’s Cloud Platform, in June 2015, who claimed – in the wake of the Sony Pictures, Target and Home Depot data breaches – users are wrong to assume their data is secure when stored on-premise
“We have more than 500 professional security researchers at Google,” he said. “These people are doing penetration testing, fuzzing our software with random bad API calls and doing in-depth security readings. Very few of you could afford 500 security researchers.”
DeMichillie’s views did not go down well with Computer Weekly readers, who argued that it was not security concerns putting them off using the search giant’s platform, rather they simply did not trust how the firm would use the data stored in its cloud.
2. Amazon Web Services (AWS) retains its hold on the cloud market
As Amazon Web Services (AWS) retained its hold on the cloud market this year, its parent company decided it was high time to share precise details of just how big a contribution the firm’s infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) activities makes to its overall bottom line.
In short, it’s a lot, with Amazon.com’s third quarter results (published in October 2015) revealing that AWS now generates a similar level of operating income as its entire North American retail business.
Elsewhere, the analyst community has released a steady stream of reports this year that all neatly serve to highlight just how far ahead of the chasing pack in the cloud AWS now is.
For example, Synergy Research Group released a report in April 2015 that claimed the firm’s cloud infrastructure operations are now bigger than the combined businesses of its four nearest competitors (namely Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft and Google).
3. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise calls it quits in the public cloud
While Amazon continued to flourish in the public cloud, a pre-split Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) spent a sizeable portion of 2015 batting away claims it was planning to exit the public cloud market.
The first wave of protestations was prompted by a New York Times article featuring quotes from Bill Hilf, senior vice-president and general manager of HP Cloud, in April 2015 that seemed to suggest the firm was giving up on its public cloud ambitions, in the wake of fierce competition from the likes of AWS, Google and Microsoft.
This was fiercely denied by HP in a blog post, which claimed Hilf’s comments were intended to imply that the firm was not interested in competing “head to head” with the big public cloud players, rather than not at all.
Fast forward six months, and it was all change again, with HP releasing a statement to confirm the forthcoming closure of its public cloud service on 31 January 2016.
4. EMC-Dell merger looms large over VMware and VCE
As 2015 drew to a close, the cloud industry continued to debate how the EMC-Dell merger will affect the market, particularly where VMware and VCE are concerned.
While VMware has been quick to assure customers and partners that it plans to adopt a “business as usual” approach throughout the acquisition and after, speculation about the impact the deal could have on the future of EMC-owned converged infrastructure player VCE rumbled on.
A lot of this uncertainty centred on whether or not Cisco’s involvement in VCE would become untenable once Dell took over the reins of EMC.
This type of talk was something both EMC and Cisco were quick to put paid to, issuing a joint statement restating their commitment to the private cloud-enabling venture.
The financial services industry is often cited a vertical market that has been slow to come round to the charms of cloud, but that could be set to change in 2016.
This is on the back of an advisory note issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in November 2015, that declared cloud technologies as “acceptable” for use by financial services firms.
“We see no fundamental reason why cloud services (including public cloud services) cannot be implemented, with appropriate consideration, in a manner that complies with our rules,” it stated.
While it remains to be seen if this will be sufficient to convince the cloud naysayers in the financial services market to throw their full weight behind cloud, it is certainly an encouraging first step.
6. G-Cloud suppliers up in arms over 20% variance cap on contracts
The G-Cloud framework has more than succeeded in its bid to make off-premise services more accessible and easier for the public sector to adopt, having chalked up more than £800m in sales since it launched in 2012.
Despite this, the way the government runs it has come under close scrutiny at several points in 2015, particularly in light of the Crown Commercial Service’s decision to introduce a 20% variance cap on G-Cloud deals to coincide with the launch of the seventh iteration of the framework in November 2015.
The move has prompted letters of complaint from disgruntled suppliers, who have urged the government to remove the cap, while others said they will be encouraging customers to procure services through G-Cloud 6 until the matter is resolved.
7. Enterprise adoption of hybrid cloud laid bare by Gartner
At the end of last year, analysts and suppliers alike were busy tipping hybrid cloud for take-off in 2015. Now, while it’s fair to say the term has become far more widely known and talked about over the last 12 months, the number of enterprises actually consuming IT in this way has not quite caught up yet.
And it was left to Gartner, and its hype cycle, to provide the industry with a short, sharp dose of reality on this point with its declaration that mainstream adoption of hybrid cloud technologies is still “two to five years” off, as just 10-15% of enterprises are using it.
8. Unfavourable exchange rates prompt cloud price hikes
The strength of the US dollar has been cited as a reason by many suppliers in 2015 when asked to shed some light on why their financial results may have disappointed Wall Street, and this has also had a knock-on effect for a number of cloud users too.
As such, Microsoft blamed the strong dollar when forced to hike the price of its Azure infrastructure as a service platform in Europe, while Gartner cautioned CIOs to be on their guard against suppliers following Microsoft’s lead while – perhaps – not being so open and upfront about what they are up to.
9. Cloud-enabling hardware eats up more of the enterprise IT budget
Figures from IT market watcher IDC April 2015 revealed the amount of money spent on cloud-enabling hardware now makes up a third of all IT infrastructure budget, as enterprises look to move more of their applications and workloads off-premise.
“The transition to cloud-oriented infrastructure and data platform architectures within enterprises’ datacentres continues to accelerate, yet the expansion of public cloud infrastructure in service providers’ datacentres around the world is an even larger driver of IT spending,” the analyst house said.
“A key driver of this acceleration is organisations’ development and use of internet of things services that require levels of agility and scale that only cloud services can deliver.”
10. UK competition watchdog to probe cloud storage sector for consumer law violations
Government competition chiefs announced a full and thorough review into how the cloud storage market operates, in the wake of user complaints about shock price rises and surprise service shutdowns.
As part of this, The Competition and Markets Authority called on companies that use cloud storage services at the start of December 2015 to share their experiences with it, as it seeks to ascertain if some firms may have breached consumer protection laws with their actions.
This call for evidence is set to go on until 15 January 2016, and – if the CMA does find evidence of wrongdoing – this could have far-reaching consequences for the cloud storage market into the New Year.