Despite being the most transformational technology of this generation, public cloud computing and all of its inherent flexibility still has not surpassed the 50 percent threshold for adoption within the enterprise space, according to analyst house Forrester, which also pegs the market for global public cloud services to reach $236 billion by 2020.
In its cloud predictions report for 2018 the analysts write: "Cloud's impact has been global, yet fewer than half of all enterprises use a public cloud platform. In 2018, we'll cross the significant 50 percent adoption milestone, and cloud applications, platforms, and services will continue to radically change the way enterprises compete for customers."
Here we outline the major trends shaping cloud computing, and what to expect in the year ahead.
The big three cloud vendors aren't going anywhere
Forrester predicts that the big three public cloud vendors Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and Microsoft will capture 76 percent of all cloud platform revenue in 2018. It also states that Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce together have a 70 percent share of all software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue, and that there is little sign of these oligopolies being broken up.
However, Mark Baker, field product manager at Canonical predicts that AWS will see its significant lead in the market erode in 2018. He writes: "AWS is known as being an innovator – and rightly so – but while this presents opportunities for customers, it also presents some serious risks as Amazon continues to extend its reach into new markets.
"Banks, for example, are migrating more services to the AWS platform whilst knowing that Amazon could quickly launch a consumer bank or currency of its own and become a competitor.
"The same is true for retail. Walmart, for example, has publicly told its partners to steer clear of using AWS to host their cloud apps following Amazon's $13.7 billion purchase of luxury grocery chain Whole Foods Market. The approach of 'eating customers' business models' could start to translate into a loss of market share and the erosion of Amazon's current advantage."
The rise of serverless
Baker from Canonical also predicts that serverless computing – where businesses can build and run applications without having to worry about provisioning servers – will continue to prove popular in 2018.
However he does issue some warnings to enterprise customers interested in going serverless.
"The issue is that while using a third-party, such as AWS Lambda is quick to develop a function, not everyone is ready for it," he writes. "Embracing serverless requires a very different way of thinking, because it's effectively outsourcing whole pieces of infrastructure – in fact, everything apart from the app itself."
Consolidation around Kubernetes
It may not be a bold prediction, but Kubernetes looks to have won the container orchestration battle within the enterprise, as AWS finally announced support for the open source technology at its re:Invent conference in November. Now all of the major public cloud vendors fully support Kubernetes.
As more large organisations turn to continuos delivery and container technology, a container orchestration platform becomes a key pillar within an enterprise cloud strategy.
As a result, Forrester recommends investing in Kubernetes skills and pilots in 2018. "Start with a plan for container orchestration: what you need to learn, who you need to train, and what outcomes your development and infrastructure teams hope to accomplish," Forrester writes.
"Kubernetes skills are in short supply — even rarer than deep container or cloud platform skills, especially in enterprise architecture teams. Don’t underestimate the deployment and integration challenges you will face as you adopt this powerful but nascent technology."
Chip Childers, Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO agrees, writing: "In 2018, we will see current enterprise workloads begin to move to the cloud in bigger and bigger numbers. This will be largely via container technologies – in many cases using Kubernetes to orchestrate those moves. To date, adoption of these technologies in the enterprise has been slower than the hype curve.
"Now that container orchestration and schedulers are beginning to reach a certain level of maturity, we can expect that to change. Indeed, 2018 will become the year of the containerised workload in the cloud."
Software-as-a-Service vendors are shifting to platforms
Dave Bartoletti, a principal analyst at Forrester predicts that "your favourite SaaS vendors will expand to become true platform providers and make it even easier to consume their software."
The full Forrester report goes on to predict that "increased demands for customisation, convergence with digital technologies such as IoT and AI, and increasing client demand for local and hyperlocal data residency will cause SaaS vendors to compete more vigorously at the platform level."
This shift towards becoming a platform provider can be best seen through the Salesforce ecosystem, but also more recently in the case of HR and financial pure play SaaS vendor Workday, which finally opened its platform for customers this year. Read next: What is the Workday Cloud Platform, what can be built on it and when is it available?
Continued hybrid popularity
"The ability for enterprises to have applications run in different infrastructures – public and private clouds and on-premise with common orchestration and management tools – is enticing," says Ronald Sens, director EMEA marketing at A10 Networks. "Multi-cloud, with different workloads running in different clouds and being managed separately, will become the dominant mode in 2018, while true hybrid clouds will start to emerge."
Sens points to key technologies like Microsoft's Azure Stack, and the burgeoning partnerships between VMware and AWS, and Cisco and Google, as catalysts to the adoption of multi or hybrid cloud models.
Aad Dekkers, marketing director EMEA at Scale Computing agrees, writing: "There has been a huge debate around on-premises and cloud, especially when it comes to security, performance and availability, with arguments both for and against. But the reality is that the pendulum stops somewhere in the middle. In 2018, innovative organisations will start to take advantage of hybrid cloud, bringing data centres to the edge."
The rise of AI analytics
Ronald Sens from A10 Networks predicts that AI-driven analytics will become increasingly ubiquitous across IT departments in 2018.
He writes: "Through predictive analytics, IT and application owners will receive actionable information and recommendations. Add to that the ability to automate their response, and the power of AI becomes more relevant. Analytics systems will have insight into the behaviour of the infrastructure, apps and clients. It will recognise anomalous performance or security behaviour and when an app or server is going to fail. Once that behaviour is noticed, automation can kick in to remediate the potential problem."