Cloud Expo 2016: Declouding the vision
Cloud Expo is the largest, most attended Cloud event in the world – and this year it was back in London’s ExCel centre to celebrate the latest trends, opinions and solutions for Cloud computing and technology. The theme for 2016 was ‘Everything is possible’ and featured keynote talks from service providers, ethical hackers, Government ministers, inventors and strategists. So I went along to find out about the possibilities Cloud was enabling and just what a future in the Cloud might look like…
Last year at Cloud Expo almost every exhibitor was talking about the Cloud ‘hype’ and trying to explain what it was (internet-based servers for data and file storage), when you should move to it (NOW!) and why they were the best choice to help you (fastest, most cost-effective, easiest transition, least risk). Since then, Cloud-users have become savvier, more confident and more demanding – and Cloud vendors have had to change tactics too.
The 2015 event was very much focused on educating visitors about the solutions available, and encouraging customers to choose them as a partner by emphasising their key strengths and differentiators (and maybe with a little scaremongering too, in some cases if the truth be told). New customers were wary of losing the investment in legacy IT systems and many came to the Expo looking for reassurance of the security and disaster-recovery plans in place and to understand the cost-savings that everyone seemed to be promising. Lots of visitors were looking to make a business case for switching to Cloud, and exhibitors were primed to help them with stats, case-studies and support models.
But this year, the message has notably shifted as control and choice is firmly back with the customer. Vodafone’s Cloud Barometer reported that as of March 2016, 85% of organisations had adopted at least 1 Cloud-based service and it’s predicted that this will increase to 89% before the end of 2016. Cloud is no longer just the next tech hype; it’s an integral part of the business strategy and vision of organisations and it’s having a real influence on their behaviours and cultures; allowing more flexible, collaborative and efficient ways of working.
As Cloud computing continues to evolve and develop, there are more and more options for customers, with a new wave of agile start-ups and sub-brands offering lean, flexible solutions. It seems it’s no longer a single supplier market – customers now demand to be offered the best blend of services and applications delivered over a flexible, secure cloud. This is driving a new eco-system for Cloud providers as the more agile and forward thinking take the opportunity to combine their services to offer the best customer solution. “Co-petitive” offerings were popping up across the exhibition, with vendors pre-empting this customer driven impetus by announcing partnerships with competitors – combining their strengths to give the customer a better solution and the providers a real strength in numbers.
Alongside this was the trend of vendors recognising that as customers become clearer about what they’re looking for from their IT system, not all of them want to move everything to Cloud – instead opting for ‘hybrid’ IT environments that reflect the flexibility and collaboration Cloud has promised all along. But this also brings its complexities as 64% of ITDMs are now running more complex IT systems than ever before (Sungard).
Part of this is down to the natural challenge of integrating legacy equipment with new Cloud or virtual equivalents, but an internal skills-gap is also responsible. Nearly half of organisations don’t have the expertise to manage hybrid IT and Cloud, according to Rightscale. But with investments and developments in Cloud technologies continuing to evolve, businesses can’t afford a recruitment drive every time something changes. And although Cloud providers are offering ever more integrated and bespoke support models, it’s also proving unsustainable to entirely outsource IT. By 2020, according to recent research conducted by The Times, between 70-80% of businesses will have the majority of operations in the Cloud, so getting to grips with it is no longer just a concern for IT, but a skill that businesses are looking to develop at every level.
And it’s not just a challenge for employers to solve. We need to address the growing gap between the acceleration of technology and the comprehension of the users who encounter it every day (which essentially means almost every one of us). As CEE16 demonstrated, the technology isn’t slowing down, so we need to start investing in the skills to keep up.