Change, Uncertainty, and Maybe a Renaissance: Like “Barbie,” Cloud Computing Is Everything

It will come as a surprise to no one who works with business technology that cloud storage, software, and services are nearing an apogee and a permanent orbit in adoptive history. Viewed by weighted-mean criticality (very important) or incremental migration (just 17 percent with no plans for cloud), Dresner Advisory Services documented this lengthy and ongoing transition from on-premises IT to hosted or provided services in detail for each of the last 12 years.

It begs the question of how to best set a scope and summarize our annual cloud update, because the topic is getting harder to encapsulate. As a practical matter, it is still true that many organizations will maintain infrastructure on premises for the foreseeable future. If nothing else, organizations learned that cloud computing does not have to be everything at once. But a recurring premise is this: In order to participate in new and future improvements to commercial business technology, the cloud is the only viable or practical long-term destination for the great majority of increasingly rich, interconnected enterprise infrastructure.

To borrow a meme, like “Barbie,” cloud computing can be anything in today’s opportunistic computing paradigm; and the supply side is not dawdling. In the domain we study most deeply, “cloud-first” vendor product and service strategy is incrementally abandoning packaged product development in favor of cloud-native applications and services directly or through hosting platforms. The delta between online-only vs. on-premises industry support for some everyday business intelligence (BI) features—from ad hoc query to data governance to data preparation—already favors cloud by 20 percent or more. There is a separate gap between user licensing expectations and the licensing models that vendors now prefer to offer.

The transition is hardly limited to BI tools. Everything from microservices to cloud data warehousing is less the exception and increasingly the norm. It is also true that cloud scales as promised: very large organizations are now the top adopters, a distinction formerly held by small, IT-shy organizations. A new and unavoidable wild card is the unfolding frontier of automation through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, where providers already proclaim large gains in developer productivity and customer engagement. The AI vogue depends on the cloud to scale, and it is, at this moment, a telling scene of intense computing-resource competition.

The prospect of more active infrastructure management can also present a renaissance of automation, efficiencies of scale, and controls. The implications today are particularly relevant to those already responsible for the management and security of hardware and application infrastructure, which cloud and SaaS fundamentally represent. It affects management at all levels, but we can also expect the spotlight will turn anew to the CIO and more newly to the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), as prime intermediaries of the services transition.

Organizations can compare the trends in the charts in this report to their internal infrastructure portfolio; account for the current and incipient cloud portfolio; identify procurement processes and budgets; select preferred cloud acquisition security practices, rules and controls; and surface the tactics and leadership necessary to address future change.

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