It's no mystery that cloud computing is slowly but surely taking over how the world (whether they realize it or not) consumes technology. This is doubly true for businesses of all sizes and stripes. No industry is immune, nor would it want to be. The benefits of cloud computing – improving budget flexibility by shifting spending from Capex to Opex; improved business agility and flexibility; faster time to market for new services; consuming just the technology you need when you need it, on-demand; not to mention seemingly limitless compute cycles and storage available at the touch of button – are well known and understood.

As Dave Bartoletti, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester writes in his 2019 predictions blog: "In 2018, cloud computing has indeed become a must-have technology for every enterprise. Cloud is no longer a place to get some cheap servers or storage. It’s not even a single place. Cloud computing is now shorthand for how companies turn amazing ideas into winning software — faster."

So, as 2019 approaches, it's a good time to take stock of a few of the things the coming year holds for cloud.

1. Multi-cloud/hybrid-cloud orchestration platforms gain converts

Companies today are standing up hybrid-cloud environments where workloads and data are split between on-premises clouds and public providers or enterprise managed cloud providers. They also are creating multi-cloud environments that leverage multiple public cloud providers. Or they are simply buying software-as-a-service (SaaS) and letting the vendor manage everything.

All of this complexity requires management and orchestration, however.  These are not "set and forget" environments. Expect to see multi-cloud/hybrid-cloud orchestration suites gain traction in 2019 as cloud managers work to reduce complexity while increasing visibility into costs and consumption.

"Those challenges tend to be slightly different than challenges associated with the private, on-prem infrastructure, which we've been helping customers navigate for many years," said Ajay Singh, general manager of the Cloud Management business unit at VMware. "This new set of challenges tends to be around cost management, governance, compliance, getting a sense of the applications on the public clouds, delivering against the SLAs, etc."

2. Legacy applications will not move to the cloud; they will be enhanced by it

In the early days of cloud, it was thought that IT would simply offload most of their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. And while some companies have achieved this goal, for most, this really hasn't happened. Most legacy systems continue run in-house on corporate-owned and managed infrastructure. As companies adopt cloud applications for new services and functionality, expect these older systems remain in place.

"Customers are realizing that they have to be careful of how much we want to lift and shift and what the net benefit of the lift and shift is," said Singh.

According to Bartoletti, companies will enhance their legacy applications by leveraging the functionality being developed and offered as services by the big cloud providers including edge computing solutions for IoT, new database technologies, and AI and machine learning capabilities to help breath new life into old functionality.

3. Adoption of cloud-based AI and ML continue to accelerate

AI and machine learning functionality and development platforms started showing up in the big public cloud provider's offerings sometime in early 2017, according to MIT Technology Review. For good reason. Developing software that can do things like translate languages on the fly (that's how Google does it) or turn speech into text (an AWS offering to developers) is hard and requires a lot of CPU cycles and massive data sets to train algorithms. Cloud providers have both of these in spades.

"If you the follow the announcement from Amazon, they're attacking this space in a big way," said Logic Monitor's vice president of Product, Gadi Oren. "They are providing frameworks and applications to allow you turn things and run things faster. They are putting together stacks and very large data sets to train against."

Expect to see this trend accelerate in 2019 as digital transformation efforts move companies off of the digital sidelines and into the cloud. Their management will want to take full advantage of the very cool capabilities these environments offer. According to PwC: 54 percent of companies are "making substantial investments today." By 2021, that number is expected to be 63 percent.

"You are going to see very public data sets as an offering," said Oren. "Let's say you want to do something with weather patterns, you want to go to Google because they have the data set that helps train your system."

4. Workloads move to the cloud in large numbers

According to a LogicMonitor survey taken at AWS re:Invent 2018 workloads are today are split equally between on-premises (46 percent) and cloud (44 percent). By 2020 (just the other side of 2019), respondents expect that 63 percent of workloads will be running in the cloud with on-premise dropping to just 25 percent.

5. SaaS Continues to drive cloud growth

Even though infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (Pass) are the fastest growing segment of the cloud computing space by percentage, SaaS is by far the biggest elephant in the room. According to Gartner, companies are projected to spend north of $85B on SaaS apps in 2019 and just $58B on IaaS and PaaS combined. This is up $13B from 2018's numbers and up $27B over 2017. Look for this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. By 2021, Gartner expects SaaS spend to reach $113B.

Whether any of these predictions come to fruition in 2019 is, by definition, yet to be seen. But, what isn't in doubt, is cloud is no longer viewed with suspicion by tire-kicking CIOs wondering how it works or if they'll lose their jobs by adopting it. The benefits of cloud are clear, and businesses of all are sizes are taking full advantage of an industry that is really just getting started.


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