2018 – a Cloudy Forecast With a Strong Chance of Success

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The biggest source of climate uncertainty is white and fluffy. How clouds will respond to global warming is the largest source of uncertainty in climate change predictions. In the past, discussion about cloud forecasts were only about the weather, and today there is strong chance that it could be about Cloud computing and business agility.

Up in the clouds, we go. A whole new meaning of ‘The Cloud’ has entered our language. When most of us wake up in the morning, we check our mobile phones (normally next to our beds) for the weather forecast, and we see what our friends are up to on Facebook or Twitter. If you’ve ever wondered where those pictures uploaded to on Facebook or Twitter, the answer leads us to a relatively new direction—the Cloud. From a business perspective, the reality is that if you’re not in the Cloud, you’re in for stormy weather, so there is wisdom in getting your head out of the clouds and putting some of your business into it.

Dell Technologies’ recent Digital Transformation Index found that more than half (52%) of the 4,000 business leaders surveyed have already experienced significant disruption to their organizations because of digital technologies. Strikingly, nearly the same amount (48%) can’t predict what their industry will look like in just three years’ time. The pressure is clearly on for organizations to become more efficient and readily adopt and carve competitive advantages from emerging technologies. To improve performance and capitalize on digital innovations, they need to adopt more agile, cloud operating models. It’s my belief that 2018 will be a tipping point for how organizations choose and apply cloud technologies, and these are my top predictions.

Cloud Frameworks Incorporating Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud Will Become the New Standard

I’m no meteorologist, but in 2018, I predict more balanced clouds. More organizations will become multi-cloud and many will adopt hybrid clouds, enabling them to opportunistically place workloads in the right environment based on cost, performance, and governance policy.  Looking at their mix of public and private cloud options, IT leaders will need to develop a decision framework and policies for when to use which cloud. These policies should not only factor the technical merits and limitations of the cloud platforms, but also the requirements and costs of each workload.  For example, an overall cloud policy might specify that long-running production workloads will remain in an on-premises private cloud, along with workloads tied to data sets located on-premises in a non-cloud environment.  Conversely, transient workloads (workloads with significant outbound traffic) or workloads requiring geographic dispersion could be targeted for public cloud.  The choice of which public cloud is then defined in a multi-cloud policy. To further delineate, on-premises cloud instances may be paired with off-premises counterparts, such as a VMware Ready System paired with VMware Cloud on AWS, or Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack paired with Microsoft Azure. Certain high-value workloads, like SAP, may target a purpose-built cloud like Virtustream. One thing is for sure, organizations will need to consider cloud decision frameworks to maximize efficiency and cost.

Virtual Machines and Containers Will Both Be Essential

I see organizations driving toward digital transformation by embracing both virtual machines and containers.  In past years, many organizations that developed their own software stack to running them on virtual machines, based on their well-understood usage and implementation. Now that concepts such as 12-factor applications and micro-services have become mainstream, containers are a natural fit for developing and running these applications.  Sure, they may still be run inside of virtual machines, but the benefits of a container-based environment generally outweigh the challenges of building out an environment.  Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) is an example of a Platform-as-a-Service product that simplifies the development and deployment of modern, cloud-native applications. PCF enables organizations to consume container technologies simply while addressing complex lifecycle management tasks. Solutions like the Dell EMC Pivotal Ready System make it easy to get this up and running and include guidance for complex design considerations, like high availability, disaster recovery, networking and security.

Software-Defined Will Be the Preferred Technology for On-Premises Private Cloud

This 2018 forecast should not come as a surprise. The software-defined data center (SDDC) has been a generally accepted concept for years, made up of several software-based technologies, such as virtualization, software-defined networking, and software-defined storage. Despite this, the technology is still considered new. IT professionals have built their careers on well-known products and technologies, and anytime a new technology is introduced to the market, it takes time for it to be accepted. It first needs to be proven as a viable option for production workloads before professionals are willing to bet their career – and their livelihood – on what could benefit their organization. Though just as virtualization became the obvious choice for most workloads previously hosted on dedicated bare-metal servers, IT professionals have come to realize that software-defined networking and storage can also be adopted as modern alternatives to their traditional counterparts.

This year, I expect software-defined will take the lead as the preferred technology for on-premises production private cloud. Purpose-built storage arrays will still have a place in the data center, being used primarily for high-value workloads, those with very large data sets, and in places where software-defined storage doesn’t make sense.  Software-defined networking can’t replace the physical switch in the data center, but it can certainly make life easier for IT admins with simplified routing, network micro-segmentation, and integration with cloud management software. The objection of complexity to implement and maintain the SDDC will be overcome by turnkey private cloud solutions like Dell EMC’s VMware Ready System. Built on Dell EMC VxRack SDDC hyper-converged infrastructure, it leverages the capabilities of VMware’s Cloud Foundation to maintain the lifecycle of the software-defined components using automation and simplifying adoption of these technologies in an on-premises private cloud.  Simplified lifecycle management, coupled with delivery on pre-built infrastructure in a fully validated and tested solution, eliminates the challenges of realizing a private cloud built on a fully software-defined infrastructure.

Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

With a multi-cloud operating model in place, organizations are well equipped to realize cost synergies, improve performance, and accomplish their digital business initiatives. Of course, in order to achieve digital transformation, companies must evolve more than just their technology. Establishing an organizational culture that’s conducive to and embraces innovation is the first step. Expanding across clouds necessitates the destruction of silos and heightened levels of collaboration to derive actionable data insights. No matter where you are on your multi-cloud or digital journey, Dell EMC is here to help to simplify the process.

The speed of technological innovation today is unprecedented—and only increasing. Regardless of industry, those who embrace it are best positioned to be digital leaders and change the world for the better!

Read more about Dell Technologies’ 2018 predictions for the next era of technology here.

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