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New survey shows hybrid is leading approach, security waning as blocker to cloud adoption

Earlier this fall we once again invited our community of IT professionals, developers, and technology decision makers to participate in the 2016 Future of Cloud Survey led by North Bridge Growth Equity Venture Partners and research analyst firm Wikibon, which analyzes trends in cloud computing adoption, use, and challenges every year.

Earlier this fall we once again invited our community of IT professionals, developers, and technology decision makers to participate in the 2016 Future of Cloud Survey led by North Bridge Growth Equity Venture Partners and research analyst firm Wikibon, which analyzes trends in cloud computing adoption, use, and challenges every year.

The results are in, and while many of the findings reiterate trends we’ve been seeing, there are also a few new trends emerging. As we turn the corner into 2017, I want to share some of my thoughts on the key findings. 

As we’ve noted before, the use of cloud technology by organizations of all sizes has hit mainstream levels of adoption. This research shows that 42 percent of organizations have a cloud-first or cloud-only strategy, and another 49 percent are using cloud in key aspects of their technology systems. This means over 90 percent of companies surveyed report they are using cloud in a meaningful way. It’s no longer a matter of “if we move to cloud,” but when and how. From this robust set of survey information, here’s what I found most interesting:

Hybrid is the logical path forward.

Hybrid cloud, meaning using a combination of public cloud and on-premises systems, remains the most common approach for organizations. The Future of Cloud survey found that a hybrid model is still the predominant strategy at 47 percent, followed by purely public cloud use at 30 percent. In our own survey of 2,500 IT professionals, we found that hybrid isn’t just a short term strategy – 9 in 10 (91 percent) of IT workers believe hybrid cloud will remain the approach for their organizations five years from now. Every organization has a unique set of existing systems and business policies, so taking the approach of using a mix of public cloud and on-premises technology simply makes sense. This means organizations must ensure hybrid cloud is efficient. Hybrid systems cannot be two separate infrastructures connected, but running in parallel; there must be consistency in management, security, and development experience to make this feasible. 

Blockers to cloud adoption are changing – vendor lock-in and privacy rising in concern, while companies are becoming more comfortable with cloud security.

While security continues as the top concern with using cloud, we’re pleased to see overall concern has dropped significantly since 2015. Interestingly, in this survey 50 percent of respondents cite security as a benefit of using cloud, while 50 percent say security is a barrier. We should expect this to continue to tip in favor of cloud as a benefit moving forward. While security concerns are diminishing, privacy concerns are rising. In 2011, privacy didn’t even make the top list and has now risen to the number 3 spot of cloud concerns. With new regulations such as GDPR it makes sense that privacy concerns are on the rise, and this will likely continue to increase. This also means that the privacy policies and privacy track record of the global cloud providers should expect to come under greater scrutiny – appropriately so.

For the first time, concerns over vendor lock-in rose to the second highest spot. In this way, the cloud is no different than on-premises technology, and customers need to know they can change course if and when needed. In a recent post on top cloud myths, I talked about why enterprises need multiple public cloud vendors, as well as the rise of multi-cloud management solutions for enterprises to manage these systems. Belief that one cloud vendor can meet all needs is simply out of touch with reality and smacks of vendor hubris. The balance for organizations is which mixture of cloud technology to tap into for their different needs. SaaS-based business systems are the most efficient, but are equally non-portable as their on-premises equivalents. Platform services provide greater development efficiency than infrastructure as a service (IaaS), but can be less portable. Fundamentally, the cloud doesn’t change vendor lock-in concerns or dynamics, but the reality in technology choices continues. 

SaaS starts the cloud journey, then IaaS and PaaS.

Often, getting started with SaaS business applications is the first step into using cloud for a company’s digital transformation. We see many of our enterprise customers start with Office 365 and then adopt Azure to run other existing business apps on IaaS, and then tap into the development efficiencies to create new solutions using Azure PaaS offerings. With this, it’s not too surprising that 7 in 10 companies said they are using SaaS in their organization, followed by Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) with 58 percent of respondents deploying IaaS for compute. Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is deployed by 45 percent of respondents, but is expected to show the highest increase over the next two years growing by 19 percent. Despite plenty of market focus on IaaS technology, I consistently hear from customers the efficiencies of using SaaS and PaaS technologies. This has been a fundamental reason why, across the Microsoft cloud, we’ve got significant focus on these areas – across Office 365, Dynamics 365, PowerApps, Flow, Azure IoT, and Cortana Intelligence services, among others. 

New innovations continue to drive cloud adoption, DevOps model rises.

New technology innovations – from IoT and advanced analytics to containers and virtual reality – are creating new possibilities for companys' digital transformations. Many of these technologies are only feasible using a cloud model – taking advantage of the scale, agility, and cost models the cloud provides. To this end, organizations report that their cloud investments are in these areas with analytics as a top priority (58 percent), over half (52 percent) say containers are a priority, and 48 percent are investing in IoT. Virtual reality is an emerging area of innovation with 16 percent listing it is a priority. Reinforcing the focus on rapid innovation both mobile and open source are now twice as likely as last year to be cited as a driver for cloud computing.

With this focus on innovation, we’re also seeing a rise in DevOps. Over half (51 percent) have begun DevOps in small teams – up 37 percent YoY – and 30 percent of companies have begun DevOps in large teams company wide, up 2x YoY. We’re also seeing this trend in our customer base, with many traditional IT organizations classifying themselves as DevOps in surveys and event registrations.

These are just a few of the top trends that popped for me in this research. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what 2017 will bring in cloud adoption and trends. Join us in the conversation on #futureofcloud.