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Rackspace CTO: five cloud predictions for 2020

Lee James, CTO, EMEA at Rackspace, has some thoughts on what he thinks will be five trends in the cloud market in 2020.  

We’ve seen a massive maturity curve in cloud adoption across Europe over the last few years. Although organisations are now reaping the benefits of the cloud, there are undoubtedly new challenges that have been introduced into the market. New stakeholders are having to upskill fast and learn about its potential and risks, working practices are having to evolve beyond current training levels, and many are walking a tightrope between hype and opportunities for tangible innovation.

In 2020 some of these challenges will evolve. Here are the five cloud trends that I predict will affect businesses over the coming year.

Hybrid becomes the new multi-cloud, again

While the popularity of multi-cloud is undisputed, with 81% of companies using cloud technologies in some way, many firms are still making investments in their private cloud solutions. This is due to a number of reasons, such as the security posture, ongoing data centre leasing, or just because it’s the best platform for the application –  in some cases – business. Indeed, even the UK Government plans to revise its “cloud first” policy to “cloud right” (or something similar) early next year, acknowledging that public cloud isn’t right for everyone or every use case.

Reflecting this trend, we’ve seen the cloud giants respond with private cloud solutions that link directly into their public cloud solutions, such as Azure Arc, Google Cloud Anthos, and AWS Outposts.

In 2020, there’s going to be significant competition between the three biggest cloud hyperscalers and VMware as they all explore and deliver on how Kubernetes will unlock their potential to be the multi-hybrid cloud provider of choice for customers. For customers, it’s ultimately going to come down to which fits and works best, as well as what gives the best bang for their buck. But this sets us up for an exciting year of new product and service announcements as each of the major cloud companies try to establish themselves as the cloud broker of choice.

Cloud native personas will shift

Over the past 12 to 18 months we’ve seen a rise in the cloud native persona. It’s perhaps unsurprising when looking at the successes that cloud native companies have had. The innovation, collaboration, and growth mindset have enabled some of the most cutting-edge customer experiences. Spotify is my favourite example, where separate squads all work together to deliver different components of the mobile application that seamlessly integrate for a simple and intuitive user experience.

However, the new cloud native persona is very different to the traditional approach to software management. To take advantage of this trend in 2020, it’s important that business and IT leaders educate their teams to move away from an off-the-shelf model and structure them in smaller development teams to test and build. We also need to make sure that this approach filters through into traditional education: we need the next generation to challenge our traditional ways of working, while ensuring that the right emphasis remains on the platform management and security posture to underpin a successful platform. 

The continued Edge & IoT build up

In 2020, we’re going to see continued deployments of edge and internet of things (IoT) across multiple industry sectors. I predict specific verticals will lead the way, such as the industrial edge and the retail edge as the main sectors driving adoption and importantly value. For example, 5G is now available across a few cities in the UK and 5G networks can deliver up to a 90% reduction in power consumption, guaranteeing up to 10 years of battery life for low power IoT devices. This means, for example, that more retailers will have access to smart shelves like the ones Amazon implemented in its Amazon Go stores. This technology uses dozens of sensors to provide real-time inventory visibility and update pricing according to demand.

I am also looking forward to the 2020 conferences in London with 5G where I expect to see a huge ramp up of augmented and virtual reality demonstrations. These experiences use a lot of processing power and cellular data, but with the increased capacity of 5G networks, retailers will be able to create richer, more detailed experiences when integrating their physical and digital worlds. Real-time product placement via apps sounds fun but I am reminded of scenes from the movie The 5th Element – are we ready for Hyper Reality experiences? This wonderful video from Keiichi Matsuda, a design consultant, shows a vision of how edge and IoT can deliver hyper reality across many experiences. It looks fun but also sometimes overpowering.

Expect to see many experiments and expect to see GDPR, data management, and security play a huge part in the decision making.

Security at the fore

The rapid adoption of the cloud across different business applications means that an enterprise can have as many as 18 different personas interacting, engaging and in many cases managing cloud services. But the question is: do they all know how to manage the different security risks involved?

As we shift more towards a hybrid cloud approach where workloads are balanced across multiple public cloud platforms and on-premise environments, a range of new security considerations emerge.

Now, security custodians must ensure that the 18 different personas understand and adhere to security, as well as ensure that it is always the default question asked no matter what service or platform is developed or used. So, in 2020, it will be more important than ever for the CISO to become the Customer Information Security Officer and work across more departments to ensure that security is always the first consideration, and that innovation never introduces undue risk to the business.

Cloud maturity will change the market in the 2020s

The state of cloud has changed beyond recognition over the past decade. Looking back, 2010 was the year cloud computing went from concept to reality. 10 years on, adoption rates are high and growing, with businesses transforming processes and creating previously unimaginable value from its flexibility and scalability.

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