It’s been a great decade and a half for the cloud. Every tech executive I speak with wants to know what’s next — and not just in the next couple of years but the next decade. In my latest report, The Future Of Cloud, I lay it all out. In a nutshell, cloud is destined to be abstracted, intelligent, and composable.
Today, cloud and cloud-native platforms represent the convergence of architecture modernization, workload decentralization, and platform-driven innovation. And although short-term approaches such as lift-and-shift linger, large cloud users are repositioning their strategies around cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes. These technologies are sufficiently mature, putting cloud scale and power in the hands of large customers and juicing up core cloud services previously seen as commodities with new levels of automation and self-service. To get the full value from cloud platforms, enterprises are modernizing their applications, prioritizing based on business outcomes. Efforts to modernize will likely carry on for another five to 10 years. Companies are using these common technologies to build new value across their hybrid reality (public cloud, on-premises, and at the edge). Furthermore, these platforms serve as the platform to test other new emerging technologies with less capital investment, speeding along innovation practices.
Looking ahead, enterprises seek levers to regain negotiation/price power and flexibility to accommodate the next demands of their applications. They also want to use data to make everything smarter and more automated. To achieve this, they need abstraction, composability, and intelligence. What does that mean? The cloud landscape favors bigger and faster cloud services — when the price makes sense. And so far, enterprise and government users have pushed forward with cloud transformation, despite the slowdown in cloud provider revenue growth amid economic difficulties. But enterprise cloud customers, seeking to maintain their autonomy from trillion-dollar hyperscalers, increasingly seek cloud-neutral abstractions that enable them to run workloads on the right cloud for the right price — not only in the vast data centers run by cloud providers but in smaller-footprint local data centers and edge locations as well as mobile devices. Cloud customers are moving in this direction today, usually within the framework of one or a few vendors. In the future, customers will compose their own clouds — not just for IT but for operational technology (OT), commercial, and consumer cloud capabilities. This will give them flexibility in the tech stack and power to control exploding budgets.
But this reality will take some time. In the near term, single and multicloud platforms will enable composability. Tech-forward early cloud adopters are already doing just that, using cloud platform teams to cobble together vendor-neutral Kubernetes-based platforms that can handle the big three US hyperscalers as well as platforms that run on top of them, such as Salesforce’s Hyperforce and SAP’s Business Technology Platform. Today’s curated corporate cloud environments are the precursor to truly composable clouds.
Technology is becoming more intelligent — cloud is no exception. Cloud providers are responding to multicloud competition by using AI and automation to both streamline their internal operations amid bruising price competition with rivals as well as to make their services as sticky as possible further up the technology stack. To do so, they’ll intensify their focus on industry clouds, which helps them solve the “last mile” problem of being providers of general IT infrastructure to specific sets of customers with more specialized services that will keep them around. Customers will prize offerings that give them greater composability through AI-driven automation and low-code/no-code development, already in evidence via Microsoft Azure’s incorporation of AI into its services along with offering AI platforms.
What does the future hold? Enterprise organizations will move from piecemeal approaches to composed selections of cloud services to fit business needs into user-initiated, outcomes-focused solutions — all in their abstracted platform of choice. Generalized intelligence across cloud services will support composability based on use cases. Cloud and multicloud complexity will be more of a concern for procurement and vendor management than operators and developers, as services that once had to be stitched together across platforms are now available in prebuilt or semifinished offerings for users to shape according to their needs. In this context, a commercially viable metaverse will finally take shape, with distinct industrial and commercial, and consumer, elements. Business and government users will choose cloud and technology providers based on their ability to fulfill the abstracted, intelligent, and composable promise as it serves their business outcomes.
That’s just an overview. My full report goes into detail about each aspect of an abstracted, intelligent, and composable cloud while also showing cloud’s evolution in the short, mid, and long term.
Interested in this future state and want to discuss it with me? I’d welcome the opportunity to speak to you via an inquiry or guidance call. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.