Although cloud has simplified compute and storage for the enterprise, many IT departments express concern over the lack of flexibility between available platforms. Too often, customers are forced to choose either an on-premises or cloud platform as a permanent solution, when the reality is that many companies may want the option to switch once their business grows or needs change. Similar to compute and storage paradigms, enterprise customers should not feel locked into a single approach for their networking needs. Instead, they should have the freedom to choose the best solution that meets their business requirements.
These customer demands are rapidly transforming how vendors view their cloud products and how they are being deployed. As the cloud matures, vendors must keep up with the evolving needs of SMBs and enterprises to provide the agility and simplicity required in today’s cloud landscape.
The time for cloud is now
Despite the number of companies currently deploying cloud solutions, a 2015 study from Goldman Sachs projected that spending on cloud computing services will actually grow 30% from 2013 to 2018. When one considers the pace at which technology evolves, it’s inevitable that legacy cloud solutions will slowly lose their value due to their lack of agility.
The cloud, which was originally designed for small businesses, has now moved across verticals to hospitals, schools, entertainment and the enterprise. In 2014, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) completed a survey that found almost 60% of executives indicated interest in adding cloud vendors and 25% intended to switch vendors. Despite this study taking place two years ago, there’s been little progress in designing a solution that simplifies how companies operate on the cloud. Pre-existing services do not support the way the cloud has matured, giving an upper hand to the vendors that enter the market today.
The vendor lock-in problem
Vendor lock-in is a huge road block that has been a source of frustration for customers using the cloud. As reflected in the EMA survey, people want to leverage solutions from different vendors to support their unique systems. Similarly, as a business grows, there may come a time when it makes sense to switch from an on-premises solution to the cloud, cloud to on-premises, or operate in a true hybrid manner.
To address this emerging need, vendors must start developing solutions that are compatible with other vendors – even competitors – to ensure that customers receive the best-in-class technologies available, regardless of the brand name. This movement follows a larger, industry-wide trend towards disaggregation. More than ever, disaggregation is taking hold of cloud, SDN and data center solutions to enable customers to optimize existing technology, deliver new types of services and open up new revenue opportunities. It’s now the vendor’s responsibility to design a platform that offers more versatile support.
In addition to delivering a flexible product that’s multi-vendor friendly, cloud-managed network providers also are challenged to change how they approach their own hardware to simplify deployment. Historically, wired and wireless solutions have been evaluated based on their speed as compared to their competitors. Today, vendors must alter their perspective to think of their hardware as service platforms. The best solution is not necessarily the vendor with the fastest access points (APs); rather, it’s the vendor that can deliver APs that act as a launching point for stacking other services.
Next-generation cloud deployment
Cloud maturation and customer demand will ultimately drive the direction of the cloud industry in 2016 and beyond. Cloud vendors entering today’s market have an advantage in the sense that they can design the best product for the state of the industry. Meanwhile, existing solutions will need to reinvent their capabilities to provide greater flexibility and agility. Although the cloud has been heavily deployed throughout the enterprise, there will undoubtedly be a shift as more vendors enter the market to fulfill this industry demand.