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IaaS Cloud Adoption Trends

  • It's been 12 years since Amazon Web Services launched its Elastic Compute Cloud Service (EC2). Since then, the tremendously popular service has attracted a number of competitors and enterprises have been eager to reap the benefits of cloud adoption. As companies either leap or make tentative steps to the cloud, we've seen the emergence of private and hybrid clouds alongside public IaaS services like EC2.  

    The market for cloud infrastructure is growing at a rapid clip. Research analysts at IDC expect sales of off-premises cloud IT infrastructure will reach $55.7 billion in 2022, with public cloud data centers accounting for nearly 84% of that. Overall spending on cloud IT infrastructure, including on-premises private cloud, will surpass spending on non-cloud IT infrastructure in four years, according to IDC.

    The Interop ITX and InformationWeek 2018 State of Cloud Computing Survey found that organizations are taking a wide range of approaches to IaaS cloud adoption. The study, which polled 200 IT decision makers in North America, found that many are sticking with architectures based on tried-and-true virtual machine technology, but some are using newer technologies such as containers and serverless architecture.

    The study also found that private cloud is losing ground to public cloud: 43% of workloads are running in the public cloud, up from 24% in a similar survey from 2014.

    Dan Conde, an IT analyst and Interop ITX Review Board member, said he sees companies eventually making a complete shift to public cloud IaaS. Right now, there's still some confusion about what the public cloud is, he said. For example, some may think they've moved to the cloud when they run a virtual machine outside of the enterprise, such as in a co-location facility.

    But that still involves provisioning and managing infrastructure, including applying patches, Conde said. Newer public cloud services such as AWS Lambda let users run code without needing to deploy servers.

    "If you really buy into the cloud, if you buy into rewriting your apps and utilizing advanced services in the cloud like databases, then you don't have to worry about a server or a cluster," Conde said. "That's the true benefit of the cloud. It will take a while to get there."

    In the meantime, businesses are learning how to manage their cloud infrastructure, including the costs of keeping workloads in the public cloud, according to the Interop ITX report. Many also are learning about containers. At the same time, quite a few still harbor doubts about the security of IaaS. On the next few pages, we delve into some of the top findings from this year's cloud survey.

    (Image: jijomathaidesigners/Shutterstock)

  • Public, private, and hybrid IaaS adoption

    While the future may be public cloud, many survey respondents said they run on-premises IaaS infrastructure. Despite all the hype about hybrid cloud, a much smaller percentage (27%) say they are running infrastructure in which an application can run in multiple clouds. In fact, the number of those interested in hybrid cloud dipped from last year's survey, when 35% said they supported a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

    Overall, many companies expect to deliver more than half of their IT and business services via the cloud (67%) in the next year, and 58% plan to allocate at least 25% of their IT budget to cloud. Thirty-one percent plan to dedicate more than 50% of their IT budget to cloud.

  • IaaS technologies and services

    As they make their way to the cloud, many enterprises rely on virtual machines. No surprise there, since it's a technology with which they're very familiar. "A lot of people are very happy to gradually move to the cloud," Conde said. "So they're treating the cloud as a reflection of what's on premises."

    However, the survey showed an increasing number are using containers and serverless architectures, also sometimes referred to as functions-as-a-service. In fact, when asked which IaaS technologies and services their organization was most likely to begin using in the next 12 months, the number of those citing VMs dropped to 60%.

  • Containers on the rise

    Since Docker started popularizing them in 2013, containers have been on a fast trajectory in the enterprise, and the Interop ITX research bears this out: The number of survey respondents using containers in production grew to 12%, up from 7% a year ago. Businesses like the speed and agility provided by extremely portable containers. Containers help companies as they shift away from traditional monolithic application architectures to microservices.

    A recent research report by SolarWinds into IT trends found that 44% of 234 IT professionals surveyed ranked containers as one of their most important technology priorities. That's a huge increase from SolarWinds 2017 research, which showed just 15% of IT pros planned to develop containerization skills.

  • Cloud management

    IT teams use a variety of tools for managing their cloud-based workloads, but more than half are going the manual route via an IaaS provider console. This indicates that many enterprises are still managing virtual machines as "pets" rather than "cattle." Only a little more than a third use configuration management software, which enables them to take a more automated approach.

    "The Holy Grail is to not worry about workload management in a traditional sense," Conde said.  "What you want to do is to run something like Kubernetes as the next-generation app platform, almost like what an operating system used to be.  That’s the true way to exploit the cloud in its native way for workload management."

  • Cost control

    While the cloud has been hyped as a way for companies to save money on infrastructure by providing on-demand services, it isn't necessarily cost effective. Users pay for the time that a virtual machine is running in a public cloud environment, and most organizations keep VMs running all the time, so it winds up being costly, Conde said. He compares it to an idle car using up gasoline.

    To that end, organizations are implementing tools to get a handle on cloud costs, with AWS Trusted Advisor their No. 1 choice, according to the survey.

    With new cloud services like AWS Lambda, users only pay for the fraction of time a function runs, Conde said, adding that it's akin to paying for a ride with Uber.

  • Cloud security concerns

    Since the emergence of cloud computing, IT professionals have raised concerns about risks in moving applications and data moving outside of corporate confines. Over the years, survey after survey highlighted security as an obstacle to enterprise adoption of public cloud services. So it's not surprising that survey respondents reported a number of IaaS security concerns. Conde said cloud security risks are overblown.

    "AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform engineers are quite competent and can probably secure their systems better than most organizations," he said. "The problems arise in how a customer configures IaaS, not an issue of IaaS itself. Think about S3 buckets left open for all to see. That’s not an AWS design flaw, but rather how IT orgs deploy S3-based apps incorrectly."

    Someone might argue that it's so easy to do things on AWS or Azure, that it's easy to make big mistakes, he said. That's a valid concern, but staff training can help fix that, he added.

  • IaaS benefits

    Organizations hope to reap multiple benefits by using IaaS, researchers found. Scalability topped the list of benefits cited by survey respondents, followed by higher performance and cost savings. When it comes to actual, measured benefits of IaaS, almost 80% of survey respondents said they had either benefitted greatly or somewhat with improved scalability. Sixty-four percent cited better business continuity. Cost savings proved somewhat more elusive at 56%.