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9 Cloud Trends For 2015

In 2015, expect to see the cloud mature as a platform for hybrid operations, with cloud data centers achieving new efficiencies through containers.

the size of the public-facing site or the amount of traffic that uses it. Amazon remains the number-one public-facing site overall.

What's Digital Ocean's secret? Advanced technical infrastructure, heavily based on solid state disk-equipped servers and simple services delivered at high speed. A current customer can spin up a cloud workload in 55 seconds or less; a new customer can get their first virtual server running at the same rate or less. One open source KVM server, termed a "droplet," costs less than a penny per hour, or $5 per month, to run.

While it lacks the load balancing, cluster management, and other advanced services of Amazon, DigitalOcean's service nevertheless maintains a strong appeal to developers. DigitalOcean's footsteps are being followed by other developer-oriented services, including Atlantic.net, Linode, OVH.net and Exponential-e (in Europe), and Hot Drupal, among others. The trend: Get started with a lightweight, fast cloud service. As your company grows larger, move up to the big boys.

5. Clouds will spawn enterprise risk investments.
This prediction is based on a discussion with Allan Leinwand, the architect of Zynga's initial use of Amazon services and the Zynga private Z Cloud. Now VP and CTO of cloud platform at San Francisco-based service desk SaaS provider ServiceNow, Leinwand sees CIOs using both public and private cloud services to give business teams a chance to either succeed or fail quickly. "In the past, the CIO got you the servers, desktops, and printers you needed," he noted. "Now they're providing the services that can drive the business forward."

In effect, he says, cloud service providers are enabling CIOs to act more like series A investors. They invest small amounts in high-risk business teams that might find the next big thing -- or they might fail quickly and minimize the loss.

6. Software-defined security will protect workloads.
Software-defined security will become part of the software-defined data center and accompany workloads into the cloud. If we can define the network, the storage system, and containers and virtual machines on host servers in software, then we can also define the security that must accompany them with software systems. Guarding the data center perimeter is a hardware-based, if not fortress-based, concept. Security needs to follow with the software asset.

In the software-defined data center, software mapping systems identify system perimeters and feed intelligence into a central monitoring system. That mapping capability must be extended to define the permissions and activities allowed to the software system, with a surveillance agent ensuring that it adheres to only those activities. Any exceptions must trigger an inspection and potential intervention.

Figuring out what happened after several million user identities and credit card numbers have been offloaded to Russia is not security. Building security that can accompany the movements of a system, regardless of where it's about to be run, is an extension of the logical mobility that came into the data center with the first virtual machines.

7. Custom chips for cloud partners will take hold.
At Re:Invent, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels announced that Intel has designed a chip exclusively for Amazon, for use in cloud servers in partnership with Amazon. The chip, he said, will become the heart of Amazon's future cloud hosts.

This comes on the heels of Google's expressed interest in IBM's OpenPower Consortium, in which the specifications for the Power chip are shared with a group of companies. Members such as Google can then work with IBM to design a custom version that can be used to launch the third generation of warehouse-scale computing, Gordon MacKean, chairman of the OpenPower Initiative and chief of Google's platform engineering group, explained at a press conference in San Francisco last April. "We're ready to start innovating," he added.

OpenPower follows Facebook's project to create a cloud server specification through the Open Compute Project. At the Open Compute conference last January in San Jose, Andrew Feldman, corporate VP of AMD, said, "By 2019, ARM will command 25% of the server market." He also predicted that energy-sipping ARM CPUs in the form of purpose-designed chips "will be the norm for mega-datacenters," such as those used by Facebook, Microsoft and Google. For that to happen, more 64-bit (rather than 32-bit) ARM chips are needed. AMD produced Seattle, its first 64-bit ARM, in January. Feldman also acknowledged that the ecosystem of software developers for ARM "is in its gangly youth" compared to the mature x86 software market.

John Engates, CTO at Rackspace, observed in a recent blog post that in addition to low energy use, ARM in the past has been accompanied by "low performance and a fragmented software ecosystem. That changed this year. 2014 saw big news around ... Cavium bringing out a server-grade ARM platform (ARMv8 Data Center and Cloud processors). 2015 will be the year that alternative silicon really begins to rise. Watch this space."

8. The public cloud will go hybrid.
It's not enough for a cloud provider to simply connect their data centers to the Internet -- they need multiple private-line carriers to bring enterprise data into the facility in a secure and compliant way. Equinix has been Amazon's preferred hub connecting its users to a private line, with a typical Equinix facility joining 50 to 60 private carriers. A few months ago, Amazon added Verizon and AT&T data centers as well. IBM's SoftLayer unit built out a private line network when fiber was cheap, and Google and the fast-growing Exponential-e in the UK followed suit. Access to private-line service can also be accomplished through a third party, such as Digital Realty Trust's Global Cloud Marketplace or an Equinix-like provider found in secondary markets, such as Cologix facilities in Minneapolis, Dallas and Jacksonville, Fla. With private-line access readily available, hybrid is the new normal for public cloud operations.

9. IoT meets big data.
Intel launched its Internet of Things Platform on Dec. 10 to help manage the connectivity and security of proliferating sensors and devices. The value of the secure and connected devices, however, will only increase in 2015 as the Internet of Things meets big data. As data streams into Hadoop and other big-data repositories, groups like the Industrial Internet Consortium, in which Intel, IBM, GE and Cisco are members, can collect information from large manufacturing operations and facilities and discover ways to reduce energy consumption, save time, and shave costs off manufacturing lines. Managing large buildings and individual homes will likewise benefit from analysis of data collected from local networks. It's been primarily an abstraction so far, but the Internet of Things will become real in 2015.

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