Nati Shalom's Guest Post on VMBlog: Eight Cloud and Big Data Predictions for 2014

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Prediction has always been a fun exercise. It forces you to take a step back from your day to day activities, look at the market "crystal ball" and figure out what the future looks like. This year I found this exercise to be particularly difficult as the amount of new innovation and conflicting trends that are taking place at the same time can be very confusing.

After spending quite some time reading market analyses from different sources (see references at the end) and compiling them with all the things I've seen and heard throughout the year, I came to the following observation on how 2014 will look for Cloud and Big Data.  I'm happy to exchange thoughts on that regard and learn how you envision 2014 will look.

Public and Private Cloud in 2014

 

1. Amazon continues to distance itself while Google and Microsoft are catching up

Amazon continues to lead in public cloud and distance itself from the rest of the market. This year it reached 5 times the size of other cloud vendors combined, as noted in a recent Gartner report. Google and Microsoft are slowly closing the gap as the closest alternatives, but at a much slower pace than one would expect given the significant investment of both companies in this area.

 

 

2. 2014 will be the year of Enterprise Clouds

Traditional enterprise players, such as IBM, HP, Cisco and Red Hat, continue to fight for the remaining share of the market, mostly around enterprise adoption. Yet, enterprises have been slower to embrace and execute on private cloud strategy. Part of the reason for slow adoption is the gap between the solution provided by most of the regular contenders - who are still competing on selling an end to end story - and the reality that most enterprises are looking for Open and Hybrid cloud strategy, especially given that there is no clear winner.

 

3. OpenStack will be the most popular choice for Enterprise Clouds in 2014

OpenStack is now high on the radar for Enterprise Cloud, mostly threatening VMware's strong leadership in that domain. Most of the main contenders have embraced a strong OpenStack strategy, including Red Hat, Ubuntu, Suse, HP, IBM and Cisco, with Cisco taking a surprising leading position over IBM and HP, according to a recent Forrester survey



VMware's response of embracing OpenStack is still questionable, as the transition to OpenStack is not only about technical integration, but also involves a big shift in the value chain. More enterprises are less keen on paying high cost for hypervisor licenses, which is to date the main revenue channel in the VMware pie. 



4. Native OpenStack alternatives will disrupt many of the existing cloud solutions

The rapid adoption of OpenStack will also disrupt many of the existing cloud solutions that were built in a pre-OpenStack world. New solutions that take a more native-to-OpenStack approach will pop up and replace many of the current solutions. A good example of this is Project Solum, which aims to provide a native alternative to existing PaaS solutions, such as CloudFoundry and OpenShift as I outlined in this recent post. I expect that will see more of these disruptions expanding to other frameworks in 2014.

 

5. Orchestration & Automation will be the next big thing in 2014

Having said all that, the remaining challenge of enterprises is to break the IT bottleneck. This bottleneck is created by IT-centric decision-making processes, a.k.a "IaaS First Approach," in which IT is focused on building a private cloud infrastructure - a process that takes much longer than anticipated when compared with a more business/application-centric approach. One of the ways to overcome that challenge is to abstract the infrastructure and allow other departments within the organization to take a parallel path towards the cloud, while ensuring future compatibility with new development in the IT-led infrastructure. 



DevOps has definitely been a key example for a business-led initiative that determines the speed of innovation and, thus, competitiveness of many organizations. The move to DevOps forces many organizations to go through both cultural and technology changes in making the biz and application more closely aligned, not just in goals, but in processes and tools as well.

Enterprises with legacy environments and customers take a two-step approach. They first tackle continuous delivery - automating the packages of their software deliverable and keeping tighter control over new production rollout. Once enterprises feel comfortable with their process and environment, they will automate the entire deployment process into production.

Configuration management, orchestration and workflow automation become key enablers in enterprise transition to cloud, and will gain much attention in 2014 and 2015. Again, Amazon has already recognized that need, introducing into the space a new offering called OpsWorks. It is only a matter of time until will see similar offerings embedded with other cloud providers in both public and private clouds.

As the focus moves to orchestration with greater focus on standardization of deployments and packages, DSL and API become equally important. Existing standards, such as TOSCA and CAMP, will undergo massive modifications to make them simpler to use and fit the cloud environment.

 

Big Data Predictions

There are many advancements happening within the Big Data/NoSQL domain that I'm not going to touch on. I will focus on two main areas that are close to my work.

 

6. 2014 will see a major increase of Big Data in the Cloud

Cloud infrastructure is closing the gap with the existing data center, as we see the emergence of support for Bare Metal, High CPU, High Memory and Flash-Disk. Many cloud providers are already offering Big Data as Service, such as Elastic Map Reduce and Redshift, and are continuously expanding their offering on that regard.

This advancement in cloud infrastructure removes almost all of the technical barriers for running I/O intensive workloads, such as Big Data analytics, on the cloud. I expect that in 2014, running Big Data analytics on the cloud will become the first choice for any new project, while the use of Big Data in non-cloud environments will be minimized to only niche use cases with extreme regulations and security constraints.

 

7. In-Memory Data backed by flash-disk will become a popular choice for Real-Time Big Data analytics 

Flash disk pricing changes the economics behind the cost/performance ratio of disk-based solutions, making it possible to achieve the performance of an In-Memory-based solution at a price closer to a disk-based solution. So far, attempts have been made to use flash disks as a fast disk alternative to magnetic drives. This path inherits many of the limitations of a disk-based drive and, therefore, doesn't capture the full potential of flash disk which, like RAM, can provide highly parallel access to data. 



At the same time, memory-based solutions like In-Memory Database or In-Memory Data Grid cover a small niche in the Big Data ecosystem, mostly due to the high cost/performance ratio.

I believe that the combination of flash drive, In-Memory data-grids and databases at the front-end change that dynamic and will make memory-based solutions backed by flash disk much more attractive to a bigger niche, specifically as it relates to real-time analytics of Big Data.

In some cases, the combination of memory-based solutions is also integrated with existing Big Data frameworks and, thus, provides seamless performance acceleration. A good example is GigaSpaces' integration with Storm and GridGain's integration with Hadoop.

 

8. Real-time analytics turns mainstream

The most interesting indication that real-time analytics is becoming mainstream is Amazon's support for real-time analytics, with many of the existing analytics solutions providing real-time analytics capabilities as built-in parts of their reports. Another good example of that is Google Analytics Real Time View.

New disruptive forces in Cloud worth watching in 2014

Disruptive technologies change the market landscape in ways that are difficult to anticipate by their very nature. Rather than predicting their impact, I felt it would be simpler to list them. 

  • Networking - The networking segment of IT is experiencing a major disruption as of late with the move to Software Defined Network, OpenStack Neutron project and Network Function Virtualization. These developments will change networking from not only a technology perspective, but they are also driving a completely different business model which will be based on utilization or a subscription-based model. 

  • Linux Container - Linux containers are gaining interest both as light-weight software packaging as well as VMS's. The most commonly used use case for Linux containers has as an underlying container for PaaS. With the introduction of new projects, such as Docker - which makes the Linux container easy to use, we will see wider and more pervasive use of containers as high performance virtualization, as packaging tools in continuous deployment scenarios, etc. 

  • Bare Metal Cloud - Bare metal cloud has been a small niche in the cloud space, mostly due to the fact that it is usually offered in a static configuration setup. Bare metal clouds provide the same degree of elasticity to bare metal devices. With OpenStack, for example, you can spawn a new bare metal device just as you would provision any other VM. The development would reduce one of the last remaining barriers for bringing mission critical applications to the cloud. 

  • OpenStack as an Innovation Accelerator - Many items on the list of disruptive technologies that I listed above are not that new, and to a certain degree, have existed for years, like in the case of Linux Container. Often, a disruptive force needs to gain certain critical mass before it can break into massive adoption. OpenStack creates an ecosystem that provides a platform for many users to integrate new technologies in a way that could be consumed by end users immediately and that plays a major role in the acceleration of adoption of many of those disruptive technologies.

Where do we go from here?

There are many individual technologies and trends that have a disruptive force behind them. Having said that, I think that it is the intersection between those technologies that holds the most promising potential. Here are few examples: 

  • Big Data and the Cloud Application Orchestration - Big Data analytics for operational information could serve as the new "brain" behind a new class of orchestration engine that would combine artificial intelligence decision-making based on trends and historical analysis and handle complex failure and scaling scenarios automatically. 

  • Putting Network and Applications together - Putting network and applications together holds a lot of promise in the way we scale applications across regions and multiple sites, as well as how we control application SLA's in a shared environment. For example, giving priority to customer-facing services versus batch analytics or optimizing the network routing based on the locality of the data, etc.

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