future_of_cloudThe future of cloud is bright, but in the coming year, cloud performance will become a critical factor. Organizations will be challenged to build a best-fit cloud environment that meets workload requirements and provides optimal performance.

Below are six predictions about the future of cloud infrastructure for 2015.

1. For the cloud, network latency will take the spotlight
As my colleague Mike Palladino alluded to in his recent post, having optimal cloud compute and storage specs does not alone ensure the best possible cloud performance. The performance of your network can be equally and sometimes more important, than the quality of your Internet infrastructure.

This year, Internap found that networks only deliver data over the best path 15 percent of the time, which is a huge issue for companies that are hosting their mission-critical applications in the cloud and need to ensure high-speed access. I expect 2015 will be the year when more companies that have invested heavily in Internet infrastructure will take a closer look at how they can improve their network to ensure the best possible performance.

2. Hybrid infrastructure will go beyond cloud-only solutions
The term “hybrid” has traditionally been limited to public and private cloud infrastructure, but in 2015 and beyond, we’ll see “hybrid” take on an expanded definition as companies concerned with delivering the highest possible levels of performance, security, control and cost-efficiency implement broader hybrid infrastructure approaches.

A few years ago, the only people that cared about achieving the highest possible levels of performance might have been high frequency traders or scientists using high-capacity R&E networks, but today performance-sensitive applications are becoming table stakes across industries. From ecommerce to ad tech and mobile analytics companies, the reliability, scalability and performance of their Internet infrastructure is not only critical to the business; it is their business.

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For these customers, public or private clouds alone are not optimal for cost-efficiently scaling their applications to deliver a flawless user experience for their end customers on any device, anywhere, any time, which is driving the growth in hybrid infrastructure environments. In 2015, expect more companies to get realistic about virtual cloud’s role as one element of their overall IT infrastructure mix, along with bare-metal and more custom services like managed hosting and colocation, to best fit their specific applications and use cases.

3. Bare-metal adoption will become mainstream for both stable and variable workloads in performance-sensitive industries
Companies in industries that rely on performance-sensitive, fast data applications will increasingly weave bare-metal infrastructure – which can offer the flexibility of virtualized public cloud with the performance of dedicated servers – into their IT infrastructure mix. As customers become more familiar and comfortable with running their stable workloads on bare-metal infrastructure, we also expect to see companies increasingly take advantage of hourly bare-metal configurations to support their performance-sensitive variable workloads.

We were one of the first-to-market with our bare-metal infrastructure solutions back in 2012, and over the last year we’ve seen many other providers move into the bare-metal space as companies seek higher performing, but equally flexible and on-demand alternatives to public cloud. We’ve already started to see widespread adoption of bare-metal emerging in the adtech industry, and we expect to see continued adoption in industries like online gaming, financial services, healthcare and ecommerce in 2015 and beyond.

4. Reality check: public cloud does not always equal virtualization
The NIST definition of cloud computing includes on-demand self-service, rapid elasticity and resource pooling, among other criteria. Although virtualization is nowhere to be found in the definition, there is still a widespread misconception that it is inextricably linked to public cloud services. According to a recent Internap survey of 250 Internet infrastructure decision makers, 66% of respondents cited virtualization as a defining characteristic of a public cloud.

With the rise in popularity of bare-metal infrastructure, which can offer the agility that defines the cloud without using a hypervisor layer or multi-tenant environment, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that virtualization is not necessary for cloud computing. In 2015 and beyond, this traction will continue to drive greater awareness that public clouds can come in various forms – including non-virtualized bare-metal alternatives – and are still evolving to fit the needs of new and more specific applications.

5. OpenStack will gain more public cloud traction
Over the last few years OpenStack-based private clouds have been adopted by some of the world’s largest corporations like PayPal, Time Warner and BMW, and in 2015 we will start seeing more OpenStack-based public cloud deployments.

For public cloud providers, this private-cloud activity we’ve seen over the last few years has helped to build the overall OpenStack ecosystem, and laid the foundation for widespread OpenStack-based public cloud implementations. Each OpenStack-based private cloud that is deployed represents a future hybrid cloud and an enterprise customer that will appreciate the interoperability that OpenStack offers. With expanding geographic footprints, enterprise-class features and the ability to avoid vendor lock-in, these customers will be increasingly attracted to OpenStack-based public clouds in the same way enterprises started warming up to Linux.

6. Cloud-wary organizations adopting cloud infrastructure for the first time will likely experience fewer security issues than they anticipated
In Internap’s 2014 Cloud Services Landscape Report, we found that 40 percent of “cloud wary” organizations (those that have not yet adopted cloud infrastructure) cited security as a concern, whereas only 15 percent of the “cloud wise” (those currently using cloud infrastructure) cited security as a challenge they’ve encountered. While a portion of cloud-wary organizations are from security conscious industries, such as financial services, healthcare and government, these findings suggest that the majority of “cloud wary” organizations may be overestimating security risks. As more companies adopt cloud infrastructure for the first time in 2015, we expect that many will experience fewer security issues than they might have expected prior to adoption.

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