Cubs, Cloud and Culture: 2017 Predictions for Business (and Baseball)

By Alex Brown

2016 brought something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: The Cubs winning the World Series. As a lifelong Cubs fan, not much could possibly top that, even fascinating trends in cloud technology.

But 2016 was also a breakout year for cloud and Microsoft Azure (although—personal bias here—not quite at the level of the Chicago Cubs). Both the industry and client developments I saw will have significant implications moving forward. So since it’s the off-season, I’ll take a break from basking in the glory of the World Series win and think about what those trends will mean for the 2017 “season.”

The Cloud Market Will Remain a Two-Horse Race

Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services will stay the clear frontrunners in the cloud space in 2017. Google Cloud doesn’t seem to have the focus or the market presence. And IBM is going down an interesting—but quite different—path of analytics and development; de-emphasizing the pure, public infrastructure cloud.

Security Will Be Left to the Big Dogs

This year, the corporate world finally realized that security in the cloud is actually superior, in most cases, to what in-house teams can achieve on-prem. Those same companies realized that they needed to ratchet up their security capabilities much more significantly as they saw large companies and government entities breached.

Hacks like Anthem Health Insurance and Delta Airlines got folks thinking: “If they can get hacked, anyone can get hacked, so let’s turn this over to the professionals in the cloud.” The good news is that cloud companies like Microsoft were well out in front of this threat and their security is already at a scale and level of sophistication that would be very difficult for a private organization to replicate. This year will bring more and more major entities around to the benefit of cloud security.

Organizations Will Continue the Cultural Shift to DevOps

In 2016, we saw a distinct trend among 10th Magnitude customers: organizations are making not only the technical shift to DevOps, but also the organizational change that is essential to a successful DevOps implementation. I’m extremely encouraged, since fully embracing all aspects of a DevOps transformation is the key to fully reaping the benefits of operating code-based IT infrastructure in the cloud.

Of course, we’re also seeing organizations that understand the technical need for DevOps, but aren’t ready to embrace the change culturally—but I’m confident they will get there. Organizations that are even just thinking in a “DevOpsy” manner will still be better positioned for the inevitable DevOps transition. I firmly believe that the more flexibly—and less siloed—companies view the roles and people within their organizations, the more successful they will be in 2017.

The Public Cloud Will Grow Up

In 2016, as the public cloud continued to mature, its capabilities expanded in lock step. As a result, the breadth of workloads tuned for success in the cloud expanded significantly along with those capabilities.

Going forward, customers will optimize their cloud footprint by re-visiting how their applications are designed and deployed to take advantage of those ever-expanding public cloud capabilities. Increasingly, we’re seeing less and less pure lift-and-shift from on-prem and more cloud-adapted deployments of applications and infrastructure. As a result, I predict that private cloud opportunities will edge into even more of a niche in 2017.

Managed Services Will Come On Strong

Clients who have truly embraced the cloud model want to take it even further. What we see is that once we show clients how to successfully operate in and architect for the cloud, they want to align scarce skilled resources with their business objectives. In most cases, the ultimate goal is to spend less time on IT operations, so many organizations are increasingly turning toward cloud partners to alleviate operational demands. This shift means that in 2017 we will see a surge in managed services popularity.

The Chief Innovation Officer Will Rise

According to the 2016 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, the top IT executive is still at the helm for IT decision making—so any reports of IT’s death in that area are greatly exaggerated. What’s super interesting though is that we are seeing organizations led by a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) outcompeting those run by a Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CINO is my way of describing a more business-aligned executive in the CIO role. As the title suggests, a Chief Innovation Officer is more ready and equipped to make organizational change. They also tend to possess more of a DevOps/agile business-aligned mindset, so that role is a win-win addition to any organization for 2017.

So, those are my picks for 2017. I’m picking the Cubs again too, obviously. And while it’s not possible to exceed the Cubs’ miraculous win in 2016, the good news for cloud is that the pinnacle of success hasn’t even been imagined yet, much less reached. Based on past trends, I’m confident that 2017 will be cloud’s brightest year yet.