Top 10 Cloud Trends for 2016

In 2015, the cloud technology landscape changed in ways that only a highly disruptive market can. From watershed innovation announcements to unexpected business moves, 2015 drove any last shred of doubt from the minds of skeptics that the cloud revolution is permanent. At the eye of this storm is the growing realization that data as a critical business asset can be very efficiently (and cost-effectively) stored in the cloud. The database, integration, and analytics markets are now in a race to understand how each can ultimately capitalize on this shift.

Every year at Tableau, we look back at the last 12 months and evaluate the ways in which technology is changing the face of business decisions. That discussion drives our list of top cloud trends for the following year. These are our predictions for 2016.


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1. It's a data land grab.

The race is on for your data. From Salesforce to Amazon Web Services, the big cloud players want organizations everywhere to move their data into their cloud ecosystems. And we’re not just talking about typical internal data assets. Data from web platforms like Workday, Zendesk, and various devices are now prime targets for the cloud giants.

Are we surprised? Not especially. Data assets are now to companies what oil resources are to nations. This means that any cloud-service provider looking to cement itself as a mission-critical foundation for companies needs to make a play for ALL of an organization’s data on its platform.

The idea of building an enterprise data lake in the cloud has already begun to take hold. It’s especially attractive given cheap storage options that cloud players provide as well as the always-attractive zero-capital expenditure of hosted solutions. Companies that have already taken the step of moving their data warehouses to the cloud will be especially open to easy paths for including non-traditional (but increasingly vital) data sources in ever-scalable platforms. This could include everything from IoT assets to social media metrics—all with the intent of building an increasingly connected analytics view of a company’s resources and customers.

For more, see Forbes:
Salesforce and Amazon Take IoT Fight To The Cloud

2. Partners get dragged into the cloud price war.

The battle between major cloud players has been waging for years, and the front line has largely been customers’ wallets. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft trading blows on how cheaply they can offer their cloud services isn’t new. However, each is now set to escalate the competition to involve key partners.

When you’re playing for keeps, convincing others to join your side is sometimes about the size of the check you can write. Partners of the big cloud-service providers might be receiving additional backing as an incentive to deepen relationships. The end game comes down to these partners assisting with the onboarding of customers onto preferential cloud platforms. When partners can take advantage of the deeper resources of large cloud organizations, they can, in turn, offer their own services for less add a new dimension to the cloud contest.

For more, see CRN:
Google Wages Price War But Partners Are the Secret Weapon

3. Big companies go cloud in a big way.

The tipping point is upon us. Cloud adoption is well past the perception of something that “only startups do.” Large enterprises from every conceivable industry are transitioning their entire infrastructure and data ecosystems into the cloud.

They recognize that the cloud can improve their business in a variety of ways—by helping them offer better in-store customer service or even fully leverage advances in manufacturing. Companies from even the most traditional and change-resistant sectors are seeing the writing on the wall: Cloud technology strategies cut cost and risk. They see the appeal of going cloud, especially as CIOs peer five years into the future and the alternative of massive, unsustainable overhead stares menacingly back.

For more, see Fortune:
Whole Foods Makes Big Bet on Tech

4. Cloud analytics helps IT.

The ability to keep tabs on cloud deployment costs, and the cloud’s capacity to expand rapidly will lead IT leaders to rely on powerful analytics solutions that are on-hand all the time.

If a prime lure of cloud technology strategies is cost reduction and efficient resource utilization, then CIOs must be able to verify that they’re getting those benefits. Cloud analytics solutions that lend insights into both usage and billing data will enable IT leaders to quickly spot potentially-costly services and prevent budget overruns. And they’ll be able to do it all from mobile devices, in the middle of meetings or on the go.

For more, see AWS re:Invent session:
Cost Optimization at Scale

5. Hardware giants get creative to stay cloud-relevant.

The leviathans of the server, networking, and chip-supplier industry refuse to accept that they’ve been commoditized into the background. They will continue to make big gambles to be strategic in a world now controlled by cloud players.

Whether it’s the Dell-EMC merger or HP’s impending split into two companies, clearly the seemingly-unshakeable titans of the technology hardware space are feeling the ground quaking. The cloud revolution means that the deep ties these kingpins used to have with customers are being severed at an alarming rate, and the result is an increased dependence on business from the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Interesting alliances are now on the table along with new, potentially-radical lines of business designed to pivot these deep-rooted organizations into positions of renewed value to their customer bases. Underestimating the genius these companies are capable of would be a huge mistake since many of them have fully-staffed labs and innovation centers designed to help them think outside the box.

For more, see NewsFactor:
Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Embrace the Cloud>

6. Moving data to the cloud gets closer to copy/paste.

Self-service data integration and data prep solutions may have been the rage in 2015, but 2016 will be all about simple methods for pushing data within organizations and web platforms into cloud data ecosystems.

With self-service cloud analytics and data prep now a reality, the chance of enabling a non-technical individual move data into a cloud ecosystem quickly and easily is on the horizon. Simple solutions that largely decouple the complexity of data integration, staging, and transformation and focus solely on letting business users drop data into preferred cloud databases and warehouses are on their way.

Solutions to watch:

7. European data rules will highlight commitments to cloud data privacy.

In 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) struck down the long-standing Safe Harbor Principles. As a result, US companies moving user data across the Atlantic will need to be explicit on where they stand on data privacy, or run the risk of losing their customers’ faith.

Major cloud players wasted no time issuing statements about their dedication to customer data privacy after the CJEU’s ruling on Safe Harbor. For those big enough to already have dedicated infrastructure in Europe, the message is easy. For those that haven’t, 2016 will be a test. Do they roll the dice and hope that a new agreement will allow them to continue operating solely in the US, or do they get in front of the data privacy debate and ensure customer loyalty by committing to European data infrastructure?

For more, see The National Law Review:
EU-US Safe Harbor Invalidated—What It Means for Your Business

8. Cloud marketplaces pose a dilemma for software companies.

Big cloud-infrastructure players got smart early on. They developed marketplaces to give their customers easy and direct access to their favorite third-party solutions without ever having to leave the platform. The growth of these marketplaces is undeniable. As a result, the providers of these third-party solutions face a customer loyalty conundrum.

The appeal of an environment teeming with smart, technology-adoptive users makes marketplaces offered by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and Google a no-brainer for software and services companies. However, it adds a layer to the direct relationship these companies are used to having with customers, thus creating a significant challenge when it comes to brand loyalty.

The year 2016 will see tech companies debating whether the gain in revenue is worth the loss of direct customer engagement. Smart companies will reject this choice altogether and find ways to leverage cloud marketplaces to their fullest while still delighting customers directly and building strong and committed relationships.

For more, see The Platform:
Teradata, AWS, And Data Gravity

9. Hybrid cloud strategies get easier.

One foot in the cloud and one foot on the ground? When it comes to a technology roadmap, what was once stigmatized as "playing it safe" is now openly accepted as the right path for some organizations. As a result, solutions and services built to support this model will bloom like never before.

Everything is always in transition. Even for companies that want to be "all-in" when it comes to cloud adoption, it’s not always possible. Legacy solutions, compliance, and a host of issues can keep a portion of an IT roadmap anchored on premise. Still, other organizations prefer it that way. The big cloud club has slightly eased its "if you’re not all cloud, you’re doing it wrong" messaging and started to openly build practices around supporting hybrid deployments. This, in turn, validates smaller-solution players already catering to this market need and will undoubtedly encourage additional entrants into the space.

Make no mistake, though—this is not a polarity shift in the momentum of organizations adopting a cloud approach. If anything, the fact that hosted infrastructure giants are softening their messaging (somewhat) on the hybrid approach merely signals their confidence of the existing momentum already in their favor.

10. Mobile and cloud analytics become increasingly the same.

In a world where devices are always connected and your data increasingly resides in the cloud, words like “mobile” and “cloud” cease to matter. The priority simply becomes being able to answer questions quickly and communicate the results.

It’s opening night of baseball season and a team executive sits in the stands watching fans stream into the stadium. Curious to know how many people have come through the gates, she pulls out her smartphone and opens an app connecting her to a dashboard. Fed by live data from a high-capacity cloud database, the dashboard displays attendance numbers streaming directly from ticket scanners at each of the park’s entry point.

Mobile analytics? Check. Cloud analytics? Check. Does the executive care? Not a bit. As long as it works and she can, with a simple gesture, compare the night’s numbers against previous games and effortlessly share that discovery with her team members. The “how” of cloud and mobile analytics will quickly become invisible as the simplicity of a unified solution makes these distinctions irrelevant.

For more, see Tableau blog post:
Putting Data into the Field

Also see CIO.com:
Talking SMAC: Revisiting Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud