Future of Cloud Management: Integrated Platform, Intelligence, and Automation

Forrester recently released its Forrester Wave for Hybrid Cloud Management (HCM) solutions for Q2 2018 after evaluating several vendors in this space and narrowing down the list to the top vendors.  Evaluation aside, the report makes some points worthy of further exploration and discussion:

  • Early success has been largely in areas such as cost management.
  • Hyperscale vendor offerings (vertically integrated solutions such as AWS Cloud Explorer, Microsoft Cloudyn, etc.) are pushing a one vendor full stack as a key market motion creating areas of overlap; therefore, the future of the market remains uncertain at this time.

While the report is a good starting point for getting a glimpse into the current state of the HCM market, like all things, I fully expect the core considerations for evaluating HCM platforms to evolve as unique vendor approaches create broader customer success stories outside of the criterion.  This blog aims to shed light on the evolution of HCM platforms, which we call Intelligent Cloud Management (ICM) platforms, by examining two key areas: Cost Management and Market Motion, and offering a supplemental hypothesis.

Cost Management is Just the Beginning

With early and rapid adoption of public clouds, one of the first set of issues that customers faced was around cost management and optimization. As highlighted in this article, it is estimated that more than $6B is wasted annually due to cloud cost management efforts going awry.  Consequently, this is where early success came for ICM platforms.  Given that there is a still a significant presence on-premises, there is a certainly a lot of runway for vendors focusing on this issue; however, many of these vendors offer largely static and reactive ways to optimize and reduce costs.

As we look forward, there are three areas of evolution important to customers in the area of cost management which have not received much attention (in this report or elsewhere):

  • Intelligence and automation to optimize cost for operating in and making informed choices across private and/or public clouds.
  • Proactive cost optimization leveraging automation and intelligence for faster and proactive decision making.
  • Application awareness translating widely varied application requirements into automated decisions for planning and deployment.

Bottom line – The solution needs to be a dynamic closed loop experience amongst the complex and intertwined workflows to help customers succeed in their cloud journey.

As customer sophistication in public clouds increase, it is natural for them to want to do more across more clouds.   We have discovered broader requirements through early adopters on their journey to cloud, a group we call Cloud Runners.  I find it helps to think about customer needs in 3 phases of cloud adoption:  Thinkers, Walkers, and Runners.

  • Thinkers: Focusing on migrating workloads to cloud.
  • Walkers: Getting cost management under control and beginning to add additional high-value use cases such as application modernization and hybrid cloud management.
  • Runners: Expanding across multiple clouds optimizing with intelligent application placement and self-service provisioning.

In addition to the visionary runners, these research graphs paint a broader, longer range picture.  Enterprises are looking for ways to adopt multiple clouds, and behind cost management is a long list of activities in waiting, proof that cost management is just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition, this article further supports the premise of a rapidly changing landscape outside of cost management, stating “Many companies turn to hybrid cloud management software as they adopt hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies that are becoming more complex and difficult to manage.”   But, to fully understand where the market is headed, let’s examine the complete go-to-market motion in addition to the additional customer problems that need solving.

Market Motion: HCM is not a one trick pony.

Market fulfillment is moving in two directions as both cloud and service providers look to solve new problems and expand their footprint.  Ironically, it drives similar requirements for an ICM vendor.

  • Horizontal: 45% of enterprises implementing public cloud services prefer to work with a managed service provider MSP[1]. In our blog Cloud Twofer, we discussed how customers can partner with cloud Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to successfully undertake their journey to any public cloud.
  • Vertical: Hyperscale vendors are recruiting CSPs who can demonstrate additional value add – beyond just cost management. As hyperscale vendors aggressively recruit partners (service providers and resellers) to become their CSPs, ICM platforms will need to serve as the foundation for value-added services that will most certainly go beyond just cost management and optimization to cover life cycle activities.

The reality is that ICM platforms really have a dual-role – to deliver fully finished services and capabilities, and act as a technology enabler for customization by cloud MSPs.

But as enterprise and service provider spend increases on cost management and optimization solutions, it is natural for hyperscale vendors to expand as well to build their own solutions.  Let’s specifically address some of the threats called out in the Forrester Wave report and outline ways on how ICM vendors can significantly mitigate risk while embracing evolving solutions from hyperscale vendors.

  • Mitigating threats from developer centric alternatives – An integrated platform can create a win-win by helping to avoid issues related to developer-focused solutions like Pivotal or OpenShift, which enable business agility but do little to help manage costs. ICM platforms enhance cost management and go beyond it to deliver application life cycle management and automation including container services for different clouds delivering an optimal customer experience that seamlessly marries cloud-agnostic with cloud-native capabilities.
  • Mitigating threats from native platforms expansion – Hyperscale vendors are less likely to deliver proactive, criteria-based cost comparison solutions for automating cloud brokerage and workload deployments due to conflict of interest. ICM platforms harmonize different public clouds for consistent cost management and governance offering a vendor-neutral, customer-centric solution even where overlapping functionality exists from hyperscale vendors. ICMs prevents vendor lock in and can act as a way for customers to dip their toes into different clouds to evaluate specific capabilities.

Navigating coopetition will be a requirement not just for ICM vendors but for all players, no different than other complex market landscapes.

Certainly, the market is in its early stage, but the future is crystal clear: HCM evolves to ICM.  Customers are already demanding more sophisticated solutions in addition to cost management and will drive a go to market motion with checks and balances that provides choice and optimization.

Read my next blog to understand how visionary Runners are leading the way transforming HCM to ICM, demanding a deep awareness of workflows, processes and stakeholders, adding a totally different dimension to public cloud adoption.


[1] Source: IDC CloudView Survey 2016

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