Forrester Researcher: Containers, PaaS And Managed Private Cloud Will Drive Cloud Adoption Next Year And Beyond

While cloud has ushered in cutting-edge technical capabilities and application development methodologies, traditional use cases are still driving enterprise cloud adoption, said Lauren Nelson, a principal analyst at Forrester.

Even disruptive technologies like containers are currently being leveraged for more legacy-minded business imperatives. But that should start changing next year, Nelson said in a keynote Tuesday at The NexGen 2017 Conference & Technology Expo Monday in Los Angeles.

"The way they are being used today is pretty unremarkable," Nelson said of containers.

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Containers, according to data presented at the latest DockerCon conference, are mostly being implemented to make monolithic applications more efficient—not a cutting-edge use case, but one that delivers real value.

"Containers are here but not tied to 12-factor app design," she said, referencing the methodology popular for building modern apps that can be delivered through a Software-as-a-Service model.

The reason most companies aren't leveraging the technology for building distributed applications is the simple challenge of retraining developers with higher-level application architecture expertise.

But those training programs "are going to explode in the next year," Nelson said.

Wider adoption of Platform-as-a-Service is another important trend in the cloud. But those wondering whether containers or PaaS will win out as the development vehicle of choice in the market are asking the wrong question, Nelson said.

That's because "cloud developers are not all one-in-the-same," she told NexGen attendees.

PaaS is clearly an important force in enterprise IT, she said, citing a recent study that found half the Fortune 500 are using Pivotal Cloud Foundry, a leading solution in the category.

For organizations looking to create an army of developers while preserving quality, PaaS is a great choice.

But PaaS is a broad term that encompasses many categories, with the common attributes of an abstraction layer for developers, with toolsets to facilitate their work and a focus on application categories.

That diversity of solutions under the PaaS label can make it difficult for solution providers to talk to customers about PaaS and identify opportunities for deploying the technology, Nelson said.

Another big trend that should continue to emerge next year, Forrester research shows, is an embrace of hosted private cloud. That solution is attractive to businesses because it suits many purposes, she said.

Nelson advised solution providers attending NexGen to try to penetrate the hosted cloud market by offering account management services.

Migration to public cloud will also pick up steam, she said, but "hybrid is still the larger picture."

And while hybrid cloud is clearly the infrastructure preference for most companies—three-quarters of companies identify hybrid as their IT strategy—the term is extremely broad.

"Hybrid cloud is cloud plus anything else," Nelson said. "You are not going to have just one platform, one stack."

While enterprises are clear about their preference for hybrid clouds, that clarity breaks down when the discussion turns to hybrid cloud management practices.

Enterprises are still slow to adopt management platforms to enable those environments, she said, despite a number of vendors offering solutions in the cloud management space.

"It’s a waiting game for a comprehensive management platform," she said, as it has been since Forrester first evaluated the category in 2011.

Enterprises continue to buy specific tools that help them understand cloud cost, or evaluate performance, or optimize cost and performance, according to Nelson.

The market has seen several cloud migration, cost-management and performance tool developers bought up by name-brand technology vendors "trying to build up their mega-cloud manager," Nelson said.

The irony is when those solutions get consolidated into larger suites, customers tend to be less interested in purchasing them, she said.

For those reasons, partners should first try to sell specific cloud management functionality their customers want.

"Think about segmenting solutions," Nelson said, and then let customers grow into full suites.