The 10 Biggest Cloud Stories Of 2017

The Year In Cloud

Following a year that saw game-changing strategic acquisitions, such as Microsoft buying LinkedIn and Oracle buying NetSuite, as well as high-profile public cloud retreats by the likes of HPE, Cisco, and Verizon, the year 2017 offered the cloud industry a respite from the tumult. The year was characterized by strategic cooperation between cloud vendors.

While 2017 may have lacked some of the excitement of its predecessor, the developments that took place across the industry may ultimately prove more enduring.

Partnerships between name-brand technology giants with established niches in the cloud market became the norm as those vendors recognized the need for comprehensive offerings spanning public and on-premises environments. Those deals continued paving the way for the proliferation of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, containers, Internet of Things and big data analytics.

Get more of CRN's 2017 tech year in review.

10. Cisco Teams With Google

Cisco teamed with Google in October as part of a wide-ranging deal intended to provide the networking giant with a seamless bridge to next-generation public cloud technologies, such as Kubernetes container orchestration.

The hybrid cloud offering from the two enterprise powerhouses, which should become available in the second half of 2018, opens the door for businesses to adopt emerging Google Cloud services complimented by Cisco's on-premises networking, hyper-converged, and security offerings.

Partners said the deal empowers Cisco to extend its networking and security offerings into the fast-growing enterprise public cloud marketplace.

9. Oracle's Next Generation

Industry watchers are still waiting to see if Oracle emerges as a top player in the cloud, especially at the infrastructure and platform layers. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based tech giant plunged into the market as a late entrant, but founder, CTO and promoter-extraordinaire Larry Ellison has repeatedly vowed to challenge the public cloud leaders, most notably setting his sights on industry kingpin AWS.

At the start of 2017, Oracle introduced the ability to provision bare-metal infrastructure on its recently debuted Gen2 Cloud as a differentiator from those competitors.

While Ellison's ambitious goals have yet to fully materialize, there are some signs of strategic success. The company saw growth for the first time in three years in Q4 of 2017, with earnings driven by a surge in cloud sales, according to company leaders. Oracle critics, however, argue those numbers result from sales tactics that don’t accurately reflect Oracle cloud adoption.

In a market that's ludicrously prohibitive to penetrate, Oracle's capital resources, engineering talent and massive customer base make it the late-entrant worth watching.

8. Salesforce And IBM Join Forces Around AI

Salesforce and IBM entered a strategic partnership in March focused on joining the capabilities of their respective artificial intelligence platforms. The union of IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein aimed to leverage each company's machine learning know-how to deliver deeper insights into customer behavior.

The relationship forged between the two enterprise tech giants looks to run deep. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty discussed the synergy later in the year when she sat down to be interviewed by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at his company's Dreamforce conference.

7. OpenStack Post Hype

OpenStack, the cloud operating system that won major industry backing while becoming a darling of open cloud enthusiasts, found itself fighting for its life in 2017.

The complexity of the software, deployment pains, and rapid adoption of public cloud stripped away the almost unprecedented early exuberance around the project and ushered in questions of long-term relevance.

But the technology isn't necessarily headed for a dead-end. Several vendors in 2017 introduced "managed OpenStack" solutions to ease deployment and management. As OpenStack looks to traverse the Slope of Enlightenment on Gartner's Hype Cycle, use cases are emerging in the enterprise, and telecoms appear a particularly attractive market for the technology.

6. AWS Storage Security Lapses

For some reason, putting security controls on Amazon Web Services S3 storage buckets seemed to fall out of fashion in 2017.

After an unprecedented string of high-profile incidents that exposed sensitive personal data of veterans, Republican voters, wrestling fans and Verizon customers, the public cloud leader intervened.

Amazon sent warnings to partners and customers owning S3 buckets that had no controls barring public access, urging them to examine those drives and verify they were properly configured.

The data-protection mishaps revealed shoddy security protocols by even some respected firms.

5. HPE Buys CTP

With the acquisition of 200-person consultancy Cloud Technology Partners in September, Hewlett Packard Enterprise brought under its roof a solution provider adept at delivering cloud-native solutions leveraging disruptive technologies and spanning multiple clouds.

While CTP; a specialist in integrating containers, IoT, big data and machine learning solutions; is a partner of several cloud providers, the Boston-based firm's AWS practice especially stands out.

HPE said the acquisition would help end-users migrate, innovate and operate in the cloud.

4. VMware Cloud On AWS Drops

Throughout most of 2017, uncertainty was rife in the channel around the potential impact of the earth-rattling partnership between the world's largest public and private cloud vendors. Partners were especially concerned about potential price points, channel compensation models, and how the hybrid offering in the works would impact VMware's long-term business in an IT landscape dominated by AWS, its former foe and new partner.

The hybrid product finally hit the market (in a limited release) during the VMworld conference at the end of August.

VMware partners were mostly pleased with the price sheet when finally revealed, and have warmed to the idea of VMware Cloud on AWS as an important component of the virtualization vendor's larger multi-cloud transformation. But the channel program details are under wraps until next year, leaving many partners still unsure of whether then want to commit practices to bringing the product to market.

3. Kubernetes Crowned King

In just the last few years, application containers have gone from a niche technology to perhaps the dominant force in the data center and public cloud.

As the technology ascended and disrupted almost every infrastructure vendor, a few solutions emerged vying for dominance in orchestrating containerized workloads across clusters of servers.

This year, Kubernetes, a technology first developed at Google, became something close to an industry standard.

Accordingly, all the major cloud providers introduced managed Kubernetes services. Azure brought to market AKS; a Google-Pivotal-VMware alliance delivered PKS; and AWS jumped into the conversation near the end of the year with EKS.

Even Docker, developer of Swarm, the main rival to Kubernetes, introduced a comprehensive integration with Kubernetes to its enterprise platform.

2. Rackspace Buys Datapipe

The largest acquisition in Rackspace history unites two data center and managed services powerhouses, both bigtime partners of hyper-scale cloud providers, into a potential juggernaut in the managed cloud market.

The combined Rackspace and Datapipe is a company that can deliver with global reach extensive colocation, private cloud, managed cloud and multi-cloud services.

1. Amazon The Untouchable

Despite astonishing overall industry growth, the near-constant pace of disruption, the strategic partnerships among name-brand competitors, the drift toward multi-cloud environments, the massive enterprise base of rival Microsoft, the technological chops of rival Google, the fears of vendor lock-in, the suspicions of large retailers, and having just about every cloud provider's target on its back, Amazon Web Services remains far ahead of the pack in the cloud market.

While 2017 had no show-stopping single development promising to stir up the cloud industry, perhaps its most important story, one that everybody has grown so accustomed to year-after-year, was that AWS again finished the year larger than the next five providers combined. And it maintained the perch it earned by being the market's first-mover through an unrelenting commitment to innovation.