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Executive Viewpoint 2016 Prediction: SolarWinds – More Cloudy Skies Ahead

To know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been.

With that in mind, before I delve into SolarWinds’ predictions for 2016, I’d like to take just a paragraph or two to review one of, if not the biggest, trends we observed (continue) in 2015, and which also sets the stage for our predictions for 2016: the cloud.

The nearly complete adoption of virtualization, as well as investigation into cloud and other non-traditional compute strategies, advanced much farther than expected in 2015—particularly among SMBs. The desire (and ability) to make applications truly mobile started to completely redefine how companies think about their IT infrastructure.

Indeed, as we come to the end of 2015, Microsoft Office 365 and a number of previously “untouchable” infrastructures that were never considered pliable enough to leave the data center are. In fact, thanks to successful implementations of Office 365, people not only no longer fear this move, but are actually excited about it. Imagine that! The general feeling for webscale agility, portability and software-based configurability of infrastructure is really beginning to take off.

On to 2016.

Prediction 1: Data Centers Get Cloudier

As I alluded to, the cloud is no longer the next big thing. This year, it became just another arrow in the quiver. More importantly, we learned to trust it in terms of availability and security, and budget managers discovered the benefits of flexibility to scale up or down as required, something that might be called the “joy of elastic scalability.”

With step one of cloud under our belts (migrating existing applications running on local hypervisors), we’re starting to embrace and try to enable ubiquitous and on-demand services, the real opportunity of the cloud. Today, we spend billions on packaged application licensing, and, although we can easily scale instances to meet demand, that’s not necessarily true of the applications running in those instances.

In 2016, we’ll see more and more businesses looking to leapfrog the model of applications simply running in the cloud—they’re already migrating to fully managed services like Amazon RDS and Microsoft Azure SQL, and away from private Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL boxes. Next year will bring further experimentation with cloud native database systems, queues, communication brokers, distributed cache and other foundational cloud technologies. The possibility for paying for only what you eat will be too attractive to pass up.

Prediction 2: Containing the Cloud Gets (a Little) Closer

Container technology, such as that built by Google, Docker, CoreOS and Joyent, has to be a part of any high level cloud discussion. Organizations across all major industries, from finance to e-commerce, are trying to better understand what containers are, and how they can best be used for IT operations. This growth in awareness, and the success of disruptive webscale companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix have led to increased evaluations in IT organizations to try and glean some differentiated value from integrating containers.

In the first half of 2016, containerization will continue to mire in the education phase as organizations continue to struggle to better understand how to best utilize them for their applications and services, but as the year rolls on, though some may still be reluctant to adopt containers due to a familiarity with virtualization, containers will start to gain much more steam in terms of actual use in production. At the end of the day, containers are much more lightweight and use far fewer resources than virtual machines. Arguably, containers can be seen as the key to the OpenStack kingdom. This cannot be ignored.

Prediction 3: A Dangerous Storm Gathers

There is enough evidence to rightly conclude that the cloud is more secure than on-premises infrastructure, or at least has been up until now. However, all the cloud security concerns that have been harbored for years now may just get validated in 2016. After all, nothing is truly impenetrable. Yes, I believe that during 2016, we’ll finally see a major cloud service provider become the victim of a significant data breach that will have an enormous impact on the full range of businesses that rely on it. And the consequences of this breach will be amplified due to the fact that so many businesses have been so keen to move to cloud services so quickly that many haven’t invested enough time and money into security protocol and data encryption.

With cloud vendors connecting so much data, it’s just a matter of time before it happens—and we find out about it.

One industry that should be particularly aware of this impending threat is healthcare. With the growth of cloud, and not to mention the Internet of Things, in healthcare, hospitals are becoming increasingly connected, and therefore, increasingly at risk. Healthcare records hold a gold mine of valuable data for attackers. As healthcare systems become more digitized and rely on cloud technologies to reduce the barrier to transparent and direct communications between doctors and patients, they become the most vulnerable they have ever been.

Prediction 4: The IoT Winds of Change Shift to the Security of Things

“But wait,” you may be thinking. “What does IoT have to do with the cloud?” Well, when it comes IoT, we must all first understand that all of the “things” connect to the cloud. So, yes, it is a cloud issue.

And with virtually everything—even your office coffee maker—now being connected in some way to the cloud, there’s a broader pathway than ever to malicious access to potentially sensitive data, whether in the cloud or on-premises. These threats don’t just affect the workplace, but personal and public space too. Gartner recently stated that “by year-end 2018, 20 percent of smart buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism” (e.g. plunging buildings into darkness and defacing digital signage). These attacks may seem like nothing more than a nuisance at the moment, but the recent memorable hacking of a Jeep on the highway put the potential safety threat into context as the lack of protection and security for individuals was publicly demonstrated (also, refer to my comments on healthcare above).

In 2016, the race to get ahead of the IoT game will coincide with more and scarier attacks leveraging cloud-connected “things” as the mechanism to affect personal safety. Whether a thermostat being maliciously turned off in the middle of winter, controlling a car remotely or breaching a critical hospital device, the dangerous lack of security surrounding IoT will make the need for human intervention and better cloud, data and network management a much higher priority.


There you have it—SolarWinds predictions for 2016. Of course, the only thing that’s a sure bet is that nothing is a sure bet. So, while these may be our best guesses, there are bound to be some surprises in the year ahead, too.