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Cloud trends in 2019: Cost struggle, skills gap to continue

IT service providers should have their hands full in 2019 helping enterprise customers deal with cloud cost management in expanding multi-cloud environments.

It could be the safest cloud trends prediction for 2019: IT service providers will continue to find plenty of work helping customers manage their expanding cloud deployments.

Enterprises running workloads on public cloud platforms often struggle with cloud cost management, and the problem doesn't seem likely to vanish any time soon. A fall 2018 survey commissioned by Softchoice, an IT solutions and managed service provider (MSP) based in Toronto, revealed that 57% of the 250 IT leaders polled said they have exceeded their cloud budgets. The company's 2016 cloud survey found the identical result: Fifty-seven percent of that survey's participants said they overshot cloud budgets.

Softchoice's 2018 survey found 43% of IT leaders "have trouble knowing how to create an effective cloud management strategy."

Back to the future

"What we surfaced two years ago continues to be increasingly relevant," said Craig McQueen, senior director of innovation at Softchoice, noting the ongoing cloud trends of wasted spending and the need for cost optimization.

Resources are spun up and storage allocated, and it is not getting shut down or reclaimed.
Craig McQueensenior director of innovation, Softchoice

He said businesses typically have an urgent need to use the cloud for applications or workloads, but they may fail to anticipate the cost in their haste to get started. In addition, the ease of cloud provisioning means people will spin up cloud environments to try things out -- and leave them running.

"Resources are spun up and storage allocated, and it is not getting shut down or reclaimed," McQueen said. "They overspend on resources not being used anymore."

"Orphaned resources cost money," said Grant Kirkwood, founder and CTO of Unitas Global, a hybrid and managed public cloud provider based in Los Angeles.

Kirkwood, citing RightScale research, said cloud-using organizations, on average, waste about 30% of their cloud investment, with forgotten cloud resources a big part of the unnecessary spending.

"It's out of sight, out of mind, but it is still landing on the bill," he noted.

cloud automation chart
Improved automation could help enterprises boost cloud management next year.

Cloud cost management, multiplied

The cloud cost management problem could end up being multiplied next year as more businesses pursue a multi-cloud strategy. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents to a 451 Research survey said they plan to have some form of multi-cloud environment by 2019.

Michael Aossey, vice president of cloud solutions at Trace3, an IT solutions provider based in Irvine, Calif., suggested multi-cloud management will rank among the top cloud trends in 2019.

The question organizations will be asking, in Aossey's view, is "When I start to have multiple environments that I am managing and offering to my developer community ... how do I monitor and control expenses and control security and compliance?"

McQueen said customers with only one cloud service provider often grapple with allocating costs to the business units consuming resources. They receive a single bill for those resources and know departments such as marketing and finance use the cloud, but have no idea how to carve up the spend.

Now, "customers are ... going with a multi-cloud strategy, which makes the problems worse."

McQueen said Softchoice has invested $1 million to build a cloud management platform that manages multiple clouds through one interface and provides a unified view of cloud spend.

Cloud trends call for tools

The cloud trends of cost overruns and poor resource usage visibility have left enterprises scrambling for remedies. The need to automate cloud management and finding the right tools for doing so is much on the minds of enterprises, a pattern that will extend into 2019.

Aossey said automation can provide predictability around the creation and instantiation of cloud resources, which can help organizations control costs or at least predict what the costs are going to be. In addition, public cloud functions such as autoscaling call for new types of monitoring tools. Autoscaling, which occurs in response to workload increases from the user population, can lead to cost overruns, Aossey said. Monitoring tools designed for traditional data centers, equipped with finite resources, aren't designed to handle elasticity around workloads.

But newer tools, Aossey noted, can continuously monitor dynamic cloud environments and highlight variances from predicted spend. He cited Cloudability, CloudHealth Technologies, Cloudamize and Turbonomic as examples.

"Those tools tend to be at the forefront of conversations when customers react to things," Aossey said. With the new year, Trace3 plans to work with customers to become proactive when it comes to cloud management, "so they are not reactively clamoring to find a tool," he added.

Kirkwood said enterprises have a couple of tool strategies they can pursue. In one approach, they can use a cloud audit and cost optimization tool set to flag oversized or orphaned resources. Such a tool suite is reactive, he said, helping organizations clean up problems after the fact. Another option: Use a cloud management platform to put a front-end interface between users and public clouds. That method enforces a buying and resource tracking process that provides governance before cloud purchasing gets out of hand.

Kirkwood suggested the front-end interface offers a better way to deal with cloud cost management. On the other hand, deploying such an approach retroactively may prove unfeasible. In addition, placing a process layer between the buyer and the cloud takes away some of the cloud's flexibility and configurability.

An enterprise, Kirkwood said, may end up using the cloud audit and the overarching governance approach, "but you must start with one or the other."

While enterprises evaluate tool strategies next year to tame cloud costs, some may need additional help beyond the technology. McQueen said customers equipped with cloud management tools still need to know how to implement the changes those tools point them toward. Customers can access Softchoice's cloud management portal and connect to their cloud to gain visibility. If a client wants to implement the tool's recommendation, Softchoice will arrange a mentorship session to walk them through how to make the change. Alternatively, Softchoice will make the cloud change on the client's behalf as a managed service.

Overall, cloud automation will become mainstream in 2019 amid multi-cloud adoption, according to Siki Giunta, managing director and global strategy lead of journey to cloud at Accenture.

"Automation will become the norm and not the exception as the trend to multi-cloud will become fully mainstream," Giunta said. "Automation of applications continuity, tasks and processes will be embedded in the application lifecycle and the multi-cloud fabric. This trend will bring the most challenges for skills, operating model and service management evolution."

Talent search continues

Indeed, part of the cloud management problem stems from the shortage of skilled personnel. A recent OpsRamp Inc. survey sheds light on the cloud skills gap. Ninety-four percent of the IT decision-makers OpsRamp polled found it somewhat difficult, difficult or very difficult to hire DevOps/site reliability engineering professionals, cloud-native developers and multi-cloud operators.

Jordan Sher, director of corporate marketing at OpsRamp, an IT operations management vendor in San Jose, Calif., said the dearth of cloud talent will open opportunities for MSPs "to cover the gap in the short term." Seventy-seven percent of the OpsRamp survey respondents said they are partnering with MSPs.

"Managed service providers will play a critical role in helping enterprises evolve their core digital capabilities at a rapid pace," according to the OpsRamp survey report.

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