Reflections on the Cloud in 2016

An empty two lane road cutting between green fields.

Having been in the thick of the cloud transition for several years now, I am sometimes reminded of the ‘Stages of Grief’ model espoused by psychiatrists – a progression from Denial through Anger toward Acceptance and Hope after a traumatic personal loss.  Relative to other technology transitions this one seems to have a strong emotional component – perhaps because the move to cloud technology has happened so fast and is potentially so disruptive.

Based on no science whatsoever, here’s what I’m seeing as the stages of cloud adoption amongst the data-intensive businesses that make up Signiant’s customer base:

  1. “The Cloud” is just marketing hype.
  2. The cloud is real, but it’s not for me.
  3. I need to move to the cloud – the question is when and how.
  4. I’m going to start dabbling in cloud technology.
  5. This is awesome!
  6. I’m all in – the future of IT lies in the (hybrid) cloud.
  7. There are lots of practical implementation challenges with the cloud.

In 2016, most of our customers were operating somewhere in stages 4 through 7.  (Please note that I’m not talking about SaaS here, but rather about the actual movement of mission-critical payloads into the cloud, for example video assets for a Media & Entertainment company.)  It has been great to have a ringside seat for Stages 4 & 5 – the dabbling and amazement phases.  For example, we’ve seen a dramatic increase recently in customers deploying Signiant’s Media Shuttle product with cloud storage.  Our cloud-native model makes deployment super-simple, and customers can take advantage of elasticity of the cloud by dialing their storage up or down depending on current projects.  This is an easy win with real cloud-related benefits.

Some of our larger customers have taken a very aggressive stance on cloud adoption, so 2016 was also the year that saw Stage 7 really come into play.  As expected, the bigger and more complex the customer operation, the more headaches emerge once there’s a real project with schedules and budgets.  We’ve been working closely with these customers to support the implementation of complex new hybrid cloud workflows, generally involving both our Flight utility for cloud upload and behind-the-firewall Signiant software.  There have been some big successes, but quite a bit of pain along the way.

In spite of the challenges, I’m not really seeing anyone pull back from their cloud plans.  It’s more a matter of accepting that there is still no panacea, and coming to terms with a new and different set of challenges.  The cloud is great, but it will always be complicated to design and deploy technical infrastructure that can efficiently meet dynamic business needs.

During 2017, I’m expecting cloud adoption to progress along the same lines, with people and companies continuing to move into the later stages.  The industries we serve aren’t doing it in lockstep, so we’ll see some customers hold back while others push forward with very ambitious projects.  The cloud is here to stay, and we’ll all continue the march toward Acceptance and Hope.

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