Last year saw a real shift in perception around the public cloud in some business sectors. Increasingly, more organisations realise its business benefits.  Recent figures have contributed to the private versus public cloud debate; Information Week’s State of the Cloud Report showed that 39% of IT managers surveyed expect to get half or more of their IT services from the cloud, nearly double the number two years ago (20% of a similar sample).

Organisations in regulated industries in particular have been reluctant to transition to the public cloud, with concerns around security holding them back.  As the public cloud closes the gap on its private counterpart, what will be the key lessons for businesses in 2017?

Staying ahead in the technology adoption lifecycle

Businesses that are not on the public cloud are already years behind competitors. If we look at the Technology Adoption Lifecycle model, we see initial adoption by “innovators”, then the “late majority” getting in on the action. Eventually the “laggards” get there too – when it comes to the public cloud, this is the point we’ve reached today.

Typically conservative, late majority and laggard businesses are unlikely to take many risks with their technology strategy, industry best practises being their preferred route.  As more of their industry influencers and peers realise the benefits of the public cloud – flexibility and cost efficiency to name a couple – so others will inevitably follow. Many of the concerns around public cloud were either unfounded, or have been addressed, and the risks of not adopting this technology have become clear, encouraging this slow but certain direction of travel.

DevOps is here to stay

If the public cloud is on an upwards trajectory, so is DevOps and again, 2016 was a turning point.  The increase in DevOps uptake in 2016 is almost certainly tied up with the adoption of public cloud technologies too, as more CIOs recognised its transformational potential and looked to adopt it within their organisations. DevOps and Cloud are very closely linked, and a Cloud strategy without a DevOps approach will probably fail. As more organisations embrace DevOps practices, so they will inevitably transition to the public cloud.  In the UK, the industry increasingly understands the benefits of adopting DevOps,  and confidence in the public cloud will drive further adoption.

 The data centre map is changing

The growing number of cloud suppliers building infrastructure in the UK has garnered more interest and confidence from CIOs. For reasons of security and compliance, the prevailing consensus is that data is often better located locally.  To meet demand, we’re seeing cloud providers placing smaller facilities in more countries.

As vendors open up their offerings – in the UK and across Europe – so CIOs will have a greater range of choice available to support their cloud strategies. The question will now be how to adapt their on-premise security policies for suitability in this new world.

Security investment will rise

To date, security has been one key barrier to adoption of the public cloud.  In the same way, it will also be the prime adoption driver as understanding grows and providers address customer concerns; earlier this month the Government Digital Service declared the public cloud secure enough for the “vast majority” of the public sector.  We’re seeing cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure put significant investment into their security capabilities, boosting customer confidence and trust in the public cloud as a secure hosting option.  For highly regulated industries like healthcare and life sciences, this has transformative potential.

From an information security perspective, the cloud will continue to play an important role, in particular ahead of the impending European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While GDPR won’t be rolled out until 2018, businesses are already looking at how they prepare for this and get systems in place to comply with new requirements.

It’s fair to say that businesses that are not currently on the public cloud are behind competitors by 3-4 years. In this climate, no business can afford to miss out on the benefits this cloud architecture offers in terms of cost savings, scalability as well as its ability to commodify common IT tasks.  We expect real change this year, as public cloud solutions continue to dominate the market.