A Look Forward to 2015

The end of 2014 is here, and it’s time to look forward to 2015. It is that time of year when we make predictions about what the future may hold. Here are are my thoughts on what we should be watching for in the coming year.

Topping my list of things to look out for in the cloud in 2015 is Microsoft. Microsoft has been a company on a mission since it made up its mind that the cloud is the place to be. 2014 saw it make major moves in this space, and 2015 may be a defining year for it. Can anyone deny Microsoft’s influence in the data center, or in IT in general?

While data centers have followed where Microsoft technologies have taken them for many years, in 2014, public cloud companies like Amazon and Google have given Microsoft a new market and a new customer base by adding Microsoft capabilities with Windows Platform on AWS and Google Compute. AWS and Google Compute offer other Microsoft services as well, .NET, Microsoft SQL, and Microsoft SharePoint being prime examples.

Microsoft Azure will continue to grow in 2015, which may just be the year Microsoft takes a shot at dethroning the current “king of the hill,” Amazon Web Services. This isn’t a trivial task. Cloud services made Amazon around $4.7 billion for 2014, followed by Microsoft Azure pulling in around $156 million and Google Compute at $66 million. Assuming those figures are accurate, Amazon has accomplished a lot with its six-year head start over Microsoft and Google. These figures and numbers are specific and only related to the IaaS market for compute, network, and storage on demand.

Things look quite a bit different when you consider other aspects of the cloud infrastructure in the financial picture. Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced its total cloud computing revenue to be around $4.4 billion. The drastic jump in revenue is due to services like Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics, as well as other SaaS platforms. From a revenue point of view, it’s clear that Microsoft is running at full speed to catch up to and surprise the current industry leader. In the meantime, I see Amazon continue to cut prices as the cost of technology drops. It will be interesting to see how this price war plays out in the new year, and to see how Google and Microsoft react. Grab your popcorn, because this could get interesting.

Let’s move down the stack a bit and evaluate how Microsoft’s continued success in the cloud may impact larger corporations, as well as small and medium businesses, with regard to IT. I believe that Software as a Service will be the part of the cloud infrastructure that leads the growth of the cloud. As more products and services are presented from the cloud, fewer will be run locally inside private corporate data centers. This should be especially true for small businesses. For businesses of every size, 2015 may be the year we see the physical footprint inside the data center start shrinking or being consolidated, with only the most valuable applications and workloads remaining. Granted, this will not be achieved in a single year, but 2015 should kick off a reduction period that will last several years.

IT in the SMB world could become dramatically different. The skill set most in demand for smaller infrastructures may be that of a hybrid solutions connectivity expert or someone similar, tasked with ensuring that services are connected and presented inside the company. Microsoft Office 365 is one of the first software services that come to mind in this space. We may soon start seeing menus allowing us to order IT services à la carte. Companies could have a checklist of services they would like to use or offer to other firms. “Can I get an order of Active Directory, with a side of Office 365 and SAP?” Does that sound too farfetched? It might be now, but we’re in a period of change, and the definition of “managed services” is being written by vendors and businesses now. 2015 may just be the year that IT gets “managed,” with a redefinition of what it is and what is expected from it.

Lastly, I’d like to close out 2014 with my thoughts and predictions for VMware’s future in 2015. I have mentioned that I thought EMC’s purchase of VMware was a great business decision at the time. Now, eleven years later, EMC is under pressure to spin off VMware. I do not foresee that happening, at least not in 2015, for the simple reason that VMware would become a prime candidate for acquisition by HP, IBM, Dell, or possibly Cisco. I just can’t imagine that EMC would find that an appealing option.

More interesting is the news that VMware and quite possibly EMC have switched to ServiceNow to handle the service management aspects of their environments. Server management is key to any successful IT infrastructure, and it’s an area that VMware is a little light in. It would not surprise me to find that ServiceNow is VMware’s next target for acquisition. If it is, it will help VMware find its place in the hybrid cloud world. I am not quite sure that vCloud Air, on its own, will be enough to take any market share away from Microsoft or Amazon, but vCloud Air with ServiceNow integration could really be interesting. In my opinion, that’s the target VMware should keep its eye on.

Time will tell how the predictions pan out. In the meantime, I raise my glass to you as we toast the end of the 2014 and look forward to 2015! Cheers!

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