So while the desire for solutions that can be portable, fully integrated and flexibly delivered has never been higher, the management of workloads being implemented into sprawling hybrid environments will remain the bottleneck for how much additional hybrid adoption will occur in 2018.
In addition to driving innovation at the tools and platforms level, hybrid will also increase demand for services engagements.
The skills needed to deploy and manage hybrid solutions, from technology and complexity perspectives, are distinct issues that customers need to address as part of their hybrid implementations.
Customers not only have to grapple with how to manage and control cloud solutions within their organisations, but they also have to manage cloud solutions at scale and during integration with other IT assets.
For these reasons, cloud vendors, and more importantly, their services partners, will play a critical role in the successful implementations of hybrid solutions and broader hybrid environments for their joint end customers.
The majority of customers looking to include services as part of their hybrid implementations also seek to engage with partners from the start.
Of the customers TBR surveyed as part of its Hybrid Cloud Customer Research, 52 per cent indicated they are working with an system integrator or broker to complete their initial hybrid purchases.
This statistic highlights some attributes that must be inherent in hybrid, including being a multivendor and integrated solution.
Similarly, it must meet customer objectives to create cohesive environments to share data across elements to promote those much-desired strategic business initiatives and outcomes.
Due to the increasing complexity of hybrid environments and the need for customisation, partners that can integrate multivendor solutions will be highly sought after in hybrid purchasing cycles.
2017 was a big year on the consolidation front in the cloud market, with Verizon, CenturyLink and Cisco joining the multitude of vendors that have exited the direct cloud infrastructure provider realm.
Those exits fuelled the further consolidation of market share by Amazon’s cloud organisation, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and even IBM in the mainstream cloud IaaS and PaaS spaces.
Aside from growing regional players such as Alibaba and Tencent, the leaderboard for the back end of the cloud market, or vendors that provide core infrastructure and platform services, will remain unchanged in 2018.
AWS will lead by a significant margin, but Microsoft will continue to grow into a formidable vendor in its own right, while IBM and Google battle for the third position.
There will be interesting developments in areas of cloud that have more room for differentiation, cloud applications, and professional services for cloud and hybrid environments.
On the PaaS front, niche platform providers that have failed to maintain broader PaaS growth levels have become acquisition targets.
Low-code platform vendors such as Appian and Mendix will be part of the next wave of acquisition targets, or at the very least partner targets, as PaaS vendors quickly build out LOB-friendly platform capabilities.
Meanwhile, as platform vendors such as Google look to make cloud services available in environments outside traditionally hosted offerings and other platform leaders win market share on stark functionality differences, we expect to see applications vendors embrace a multi-platform partner approach, like Apttus has done with Salesforce and Microsoft.
Applications vendors will be pressured to not only augment their core applications with analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning functionality similar to the strategies of tier-1 platform partners, but also to make their applications available to customers in multiple environments so as not to alienate customers looking to centralise their applications and platform.
This will drive applications vendors to muddy the lines of “preferred” partnerships, instead opting to appeal to the broadest base of customers possible.
Many of the findings in TBR’s Cloud Developer & Platforms Research indicate the beginning of a market shift we expect to be prevalent throughout 2018: convergence plus adoption at the fringes.
The market is converging around core platform vendors such as Microsoft, AWS, Google and IBM that offer PaaS and IaaS as these vendors are more often seen as general-purpose PaaS vendors, and the utilisation of each platform will steadily rise.
At the same time, project-based, one-time development work will continue to favour applications-centric PaaS vendors such as Salesforce for app customisations and extensions as well as emerging technology-focused niche vendors that promote capabilities around blockchain, analytics and IoT.
Allan Krans is practice manager of cloud and software practices at Technology Business Research