Intent-based computing and increased competition are two big ones.

March 18, 2019

5 Min Read
Cisco is paying $2.35 billion for Michigan-based Duo Security, whose technology the former sees as advantageous to its intent-based networking strategy. Founded in 2010, Duo Security provides two-factor authentication, endpoint remediation and secure single sign-on tools. The company’s security solution verifies the identity of users and the health of their devices before granting them access to applications to help prevent cybersecurity threats.Shutterstock

By Michael Bushong


Michael Bushong

The IT industry is a little more than 10 years into the cloud revolution. As with virtually every major technology transition, these inflection points take years to move from concept to hype to reality. As enterprises move beyond early trials into mainstream adoption, the industry is learning more about what the future of cloud looks like. And the shift in industry buzz resoundingly points to multicloud.

But is multicloud an evolution of the hype or a logical conclusion of the technology? And to what extent should the channel expect multicloud to impact enterprises in the year ahead?

Why Multicloud?

To make any predictions about what will happen with multicloud this year, it’s important to first understand what is driving the movement—both in the near- and long-term.

In the long term, things like supplier management will play a role. If cloud is to drive enterprise IT, some of the same best practices around procurement will need to extend to how cloud is consumed. This suggests that large, single-vendor environments will create problems, and companies looking to create negotiating advantage will eventually turn to multicloud.

But necessity is pushing multicloud exploration and adoption.

The short-term reality is that most enterprises do not have explicit multicloud strategies but, as they grapple with early cloud deployments, multicloud is often an unplanned outcome. With most of the early cloud deployments coming from one-off decisions to move individual applications to the cloud, there is frequently a lack of a centralized, coherently enforced cloud strategy. Therefore, when one cloud is not sufficient, multiple clouds emerge.

Whether because of organic cloud adoption or M&A activity, channel partners that find their customers entering a multicloud world must quickly help them determine their path forward. They should expect multicloud requirements starting to work themselves into cloud solutions this year. While companies are likely not managing multiple clouds as one cohesive infrastructure to start, they will begin to seed their RFPs with requirements that will eventually allow them to do so. Put simply, multicloud will become an increasingly important decision criteria, even for single-cloud deployments.

With that in mind, we will see three multicloud trends dominate in the coming year. Here’s what the channel should expect to see, and how to prepare for it

1. Intent-based everything will emerge as enterprises workloads become increasingly diverse.

A large part of the multicloud movement will ultimately be driven by the need for workload diversity. Some applications might need to be served out of AWS and others out of Azure. Some will need to run in centralized clouds to save costs, while others will run on-premises to optimize performance.

However, multicloud is more an operational state than some specific device or technology. It’s about providing operational uniformity in the face of workload diversity to ensure the user experience and security remain consistent despite the underlying infrastructure. Anything less is not only a suboptimal path for the end users, but it also represents …

… unnecessary complexity for IT teams that will drive both expense and risk.

In 2019, we will see the need to decouple intent from the underlying infrastructure accelerate. Partners should expect intent-based everything to take root, expanding beyond point products and moving into broad messaging. While not all companies will associate this with multicloud, it is a necessary precursor that should see heightened attention in the coming year.

2. The battle for control points in the infrastructure will begin.

For some technology sectors, this will mean more software-defined solutions; for others, it will come in the form of infrastructure controllers. Whatever the name, the products that emerge will be logically separated from the underlying infrastructure.

An interesting implication here is that the future will be decidedly more multivendor. Legacy incumbents hoping to cling to existing customers will be forced to choose between participating in the multivendor control game or providing their own solutions in a more open environment.

Channel partners should help enterprises use this shift to increase competition within their suppliers, even if not in pursuit of multicloud. When there is competition, the consumer always wins. And multicloud should stimulate a lot more competition.

3. The shift to multicloud will start with people, not technology.

Cloud already represents a major shift in operations. It requires new skills, which means that the workforce must be retrained and skills updated. While this happens, IT practitioners with relevant cloud experience will be in high demand. For individuals, 2019 will continue the run on cloud professionals. For companies, it will continue to be a tough hiring climate.

Enterprises will need to consider how they’ll retrain rather than replace their workforces. It cannot be that an entire generation of workers is stranded as the industry moves from the on-premises era to the multicloud era. Enterprises will begin to separate themselves from their competitors as they become more (or less) effective at managing this people transition.

As value-added resellers and integrators see this, there will be a massive push toward more transformation services to accompany more traditional equipment sales. This will reshape the IT ecosystem in significant ways. Look for consolidation in the space as larger companies acquire their way into leadership positions.

Ultimately, 2019 will be a preparation year. Equipment makers will shift their portfolios to be more multicloud-ready. Channel players will augment their offerings to drive more consultative sales. And enterprises for whom multicloud is the likely destination will begin re-training the workforce and changing the criteria by which they evaluate new solutions.

While this might seem like not much is happening (and, indeed, skeptics will point to this as proof that no movement is underway), it’s worth underscoring that most championships are won and lost well before the final game is played. Preparation matters. And partners who fail to start will undoubtedly find themselves at a disadvantage when the stakes are at their highest.

Michael Bushong is vice president of enterprise and cloud marketing at Juniper Networks. He spent 12 years at Juniper in a previous tour of duty, running product management, strategy and marketing for Junos Software. Most recently, he was responsible for Brocade’s data center business as vice president of data center routing and switching, and then Brocade’s software business as vice president of product management, software networking. Follow the company on Twitter @JuniperNetworks or follow Bushong on LinkedIn.

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