Top five cloud trends for 2015: a new era of B2B innovation

Cloud platforms will coalesce around the domain needs of the enterprise

While the public cloud wars continue to rage among Google, Amazon and Microsoft, over the course of this year, we're likely to see a quiet storm gathering around cloud platforms.

Cloud platforms are typically less well understood architecture but serve as a growing greenfield for enterprise innovation, application creation and business agility. Why is the platform coming into its own? Look at these milestones concerning domain maturity and growth:

  • Cloud platforms are coalescing around the domain needs of the enterprise – there's a cloud for CRM (, one for HR (Workday), one for financials (Netsuite), and one for IT, for example.
  • Adoption of the cloud platform is growing at a strong clip. A Morgan Stanley survey of 150 CIOs shows that usage is moving from 9% of CIOs today to 29% by the end of 2015.
  • Cloud platforms are running an ever-growing number of transactions. Our cloud platform runs an average of 3.6 billion per month and 1.6 million customer transactions per month.

Here are the five cloud trends we predict will unfold over the course of 2015.

1. Gravitational forces pull cloud universes together

As clouds coalesce around CRM, HR, financials, and IT, we're seeing how these universes are naturally attracting one another. End users are demanding the expansive functionality that cloud integration provides – in shared services and a broader view of their operations and customers.

Cloud vendors can build the requisite connections to draw themselves closer because in the cloud world there are fewer technology obstacles than in the data centre era. Specifically, APIs and common programming languages, such as Ruby or Perl, provide each universe with a widening and more accessible surface area to speed and simplify the connections.

2. A meteoric rise for cloud verticalisation

As cloud platforms continue to mature, and more organisations are drawn to the financial and innovative benefits, cloud is spurring interest from even those industries that have been hesitant. Think of those most beset with regulation, compliance and privacy: federal, life sciences, financial and healthcare.

For example, while the US government's Cloud First strategy has moved slower than anticipated with only 2% of 2014 government agency IT budgets going to cloud services according to a report released last September, those agencies that have navigated security and compliance hurdles have delivered real innovation.

Lots of cloud providers are going to take the necessary steps to receive appropriate industry certifications, creating more platforms designed to align to Sarbanes-Oxley, FDA, FedRamp and others.

3. CIOs buying services, not compute power

Not long ago, IT teams used to be the administrator of data centre infrastructure. But as the hardware behind the cloud (VMs, KVM, Docker, and so on) continues to become more scalable, connected and increasingly delivered as a service, IT teams can move away from a components-centric world of storage space or CPUs.

In the future, we'll see more IT teams thinking of and buying services to deploy apps or solve problems, like adding request management, on-boarding employees and purchasing. IT teams are looking through the lens of the business services they deliver, not the IT components.

This has several implications, and one is that the role of CIOs is moving away from being associated with broken smartphones, PCs and other hardware. Instead CIOs can focus on advising how to use IT to deliver the requisite business services. With that, CIOs are claiming their seat at the table with other business leaders. As a corollary, IT staff will need to develop new skills to be conversant in and support business services.

4. Data-as-a-Service or Business Intelligence 2.0 emerges

As more companies build cloud-based systems-of-record that capture their corporate operational data, the data residing there is increasingly ripe for business intelligence. More enterprises will tap this data as a repository rich for operational insight. How are users accessing the company's business services? What services are the most used? Having a single system of record can help IT teams leapfrog more traditional data warehousing techniques by running analytics on the sitting data in the system of record.

5. The cloud brings "agile development" to business teams

Just as agile development has changed the way software is coded, we're seeing that a cloud platform is expediting the way business teams can convert ideas into applications. By having a common platform to develop on, organisations can let their teams rapidly create and test their ideas – in days or weeks instead of months. They can fail quickly – investing and risking less money.

Think of the cloud platform as enabling the "Series A" investor within the enterprise. Just look at what the USPS did to spur its 2014 holiday stamp program. In days they built a system to streamline postage stamp delivery from two factories to local post offices across the country based on a custom app. The cloud platform is unleashing a new era of B2B innovation.

  • Allan Leinwand is VP and CTO Cloud Platform and Infrastructure at ServiceNow