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The cloud has gone from being somewhat of a novelty to an essential part of doing business today. As of 2017, almost 80 percent of companies are running some form of workload in either a public or private cloud. It’s unlikely that this trend of growth will abate anytime soon, and the decline in data center development supports this assessment.

Currently, data centers make up 62 percent of IT spending according to research firm IDC, while public and private cloud spending combined accounts for the other 38 percent of the market. By 2020, however, cloud spending is expected to rival data center spending — meaning the cloud is becoming more popular while data centers are declining in popularity.

It’s relatively easy to discern that the cloud is going to continue gaining momentum. Making predictions about what’s on the horizon is a bit more complicated, but by looking at current trends, we can determine certain characteristics that will prove critical to the cloud industry in 2018.

1. Bringing Cloud Services On-Premises

In 2018, serverless computing is expected to transition from the public cloud to on-premise IT infrastructure. Microsoft and Red Hat are among the companies working to create this serverless functionality in both hybrid and on-premises environments.

Along with serverless functionalities, machine learning is also expected to move into the private and hybrid cloud space in 2018. Public cloud providers are already building out artificial intelligence and machine learning platforms, but private and hybrid cloud vendors will likely be discussing bringing those capabilities to the private and hybrid environments as well.

2. Hybrid Approaches Dominate

Instead of choosing between public and private clouds or on-premises solutions, more organizations will go the hybrid route. Multi-cloud solutions allow enterprises to have different workloads in different clouds with the ability to manage them separately. The biggest advantage of hybrid clouds is the flexibility, allowing organizations to easily scale and improve efficiency.

Partnerships between companies such as Google and Cisco or VMware and AWS are already making truly hybrid clouds possible, and 2018 will see these combinations put to innovative uses.

3. Connection Services Expand

Because of the increasing popularity of the hybrid approach to the cloud, the market for optimizing the necessary network connections will continue to expand. Companies such as Digital Realty, QTS, and Equinix offer co-location and managed services with connections to the public cloud, and as we move into 2018 and hybrid cloud computing becomes the norm, optimizing and managing these types of connections will be more important than ever.

4. Containers Facilitate the Hybrid Trend

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Application developers want to be able to innovate quickly, and using both public and private clouds facilitates that. To manage that hybrid environment, use containers to make sure those applications are able to run in different infrastructure environments. PaaS tools such as Terraforms, Docker, Artifactory, and Jenkins will also make using multiple infrastructures more convenient for developers and allow them to get products to market as quickly as possible.

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