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2017 IT Forecast: Cloudy With A Chance Of Security Concerns

Public cloud adoption and security concerns are expected to grow as more businesses transition to the cloud.

Cloud is here to stay, but the future is foggy: Businesses say they are challenged to transition to cloud without sacrificing security.

A new Interop ITX Research Report entitled "2017 State of the Cloud" published today explores the trends and challenges organizations face as cloud use continues to grow. Interop ITX and InformationWeek polled 307 tech professionals at companies currently using, or planning to use, cloud computing to learn about their usage and optimization strategies.

Responses indicate a broad shift from private cloud technology to public cloud services. The use of "virtualization or private cloud" dropped from 52% in 2012 to 40% in 2016. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), the public alternative, jumped from 30% to 57% in the same timeframe.

"I believe we'll see public cloud adoption hit mainstream," says Carson Sweet, co-founder and CTO at CloudPassage. There are two reasons behind the upswing in public cloud use, he explains.

Businesses have begun to realize how difficult it is to build a private cloud, which requires hard-to-find skills. Further, he says, the adoption of public cloud among large, regulated organizations like Capital One has paved the way for smaller businesses to follow suit.

Survey respondents also listed scalability, performance, and better access to resources among their reasons for switching to public cloud. All are tough to achieve in traditional IT environments where companies must get servers and follow bureaucratic processes to use them.

Due to security concerns, hybrid cloud was a hot topic in 2016. In a hybrid scenario, businesses move low-risk, non-critical data and applications to the cloud while housing private and critical data in-house, explains Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst at NSFOCUS.

"The likelihood of organizations moving to a hybrid cloud strategy is quite high in 2017 and beyond," says Gates. "This approach brings the best of both worlds: cost savings with the cloud, and better security in-house."

With hybrid cloud, he continues, security pros can focus on protecting critical components of business processes instead of trying to safeguard everything at once. Outsourcing non-critical material enables them to make the most of their often-limited resources.

Jason Kent, VP of product management, Web app security at Qualys, echoes similar benefits of hybrd cloud, but warns of security challenges in storing an app's front end in one place and database in another.

"This can be problematic in keeping those connections secure, but it does allow for the best of both worlds," he notes.

While these security experts predict a rise in hybrid cloud adoption, survey results tell a different story. The number of respondents testing private cloud dropped from 30% to 6% between 2014 and 2016; the percentage running at least half of their workloads in the private cloud fell from 76% to 59%.

More than half of respondents (51%) cite security as the biggest challenge in using private or hybrid cloud. Nearly 30% reported performance was their greatest difficulty. Those who tried to build apps to run in private and public clouds have also encountered problems with latency and dropped connections between the two clouds, which are tough to debug.

With respect to cloud management, organizations will begin to demand greater security from cloud operators, who will find themselves increasingly targeted by hackers, says Gates. The survey shows security trumped cost as the top cloud concern for businesses.

"Hacking is all about monetary gain," he explains. "If the revenue funnel begins to dry up, hackers must find other ways of filling their bank accounts. If it means attacking cloud providers, they will do so with no qualms implied."

Businesses who transition to the cloud are responsible for protecting their information regardless of where they store it, says Gates. IT pros must ensure the operator housing their data and applications has stronger security measures than their own.

"You cannot shift responsibility to someone who is incapable of doing it better," he cautions.

The Interop ITX Research "2017 State of the Cloud" report is available here for download.

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