After The Cloud Wars Are Over Then What?

After a company chooses their CSP who will decide what runs there?

Part of my role in marketing is identifying trends and determining what happens when the trend plays out. As digital transformation progresses and accelerates, and as businesses continue their move to the cloud, what happens once everyone is in the cloud and digital transformation is complete? Then what? 

Once all businesses and all data sets are in the cloud it will come down to a fight for transactions and operations. Once that happens, each technology vendor’s share of those operations and ultimately revenue will be a function tied directly to developer preferences. 

Thinking back on the early days of the web I recall seeing growth numbers play out as follows. The number of hits a popular website would get grew as a function of the number of people getting on the Internet grew, regardless of any increase in popularity. When practically everyone was online that growth curve changed. As the growth of Internet usage starts looking more like population growth in Internet savvy countries, you begin to see traffic stagnate.

You can see this play out in other places as well, such as the app market, as one product becomes popular the category becomes locked to new entries. Even a behemoth like Google couldn’t make Google+ work. Ultimately everyone competes for a share of the existing traffic.

Slicing Up The Cloud Pie

While CFOs and other business executives have been involved in the selection of cloud platforms due to the financial implications of such decisions, generally the choice of providers is decided based on cost and reach and let’s face it, all of the interesting stuff happens above that layer. As the industry matures to a transaction decision, who will be the drivers of those decisions? Where does the cloud go next?

If technology leads such as CTOs are the people who generally make the technology choices then you may come to the conclusion that the architect chooses, but over the long haul it’s the developers that decide. Architects are better off not to choose technologies that turn off developers, however, this seems to happen more frequently than one might think. In the long run, this tends not to work.

I have seen tool and language choices made by C level executives in industries drive a particular selection into widespread use only to see it subsequently decline as developers abandon the tool in favor of their own selections.

Developers generally make very rational short-term decisions that over time create a long-term trend. How many times have you tried to use something and within 10 or 20 minutes realized it was too frustrating and just picked an alternative or close competitor because you could get it working quickly?

If developers make technology decisions over the long term and apps are written by developers and deployed to the cloud, then who decides cloud winners and losers? 

While the cloud is currently charged to customers on the basis of a hybrid of time and utilization, let’s assume that if we reach efficiency those are all just a proxy for operations such as database writes, HTTP hits, and API calls. If public cloud migration becomes relatively complete in a few years, as trends suggest, eventually the number of operations and fractions of pennies will stagnate or align with population growth in relatively affluent countries. 

Up until now, long-term increases in cloud usage have been driven by new technology and more people connecting. However, sooner or later, we face inevitable stagnation. Even with the Internet of Things, after every factory that is being automated is automated and everyone has a Ring, a Nest, an Arlo, a Siri, or an Alexa along with a house full of Internet-connected appliances, there will be effectively stagnant growth in cloud operations.

What Developers Want

Once the number of operations plateaus then developer preferences will decide which vendors or open source tools get the biggest shares of cloud spend. 

Speaking of open source, developers like open source tools and technologies as do companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, especially if they can use them to capture that ultimate spend. So while developers will decide the type of those ops, it may be IT operations that decides which implementation of a tool will be used. In short, vendors should spend most of their time catering to developer preferences and the rest of the time ensuring their “as a service” is the best implementation. 

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