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New Report Shows "Overwhelming" Cloud Usage

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The new Cloud Adoption in 2020 report from O'Reilly Media paints a picture of "overwhelming" usage of  cloud computing. The survey results also revealed growing adoption of Site Reliability Engineering, high but flattening usage of microservices, and limited interest in serverless computing.

The report—written by Roger Magoulas of O'Reilly and Steve Swoyer—analyzed survey data collected in January 2020. Of the nearly thirteen hundred responses, twenty percent came from software engineers, about twenty percent from technical leads and architects, and nearly twenty five percent from managers and executives. The authors noted that this is "a more experienced group than we're used to seeing" with almost fifty five percent of respondents in their role for at least four years. Many respondents work in the software industry—Magoulas and Swoyer label that group as "significantly overrepresented"—which likely impacted the results. Twenty eight percent of respondents work at companies of a hundred employees or less, and a quarter work at companies wiith greater than ten thousand employees. A final demographic note: Europeans are underrepresented in this survey, with just eleven percent of respondents. Two thirds come from North America, with fifteen percent coming from Asia.


Eighty eight percent of respondents use cloud computing services. The survey purposely avoided a narrow definition of cloud, which meant that respondents could consider a wide range of hosted services in their answer. The authors noted that most respondents "lack complete visibility into and across their organizations" so an inclusive definition worked best. With this in mind, only ten percent claimed to have zero cloud consumption. What's their reasoning? Organizational preferences played a part, as did "cost" which the authors considered "odd." Of note, participants in a recent Hacker News thread about reasons to stay on-premises featured many arguments regarding the higher cost of cloud.


Those skipping out on public cloud are the clear minority. The survey showed that over ninety percent expected their cloud consumption to grow. In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents expected to move all their applications to public cloud infrastructure in the next twelve months. Not surprisingly, small companies were more likely to run their entire app portfolio on a cloud. But, it was also the case that seventeen percent of companies larger than ten thousand employees host all of their applications in a cloud too. The survey didn't try to distinguish what an "application" meant to the respondent, or what "moving" to the cloud meant. As an aside, the latest Thoughtworks Tech Radar—which identifies technologies and practices to pay attention to—discourages the "lift and shift" practice of moving to the cloud. 


On-premises clouds represented forty nine percent of usage, with sixty one percent opting for the public cloud. Hybrid clouds represented thirty nine percent of usage. Sixty four percent of respondents chose at least two cloud deployment options of the five offered. The report authors surmised that the poor showing for "multi-cloud" indicated that few are persuing that model as their sole strategy.


More than two thirds of respondents use AWS, with one half using Microsoft Azure, and a third choosing Google Cloud Platform. Fifty four percent use more than one provider. The report writers call AWS the "backstop vendor" that's almost always part of someone's multi-cloud strategy.

If Microsoft and Google really are coming on strong, they aren’t dislodging Amazon and AWS. If anything, organizations seem to be pursuing multi-cloud strategies—even if they aren’t explicitly "doing" multi-cloud. Among our survey respondents, multi-cloud effectively means AWS + another cloud service.

A recently-released JetBrains survey of nearly twenty thousand people reinforced some of the O'Reilly findings. In that survey, fifty one percent of respondents chose public cloud to run their (containerized) workloads, with AWS also emerging as the preferred option, with Google and Microsoft coming in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.


The O'Reilly report also looked at the popularity of practices and technologies associated with cloud computing. Fifty two percent of responding organizations reported using a microservices approach. Of that group, almost a third claimed to be using microservices for longer than three years. The report authors didn't ask whether respondents deployed a microservices architecture—versus simply leveraging some tools and concepts—and they saw trends indicating interest in microservices might have peaked.


Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) appears to be a growing practice, with thirty five percent of organizations adopting it. Relatedly, the O'Reilly team has seen interest in the topic of DevOps decline over the past two years. One theory of the report writers is that maturation with DevOps practices led IT professionals to learn about "DevOps-adjacent displines" such as SRE. They also note that the impressive showing for SRE in this report is likely due to selection bias in the audience. Recall that a disproportionate number of respondents came from software companies.

Thirty four percent of respondents are using serverless technologies. But a surprising number of respondents expressed little interest in this paradigm.

Unlike with SRE, where almost half (47%) of respondents expect to add an SRE function at some point in the future, fewer (approximately 37%) expect to adopt serverless. By the same margins— i.e., 37% pro-experimentation, 63% anti—fewer respondent organizations have "experimented" with serverless computing, e.g., by evaluating vendors, scoping serverless scenarios, or testing serverless on a limited basis.

The Cloud Adoption report also explored the skill areas most important for using cloud-based infrastructure successfully. Respondents could select multiple answers, and two thirds chose "cloud security" as the top choice. Six skills in total garnered at least fifty percent of results. Those included "monitoring", "general cloud knowledge", "containers", "Kubernetes", and "microservices architecture." The report authors noticed several clusters of related skills, including many correlated with cloud security.


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