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Hyperscale oligarchs to rule the cloud as the big get bigger, and the small ... you won't care

Cisco's Cloud Index says we're headed for ~700 colosso-bit-barns and not much else

The latest iteration of Cisco's Global Cloud Index has painted a picture of an even more massively oligarchic future cloud.

Switchzilla predicts rough seas ahead for all but the biggest cloud operators, if the index [PDF] is any guide: the company reckons the mere 24 operators that count as “hyperscale” will dominate cloud growth between now and 2021.

Consumers, rather than enterprises, will drive the shift. Their thirst for video streaming and social networking will apparently outstrip businesses' hunger for iron to host its workloads. Hence by 2021, consumers will drive 27 per cent of cloud “workloads and compute instances”, up from 24 per cent in 2016. The enterprise share is predicted to drop from 76 per cent to 73 per cent.

Public clouds will also be at least partly driven by consumer demand as from 2016 to 2021 their share of the total cloud will go from 58 per cent of workloads to 73 per cent.

World's annual mobile data intake to hit 367 exabytes by 2020


Hyperscale clouds will get closer to more people, because much of the build through 2021 is going to be outside the USA. While North America is now home to 46 hyperscale data centres, Cisco says Asia is the fastest growing region and will overtake the US and Canada by 2021.

By every measure, the hyperscale DC looks to outgrow the rest of the cloud market: they'll nearly double their share of installed data centre servers (to 53 per cent from 27 per cent today), their share of processing power will go from 41 per cent today to 69 per cent in 2021, they'll hold 65 per cent of all DC-hosted data (up from 51 per cent today), and they'll generate 55 per cent of DC traffic (from 39 per cent today).

To handle all that, the giants will have to build 290 new data centres. By 2021, the world will have 628 hyperscale DCs, Cisco reckons.

The hyperscale sector (Cisco says there are 24 operators, but only identifies ten – AWS, Rackspace, Google, Salesforce, ADP, Facebook, Yahoo!, Apple, Alibaba and eBay) is, in other words, going to make it tough for everybody else to grab workloads, traffic, and customers.

If you're an enterprise sysadmin, you can expect most of your workloads – and virtually all new workloads – to be in clouds by 2021.

The report reckons 94 per cent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud (in hyperscale and traditional data centres) by that time.

Big data will rule inside the mega bit barns of the 2020s. The study explained that video, the dominant public Internet traffic type, doesn't make many east-west trips behind the DC's walls. Big data applications, on the other hand, are noisy on the inside and will “be responsible for 20 per cent of all traffic within the data center by 2021, up from 12 per cent in 2016”

F5: nobody runs without the cloud

To pick up some of the enterprise drivers not in the Cisco index, we wandered over to F5 Networks, which also published a recent cloud survey.

Its State of Application Delivery study highlights an important aspect of enterprise cloud operations.

Most enterprises among F5's 3,000 respondents have given up on hosting all their IT themselves: 87 per cent “already live in a multi-cloud world”, the company's post says, and 59 per cent already use more than one external cloud provider. What's already on-premises is kept, but almost for sentimental purposes: that segment of application delivery only grew one per cent 2016-2017.

Whether it's an enterprise or a provider cloud, automation is the key to keeping things going, with hyperscalers apparently furthest along the road.

Cisco records that by 2021, 67 per cent of all cloud DCs will have software-defined networking and/or network function virtualization by 2021 – but most of that growth will be lower down the market, since “most major hyperscale data centers already employ flat architectures and software-defined network and storage management”.

El Reg would note that the high level of automation in the hyperscale sector feeds those providers' domination, while at the same time forcing an automation strategy on anybody who hopes to keep up.

Enterprises are just catching up. F5 says only seven per cent of its respondents have implemented their automation strategy, with a further 46 per cent partially automated and 31 per cent running pilots.

Within the enterprise, F5 identifies the big three automation environments as being VMware, Cisco, and OpenStack.

We leave you with a big number: Cisco says between 2016 to 2021 data centre traffic should roughly triple, from 6.8 ZB to 20.6 ZB per month. Hyperscale bit barns will be responsible for 55 per cent of that traffic by 2021. ®

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