Cloud computing has been transforming enterprise IT for a number of years but each year offers new innovations, advances and market shifts that are difficult to predict. However, most experts currently agree that the cloud market will accelerate more quickly in 2017 as more companies adopt cloud technology, and those that are already in the cloud continue to scale their resources.

According to research released by Forrester at the end of 2016, 38 percent of the more than 1,000 North American and European enterprise technology decision makers surveyed said they were building private clouds, while 32 percent were using public cloud services. The rest planned to implement cloud technology within the next 12 months.

So what will all this mean for cloud technology, as well as for the companies that use and market it? We asked experts in the space for their thoughts.

Middleware APIs Will Become More Important

As enterprises continue to invest in new cloud software and infrastructure - and modernize legacy on-premise systems - there will be increasing pressure to find ways to connect them in a way that adds value. For example, APIs that enable business intelligence services to connect into CRM services to provide relevant insights for salespeople, or middleware that makes legacy on-premise information available across mobile devices. The proliferation of software will continue across the organization and consolidating it into a single intuitive dashboard will play a significant role.

-Vamshi Mokshagundam, Co-founder and CEO of Siftery

Cloud Technology Will Move Into More Sectors

In 2017, cloud software will be all about meeting consumer preferences, even if your business is B2B, B2C or a mix of both. Whether that’s a major restaurant group leveraging CRM technology to track their loyalty program or technology mainstays like SaaS finally replacing back-office computer systems in industries such as food service and hospitality, cloud technology will shine in every sector in the year ahead.

-Steve Fredette, President and Cofounder of Toast

More “Big Software"

The majority of new IT projects will deploy and operate "big software," forcing a need to break away from legacy software and deployment models and explore new cloud-native toolsets and methods.

-Anand Krishnan, EVP and GM of Cloud at Canonical

Adaptable Process Will Reduce Organizations’ Reliance on IT

Organizations will use processes that are easy to build and change as-needed, updated when necessary, and managed by the business users themselves, eliminating their reliance on IT. Business managers will seek solutions that allow employees to be productive on-the-fly and make an impact in real-time to company operations. The consumerization of work goes beyond IT and devices; workflow, behavior and expectations mimic real-world apps like Snapchat, Uber, Slack, etc. Digital employees and customers think, act and expect differently. They want every business to feel, serve and work just like their favorite apps. Enterprise software will start to mimic consumer apps and ultimately reshape the role of IT and the processes it manages to support employees. We are just at the beginning of an enterprise renaissance where companies (and people) are hungry for a simple way to do work.

-Nick Candito, CEO of Progressly

Cloudwashing Will be a Hurdle

Cloud computing is gaining significant investment as the result of widespread adoption success stories. However, fear and general concerns about relative cost and trust – combined with the confusion caused by "cloudwashing" (using the "cloud" term to obfuscate and make claims of cloud that are unsubstantiated) – are counteracting the enthusiasm and excitement. Balancing value against these concerns will be a key part of any cloud strategy in 2017.

-Dennis Gada, Vice President of Client Services and Sales at Infosys

“We’re Not Ready for Cloud Yet” Will Become a Thing of the Past

In 2017, IT leaders are going to start to implement the plans they’ve been developing for cloud. The concept “We’re not ready for cloud yet” is in the past. In 2017, IT leaders will be saying, “How do we use cloud platforms like IBM Watson, Bluemix and GE Predix?” Organizations are going to start taking the steps to use cloud. The benefit of beginning to use these platforms is it will reduce infrastructure costs and will allow companies to take full use of the capabilities of cloud platforms, such as smart technology.

-Marshall Worster, Director of Solution Architecture at Mendix

Azure Will Close the Gap on AWS

Our Azure business has exploded in the past year. We expect this to continue throughout 2017 as more organizations settle on a hybrid cloud model with Azure as the public piece. Microsoft has made a huge investment in Azure datacenters that will pay off big in 2017, closing much of the gap with AWS.

-Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies

Focus Will Shift from “Advanced Analytics” to Advancing Analytics

Advanced analytics will continue to grow, and eventually be brought into self-service tools. With more users advancing their analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) might play a bigger role in organizations. But that means AI will also need to have high levels of usability as well, since users will need it to augment their analyses and business decisions.

-Dan Sommer, Senior Director and Market Intelligence Lead at Qlik

The Ability to Move Data Quickly and Cost-Effectively Will Become a Top Priority

The ability to move data quickly and cost efficiently will become a top priority as multi-cloud deployments become more common. In 2017, data mobility will become an even more massive issue for the enterprise than it already is. First, data in the cloud is prohibitively expensive to move to another cloud. Second, because global organizations’ data now resides in multiple clouds and on-premises locations, they increasingly face serious problems ensuring that data is readily accessible by applications and end-users. And, finally, with Brexit complicating already complex data sovereignty laws in Europe, the ability to move data quickly from one location to another will become even more pressing for global companies. Expect CIOs to place data mobility at the top of their must-have list in 2017.

-Varun Mehta, Founder and Vice President of Product Operations at Nimble Storage

We’ll See the End of Cloud Price Wars

The race to zero is over. 2017 will be less about cloud price and more about agility and innovation. In the past, cloud competition was focused around continuous price drops, but those days are over. Competition between the cloud giants is moving away from price cuts to focus more on unique features and offerings designed to meet real-time end user needs. Vendors are pushing each other to deliver on a relentless pace of innovation.

-Praveen Rangnath, Sr. Director of Cloud Marketing at Splunk

Digital Marketers Will Finally Roll Out Their Own Data Warehouses (but Might Call Them “Customer Data Platforms”)

A single view of customers is the dream of every digital marketer. Yet, most digital marketers don’t have such a system because it requires a lot of IT skills and resources. Especially for digital marketers, the big issues have been data integration across many data sources (online campaigns, surveys, clickstream data, CRM, marketing automation systems, etc.) and operating data warehousing capabilities without IT help.

In 2016, we began to see the term “customer data platforms (CDP)” as a solution to address this pain of digital marketers. At its core, CDPs are “data warehouses for marketers with out-of-the-box data integration”. The commoditization of cloud data warehousing (my prediction 2) means that building CDPs isn’t as hard as before, and with data integration platforms cropping up, it will only get easier.

-Kiyoto Tamura, Vice President of Marketing at Treasure Data

Cloud-Based Software Development Will Accelerate

Adoption and use of cloud-based software engineering platforms will accelerate in 2017. Teams have been working in the cloud for a few years now, but in 2017, the trend will gain far more momentum as senior engineering staff and service providers realize and document the benefits of cloud-based development gains. Adoption will not be limited to open source or Microsoft solutions as all software engineering tool stacks are moving quickly to catch the adoption wave. Leading application lifecycle management companies are already delivering enhanced SaaS platforms for issue and backlog management, source code management, IDEs and testing, allowing for greater control among and between teams and environments. The elimination of “well, it worked on my machine” or “we fixed that bug last release” can be achieved by well-integrated and managed SaaS software engineering environments.

Organizations will discover that they have a great opportunity to reduce the cost and churn associated with installing, integrating and maintaining commercial and open source products on premise. Adopters of integrated cloud-based software engineering environments will see dramatically improved cycle times across the entire software development lifecycle.

-William Hurley, Senior Director of Software Lifecycle Services at Astadia

There Will Be a New Focus on Layered Security and Defense in Depth Techniques

The rapid growth of cloud, mobile and IoT deployments will drive enterprises to reevaluate their security practices. The era of perimeter security is coming to an end because these newer technologies keep changing both the parties responsible and the accepted location of the perimeter.

Recent studies show that the time between a breach occurring and being detected is, on average, 229 days. As partners and managed services providers increase, it is incumbent on the enterprise to understand the data journey and what partner is responsible for its security during collection, transit and at rest.

Despite the challenges, cloud, IoT and mobile deployments aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon, which is why 2017 will be the year when defense in depth and layered security become common practices. Enterprises have realized with all of the well-publicized security breaches that the risks to their brand reputation and financial well-being are simply too great.

These are two distinct and complementary strategies. Defense in depth uses physical, administrative and technical controls to slow down an attack until it can be ended. The defenses support each other to slow down the attacker. Layered security, on the other hand, looks at the various layers of the OSI networking stack. The most common layers may be the network and storage layer, but most see application layer security as the largest realm squarely under the responsibility of the enterprise.

That’s why I predict we will see greater focus on security at the application layer.

-William Hurley, Senior Director of Software Lifecycle Services at Astadia

The Balance Between Hybrid and Full Cloud Will Shift

While cloud adoption is steadily on the rise, the hybrid model will continue to be in place for the foreseeable future. When, or if, the full cloud takes over remains to be seen. What’s more likely is that the balance between hybrid and full cloud will shift with more reliance on cloud-based solutions going forward yet there will always be some on-premise solutions in place. This prediction is based on analyst research, a recent survey conducted by Host Analytics and Radius Global Market Research, and anecdotal evidence gathered from extensive experience working with CFOs and CEOs on cloud adoption as it relates to enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions. While full cloud will not be fully embraced by 2017, we are moving closer to it, although it’s not likely to ever reach 100 percent.

-John O’Rourke, Vice President of Product Marketing at Host Analytics

Fewer Than 10% of IT Shops Will Proactively Avoid Vendor Lock-Ins from Cloud APIs

Ease-of-use and API flexibility from major cloud vendors causes developer amnesia regarding openness and portability. Smart CTOs will consider OpenStack and Cloud Foundry for insulation.

-Dan Graham, General Manager of Enterprise Systems at Teradata

There Will Be a Shakeup Among Cloud Service Providers

The biggest cloud market share leaders are in order (biggest to smallest): AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Salesforce. Starting in 2017, AWS will slowly begin to lose its lock on the cloud business and the likes of Microsoft, IBM, and Google will continue to rise. Salesforce will drop off of the list and be replaced by Oracle.

Why? Because it is all about the business applications, or "apps." People want: ERP, HR, email, CRM, dev apps, DW, integration and storage. The virtues of the cloud just aren’t that important anymore, but are still AWS’s bread and butter. Of course, AWS is not going away, but they just won’t grow nearly as fast as they did, they have peaked. The cloud has grown up beyond AWS. The cloud is trusted and companies want to move their data there and soon they will want to move their high end business apps there too.

-John Thuma, Aster Big Data Evangelist at Teradata

Health Care IT Will Move to the Cloud

2017 is the year that health care IT makes the move to the cloud. According to a recent HIMSS survey, the use of cloud computing in the health care setting has tripled since 2014. This includes not only SaaS, but also hybrid and public cloud deployments. Service providers have made great progress in addressing the compliance requirements that previously made cloud migration a challenge, and the benefits will finally tip the scales in favor of a hybrid model this year. Expect to see large hospital networks and research-focused institutions make the move first, relying on cloud to scale to the demands of big data and bioinformatics projects.

-Jesse Rothstein, Co-founder and CTO at ExtraHop