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A look back at the top cloud technology news stories of 2016

From Verizon's public cloud exit to Google's big data wins, the cloud market was busy in 2016. Here's a look back at SearchCloudComputing's top stories.

From outages to upgrades, 2016 proved to be an exciting year in cloud technology news. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google went head to head to attract enterprise users with new product rollouts, higher-end services, price cuts and more. On the other hand, some cloud providers, such as Verizon and Dell, experienced losses in cloud and refocused on hybrid strategies.

To get a sense for what might come in 2017, here's a look back at SearchCloudComputing's top cloud technology news stories of 2016.

Verizon Cloud joins casualty list amid public IaaS exodus

Following public cloud closings at Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Verizon revealed in February 2016 that it would also shut down its public cloud. The Verizon public cloud initially showed lots of promise in its beta release in October 2013, following big investments in the platform and targeted acquisitions.

"It's a shame in a lot of ways because I think Verizon had a lot of good ideas," said Amy Larsen DeCarlo, senior analyst at Current Analysis Inc., based in Washington, D.C., when Verizon came out with the news.

After failing to attract enough customers, Verizon was unable to afford the maintenance of the large data centers it set up. But the vendor hasn't exited the cloud market completely; instead, it refocused its efforts on private cloud services.

Google cloud outage highlights more than just networking failure

Cloud outages aren't unheard of, but on the week of April 11th, 2016, Google had one of the most widespread outages experienced by a public cloud provider.

Google Compute Engine went down for 18 minutes in all regions due to a networking failure. Strangely enough, the outage went relatively unnoticed -- compared to past outages at Amazon Web Services or Azure -- due to Google's lower enterprise market share. Still, reliability is a must for Google to continue to gain enterprise mindshare.

"GCP (Google Cloud Platform) is just now beginning to win over enterprise customers, and while these big firms will certainly love the low-cost approach at the heart of GCP, reliability will matter more in the long run," said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass., after the outage.

To prevent further issues and guarantee uptime, Google conducted reviews of existing systems and added new safeguards.

End of Dell Cloud Manager shows slow growth in multicloud

Multicloud computing picked up steam in 2016, but it seems Dell laid its tracks too early.

Dell Cloud Manager, a cloud brokerage service, quietly closed in June 2016. Dell Cloud Manager was planned to be a software as a service option and be part of a bigger strategy to make Dell a one-stop-shop for cloud services management. While Dell has discontinued the manager, which was based off the technology it gained through its Enstratius acquisition, it continues to build out its hybrid cloud portfolio.

"Dell was ahead of their time in terms of the market being ready for a brokerage platform," said Mindy Cancila, research director at Gartner, in June. "The problem was they never really integrated it, and I think they jettisoned the market just a little shy of the market being ready."

Spotify moves to Google cloud with eyes on big data

Google hasn't been quite as successful as AWS and Azure in attracting enterprise customers. So it made for some big cloud technology news in February 2016 when Google landed a big-name customer -- Spotify. The popular music streaming service was interested, in particular, in Google's big data services. Spotify said at the time that it seeks to expand its big data capabilities and move a large number of its privately hosted back-end workloads to GCP.

The biggest draw to the Google platform was BiqQuery, a data analysis web service that processes and analyzes large data sets using SQL queries. Spotify was also attracted to the cloud provider's other big data tools such as Dataflow and Bigtable. In the future, Spotify expects to improve its overall service, making Google more of a partner than a provider.

Microsoft delays Azure Stack, will sell it only through OEMs

Users were disappointed in July 2016 when Microsoft pushed back the release of Azure Stack to mid-2017. The hybrid cloud technology allows users to deliver Azure public cloud-like services from their own data centers. Microsoft also revealed that users would only be able to deploy the software with servers from Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo.

Many experts reacted negatively to the news, mentioning that waiting to go to market gives other vendors time to release something comparable. Currently, IBM and Oracle are building their own offerings that will compete with Azure Stack.

Data privacy in the spotlight with Privacy Shield, Microsoft

In 2015, it was big cloud technology news when the Safe Harbor agreement was invalidated. But in July 2016 it was replaced with Privacy Shield -- a framework for data exchanges between the European Union and the United States. The new agreement promises to provide more clarity for cloud providers and customers but challenges and gray areas still remain.

Microsoft said at the time that it would implement Privacy Shield, but other vendors could seek alternative ways to get around data sovereignty and privacy concerns by erecting data centers in Europe.

Google API management leapfrogs AWS with Apigee deal

In September 2016, Google continued to make its platform more attractive to enterprises by acquiring Apigee Corp, an API management company. APIs are a common concern for companies and a management tool like Apigee monitors the communication between programs while ensuring agility, visibly and security. This move could help give Google a leg up over Amazon's API management suite, API Gateway.

Some of Apigee's advanced features include operational polices for API design and analytics and tools for retiring APIs. In addition to gaining a powerful API management tool, Google acquired high-profile users including AT&T, Sears and Walgreens through the deal.

Will Oracle IaaS lure IT shops from public cloud leaders?

At Oracle OpenWorld in September 2016, Oracle revealed plans to rearchitect its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering. With the change, virtualization occurs at the network level instead of the hypervisor, which allows users to run a wider range of workloads. Oracle aims to extend the feature of the platform beyond bare-metal to VMs, engineered systems and containers.

In an effort to make its cloud environments more attractive and lure enterprises from Amazon, Oracle also added Ravello Cloud Service to bring VMware workloads to Oracle IaaS and other public cloud platforms.

Azure upgrades flesh out platform, improve throughput

Microsoft stepped up its game in 2016 and made cloud technology news with upgrades to Azure. On the data center side, Microsoft enhanced its hardware and provided accelerated networking for single root I/O virtualization to reduce latency and improve network performance. Azure also added new instance types, compliance standards and security features. The turnaround time for these additions was quick and demonstrated that Azure can keep up with the ever-changing cloud market.

"You used to be able to announce something and sit on it in development for two years because you were the only shop in town," said Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research in New York, when the upgrades were revealed in September. "Now you have to deliver things and they have to actually work when people get their hands on them."

Public cloud and big banks finally on the same page

Due to security concerns, banks have avoided public cloud and mostly focused their investments on data centers and networking. But at the Google Cloud Platform conference in November 2016, financial institution representatives, including those from Citi and Goldman Sachs, talked about the future possibilities of big banks and public cloud. Cloud security has come a long way in the past few years with such advancements as encryption, bring your own keys and certifications with regulatory standards.

"There are clearly some monetized workloads that, if we're honest with ourselves, sometimes are not adding much value," said James Tromans, global head of risk and data at Citi FXLM Technology, at the conference. "We're looking for ways to streamline and to make them cheaper to run easier, and that's where Google Cloud Platform and other third parties come in."

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