Now that I have reflected on what transpired in Cloud Computing during 2010, it’s time to do some skywriting and list out some of my thoughts for 2011 and what clouds will blow our way. Do note, these are my personal opinions and thoughts and may not reflect the views of others at GoGrid. That being said, let’s get on to the predictions and what clouds are on the horizon…
- IT Procurement Includes Cloud Requisitioning – there is definitely a movement within IT organizations to think “outside of the box” as well as optimize expenditures and resources when it comes to developing new infrastructure environments. I dare say that the paper trail of purchase orders and approval forms may start to vaporize somewhat as businesses work to make their internal processes more efficient. Weeks or months to requisition new hardware or repurpose older hardware will become an unacceptable timeframe. We live in the world of instant gratification and “being in the now” and cloud computing is yet another example of how business processes can be re-tooled to be more efficient. Requisitioning cloud environments (publically or privately) will become line items in the procurement process, and perhaps in many organizations will become the de facto choice by IT departments as they attempt to retain control over their kingdom. They still want to be (and need to be) involved in the process and by accepting public (or private) clouds as a primary IT resource, these organizations can stay in front of the curve.
- Private Clouds and Public Cloud Act to Catalyze Each Other – many analysts have stated that private clouds will be a stepping stone to public clouds (adoption, usage, acceptance, etc.). However, I don’t believe this to be a uni-directional type of process. For many organizations, testing the waters within a public cloud allows for investigation, due diligence, education and understanding of what cloud computing can do for that organization. That is to say, doing a project within a public cloud can potentially make those self-same businesses pursue a similar strategy internally. However, I predict that many will realize that developing their own internal cloud or private cloud may be cost and time prohibitive and those efforts to do so will meet considerable internal resistance. Cloud computing is flexible, however, and there are ways to achieve similar results through a careful architecting of ones IT environment using a combination of public, hybrid and internal resources. On the flipside, organizations who have repurposed some of their internal IT resources to craft private or internal clouds will soon realize that their efforts are inefficient from a cost and human capital perspective and will then begin outsourcing their IT services for projects or business units to a public cloud.
- “Cloud Washing” Backlash Begins – for those unfamiliar with the term “cloud washing” it essentially means when a vendor or ISP repackages their legacy or older service offerings into something that they slap a “cloud” label to. We saw plenty of this begin happening over the past year or so as everyone wants to jump on the cloud bandwagon, especially from a marketing perspective. But merely stating that their product or service is “cloud” or “cloud-like” or “cloud-enabled” does injustice to cloud computing in general and may actually cause end-users to have a bad initial experience with supposed cloud services. As businesses evaluate the growing number of cloud providers in the marketplace, they will need to become savvy at reading between the lines in understanding what a purported cloud vendor provides as their “cloud” service. Buyer beware! Luckily, those investigating cloud solutions, reading the trade journals and vetting the vendors out there are becoming more vocal about and educated in their decision-making process. Those vendors with “cloud washed” services will soon see an erosion of customers as these users move to more proven, established public clouds.
- Cracks Show with Internal Clouds as Hosted Private Clouds Emerge – as corporations begin the deep dive into their internal IT infrastructure, attempting to breath life into aging servers, out of date software and costly data center maintenance, they will start realizing that pursuing an “internal cloud” strategy might not be the most effective use of their time and money. Those companies who have chosen the path of bringing the cloud in-house will be renewing licensing agreements, crunching numbers as they amortize the cost of hardware associated with keeping their internal cloud up and running, and ensuring their IT staff is properly utilized, while still maintaining a lean and mean organization. The cracks and flaws of this “old school” philosophy will show as CFO’s and budget managers demand a higher ROI and the internal “customers” demand more features and services from their aging internal IT environments. As this internal battle heats up, the hosted private cloud solution will become much more attractive and will move from being simply “an alternative” to “a requirement.”
- Community & Sharing Of and Within the Cloud – with the coming mainstream establishment of cloud computing within the workforce, now the innovations truly start to materialize. Several cloud management vendors produced marked customer adoption over the past couple of years, offering services built on top of or designed to help manage clouds, but the clouds that they managed were fairly disparate. As these 3rd parties evolve their products and services, expect to see creation of multi-cloud infrastructures that leverage the best of each cloud and the concocted shared cloud environments will represent a further hybridization of the cloud computing movement. When I say “hybrid”, in this case, I’m not talking about the combining of physical and virtual appliances within a single cloud, but rather a richer fabric of interwoven distinct clouds. These could be public and hosted private clouds, multiple public clouds or even mixtures of internal and public infrastructures (e.g., cloud bursting). Also, I expect to see some cloud providers looking to build out the sharing and community aspects within their cloud offerings, meaning that infrastructure designs can be shared and potentially distributed between users, creating efficiencies of design and faster time to market.
- Breaking Down International Cloud Borders – the growth of the Internet has made the world smaller. Data, transactions and information are sent at the speed of light across the globe. Users expect this immediacy and Internet services in general are helping to shrink the world as we know it. Internet protocols, infrastructures and IT in general is a common language that citizens of the Internet speak not only fluently but share as well. There is still some debate as to whether Europe or the US is leading the “cloud race” but regardless, cloud computing is becoming borderless. Sure there are still data privacy, ownership and warehousing issues, as well as countries that continue to maintain rigid controls over what data and information is delivered to whom and where, but for those countries that are more open to innovation, the political and economic walls are rapidly being torn down. Cloud Computing is a catalyst to this blurring of these borders and we can expect to see not only innovations from other countries and regions of the globe, we will also see cooperation between business, foreign and domestic. Infrastructure being the international language, cloud computing will be the vessel to bring cooperation between countries, companies and organizations around the globe.
- Cloud Standards Battle Heats Up – as the cloud evolves, interoperability will become increasingly important. Over the past years, multiple organizations have jockeyed to position themselves as the de facto standards governance body. Some are more accepted than others while others have simply died out. I expect the emergence of new groups, some comprised of big businesses lumping their names together is a sort of coalition while others more of a grass-roots natures (e.g., top down and bottom up). I feel that governments will provide an important push driving this movement to meet compliance and auditing requirements and concerns. Transparency will be a core driver here as customers dive deeper into the interoperability of clouds with other clouds as well as their own infrastructures. Those vendors who remain isolated, following proprietary tracts may find themselves losing ground to coalitions of providers who have either loosely coupled their offerings or who provide import/export or integration services.
I could probably go on with several other forward-looking cloud computing ideas. The point being that Cloud Computing allows innovations and ideas to truly surface and be built upon. Others in the space will have different as well as similar perspectives and I encourage you to read and contemplate on those ideas. Nobody has a magical crystal ball that can truly look into the future, but remember, all of the images of those magical fortune-telling globes seem to have one thing in common, they start with clouds!