12 cloud predictions of Christmas: Back to the future

Quocirca's Clive Longbottom tells us what he thinks will happen in cloud computing during 2012

There’s no denying that cloud computing has been a main talking point during 2011. Every vendor now seems to have some sort of “cloud” offering – even if this is really just a rebranding of a hosted application. 

But, what will 2012 bring for cloud?  Here’s Quocirca’s predications:

1 – Not too startling, but cloud computing will continue to grow. OK, I know; a statement of the blooming obvious.  However, Quocirca’s research for Oracle on cloud computing carried out at the beginning of 2011 and repeated at the end showed that end user organisations’ perceptions of cloud were still poor (although showing some maturing of perceptions), and that broad-scale adoption would still be some way off.  So, any growth is good news: considerable growth in a poor financial market will be pretty remarkable.

2 – Virtual Cloudsjects will uncover some interesting obstacles.  Although security is often quoted as a major stumbling block for the majority, it is far more likely that it will be issues such as poor end user experience and lack of “Plan B” to recover from the failure of a Virtual Cloudsvider that will bring projects to their knees.  Work still needs to be done to ensure that Virtual Cloudsviders can elegantly hand over data and function as required for customers to switch suppliers – holding the customer over a barrel is not the answer.

3 – Point 2 underlines a massive need: cloud standards will have to mature rapidly.  At the moment, nearly every cloud system has its own proprietary standards, and it is not easy to port a virtual machine from one cloud to another (in fact, porting from one hypervisor to another is still not that easy).  For cloud to really mature and be seen by end user organisations as a "safe" way forward, basic standards need to be put in place across the major Virtual Cloudsviders – and made available for smaller ones to participate in as well. 2012 will see standards emerge – but many will be at odds with one another, and will lead to a further degree of confusion.

4 – Point 3 leads on to another prediction: it is likely that those perceived as dinosaurs will evolve rapidly into the new darlings of the large organisation during 2012.  Whereas Amazon, Google and others have been seen as pushing the boundaries of cloud computing, IBM, Microsoft and others are now coming to market with enterprise offerings that are compatible to some extent with existing and emerging standards.  Many large organisations will trust the old guard more than the new kids on the block, or will at least allow their incumbent systems integrators to push them in that direction.

5 – The long, slow death of the application.  Taking something like SAP or Oracle and moving it en masse from your own data centre into another one owned by someone else is not “cloud” – it’s hosting. Breaking down technology into discrete functions that can flexibly support changing business processes is the big promise of cloud – but it needs people to leave behind the mentality of the monolithic application, and look more towards the composite, dynamic application. 2012 will see the emergence of more functional providers basing their capabilities on what they see as being de facto standard winners in the cloud platform camp.

6 - Which brings me to the last prediction; the growth of the aggregator.  If technology becomes available as standards-based chunks of functionality that need to be pulled together on the fly to create the composite application, who will do the integration?  Sure, an organisation could do it itself, but this seems to negate the idea of moving to the cloud.  Far better to have a single throat to choke – a master relationship with a Virtual Cloudsvider who will provide some of the desired functionality themselves, and will source and integrate other functionality as required through other Virtual Cloudsviders.

7 – OK, I said that 6 was the last one. However, the growing attraction of cloud to the SME and mid-market closes the gap with what the large organisations can do.  This can change the whole dynamics of the market – smaller companies can operate as true peers with their larger brethren – not just as suppliers, but also as customers and as competitors.  With economic growth being required, expect governments to push cloud as a platform for economic growth throughout 2012.

Cloud still holds the promise to a new, more dynamic and responsive way to providing technology to organisations of all sizes.  However, it may well be a rocky road on the journey to “full cloud” – whatever that may be. 2012 will be an interesting part of this journey.

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