Computing in the Clouds: Enterprise-Ready by 2015

According to Gartner, cloud computing still has some maturing to do

Cloud computing is one of the most hyped technologies in recent memory. Not surprisingly, there's been considerable debate about when (or if) it will be ready for the prime time in the enterprise. A new report from Gartner attempts to nail down a when -- 2015, or thereabouts.

According to Gartner, the cloud computing model -- which the market watcher dubs a "service-enabled application platform," or SEAP -- still has some maturing to do, mainly in the form of start-up shake-outs, market consolidation, and a few other emerging-market growing pains.

That won't keep cutting-edge adopters from computing in the cloud, however. By 2011, Gartner concedes, "aggressive" organizations will look to cloud computing -- or the SEAP model -- for "tactical" projects. "SEAPs are the foundation on which software-as-a-service solutions are built," said Mark Driver, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

Driver and Gartner see the cloud computing segment developing in fits and starts. "As SEAP technologies mature during the next several years, Gartner foresees three distinct, but slightly overlapping, phases of evolution," he says. "The first phase, through 2011, will be that of the pioneers and trailblazers; the second, running from 2010 through 2013, will be all about market consolidation; while the third phase, from 2012 through 2015, will see mainstream critical mass and commoditization."

During the next two years, Gartner says, IT organizations should think of cloud computing as a tactical technology -- ideal for quick-hit, nice-to-have, or otherwise unfundable opportunities "where time to market and developer productivity outweigh long-term technical viability." In the near term, IT organizations should look to recoup their cloud computing investments in no more than 18 to 24 months.

Over that same period, the cloud computing segment will undergo a culling process where cloud "haves" -- i.e., providers with strong or attractive visions -- vie to distinguish themselves from cloud "have-nots" (providers who haven't been able to effectively market their visions or whose visions simply aren't tenable). When all is said and done, Gartner predicts, providers that have developed cloud-friendly RAD tools and deployment features will be particularly well-positioned.

By 2012, culling will be in full force, with weaker players being acquired or exiting the market en masse. "During this consolidation phase, SEAP infrastructure will become increasingly attractive to a broader range of potential adopters, resulting in a more mainstream and conservative user base," the market watcher predicts. One upshot of this is that shoppers will begin to place a premium on a provider's purported ability to execute. At the same time, Gartner forecasts, ROI timeframes will be extended, gradually shifting from tactical (18 to 24 months) to three- to five-year deployments.

In four years, Gartner says, cloud computing -- or SEAP, taken as an architectural category -- will "be the preferred, but not the exclusive, choice for the majority of opportunistic and architecturally simple application development efforts among Global 2000 enterprises."

By 2013, the cloud computing market should be at least partially commoditized. A few large providers -- with established ability-to-execute bona-fides -- will come to dominate the market, leading to the creation of de facto (if not open) industry standards. "These vendors will primarily leverage proprietary technologies developed during the previous five years, but they will also widely support intracloud application programming interfaces to establish a SEAP technology 'fabric,' linking cloud-based solutions across vendor platforms," Gartner predicts. In addition, cloud computing deployments will become more and more mainstream: instead of playing host to innovative, one-off, or tactical projects, cloud systems will start to host mission-critical applications.

In addition, customers will buy into cloud to both improve the stability of their infrastructures and to reduce their costs, Gartner forecasts.

De facto standards won't reign long, either. At some point -- Gartner likes 2014 -- open source cloud technologies will emerge. "Competition between proprietary lock-in and open-SEAP technologies will increase and, by 2014, concern over lock-in will lead to critical-mass support for one or more open-source SEAP software stacks," the market watcher concludes. "These open-SEAP stacks will begin to compete with proprietary solutions and slowly growing portions of the SEAP market beyond the 2015 time frame."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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