New Studies, Products Demonstrate Cloud's Strong Growth

Cloud computing isn't just "with us" -- it's here to stay, and IT spending on cloud services is expected to explode.

We've been talking about cloud computing for half a decade now. It's still with us, and it's likely here to stay.

Most IT shops have already experimented with clouds in some form: in an on-premises, enterprise context; in a hybrid enterprise/public context; or in the wild, as part of the public cloud. Furthermore, over the next several years, IT spending on cloud services is expected to explode.

Exhibit A: a recent study from IBM Corp.'s Institute for Business Value found that fully 90 percent of shops expect to adopt and/or deploy cloud over the next three years.

Big Blue isn't a disinterested bystander, of course: it's been hyping its cloud portfolio -- including its mainframe-based cloud services -- for years now.

Which brings us to Exhibit B: IBM this month trumpeted a second survey, this one sponsored in tandem with the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of the respected global newsweekly, which found that a sizable number of executives -- 16 percent, or roughly 80 out of 500 surveyed -- are already using cloud computing to drive "sweeping innovation."

IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit expect this number to increase to 35 percent by 2015.

This last is just the tally of execs who believe that cloud can be an engine for "sweeping" or large-scale transformation. According to the IBM/Economist study, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of executives expect that cloud services will help them by supporting collaboration with external partners; more than half expect to leverage cloud investments to yield "competitive cost advantages" (57 percent) or to open new delivery channels and/or markets (56 percent).

Finally, there's Exhibit C: a new IDC report, published in March and commissioned by Microsoft Corp., that says that spending on public and private cloud services could generate approximately 14 million new jobs globally by 2015. The IDC/Microsoft study also identified cloud as an engine for transformation, projecting that investments in cloud technologies could generate $1.1 million annually in new business revenues.

Services A Go Go

IBM had an ulterior motive in promoting its two new cloud surveys: in this case, its Pulse 2012 conference, which convened recently in Las Vegas. Sure enough, Big Blue touted several new cloud offerings, including its SmartCloud Foundation (a set of offerings that promise to give shops more control over the installation, management, configuration, and automation of cloud services in private, public, or hybrid environments); SmartCloud Provisioning (which Big Blue says can accelerate cloud deployments); SmartCloud Continuous Delivery (a cloud-based approach to integrated lifecycle management ); and SmartCloud Control Desk.

IBM isn't the only one touting Big New cloud announcements. On March 20, Akamai Technologies Inc. announced a new cloud services platform based on its Akamai Intelligent Platform (AIP). Akamai's was one of the most prominent IPO launches of the dot.com era, and the company not only survived the dot.com bust but grew its revenues by 32 percent annually between 2003 and 2009. Nowadays, the Akamai Intelligent Platform consists of more than 100,000 servers and spans almost 2,000 different networks.

Akamai unveiled several new cloud service offerings based on the AIP. In addition to its (existing) Kona line of cloud-based security services and its (new) Aura line of content delivery network (CDN) services, Akamai touted a trio of mobile and cloud service offerings.

The content provider expects to leverage a combination of things -- Kona, Aura, and other cloud technologies, its relationship with mobility powerhouse Ericsson, and a series of high-profile acquisitions -- to position itself as a CDN-par-excellence for cloud services. (Akamai recently acquired arch-rival Speedera Networks, and late last year, it nabbed Cotendo Inc., a provider of Web and mobile acceleration technologies.)

Akamai was the product of an MIT brain trust that promised to tame the unreliable and fantastically variable Internet. It didn't do so alone -- although by 2002, it owned an estimated 80 percent of the content delivery market. Its emergence, coupled with the success of it and its competitors, demonstrated that the Internet could and must grow up.

Is there a more fitting indication that cloud is poised to do the same?

It already has, some folks claim. Consider Predixion Software Inc., an Australian provider of cloud-based analytic software. When it first started, Predixion was an exclusively cloud-based play. More recently, says CEO Simon Arkell, the company introduced a hybrid cloud and on-premises-based version in tandem with services provider partner Intel Corp.

"For those customers who do not want their predictive analytics to be in the cloud because they think their information is too sensitive, [Intel] can sell them hybrid cloud subscription," he explains.

Arkell points to Predixion's growth over the last 18 months -- the company has added several high-profile Global 2000 customers, including heavyweights Kaiser Permanente, Cisco Systems Inc., and Chevron Inc. -- as proof that enterprises are already consuming cloud services.

"We added that [hybrid cloud offering] because of concerns [about security] that some [customers] had," he comments, "so for customers [for whom] security was a concern, we developed a [hybrid] alternative to addresses that. We wouldn't have done that if there wasn't interest."

Darren Cunningham, vice-president of cloud marketing with data integration specialist Informatica Inc., has what might be called a "seasoned" perspective on cloud and its adoption. Prior to landing at Informatica, and in between jobs with the former Business Objects SA and Salesforce.com (among others), Cunningham logged time with now-defunct business intelligence software-as-a-service (SaaS) start-up LucidEra Inc. SaaS is or isn't cloud, depending on how you look at it, but LucidEra's demise owed more to a brutal economic climate than to the shortcomings or insufficiencies of the SaaS or cloud model.

Cunningham sees himself as being in the right place at the right time with Informatica Cloud.

"Some of what we were doing [at LucidEra] was a little ahead of where the market was, and the technology wasn't there yet. [But] those obstacles are mostly behind us now, and I think you're going to see just a huge number of cloud-based analytic applications and platforms coming on the market in the next couple of years," he predicts.

Cunningham says there's another important driver in the mix, too: mobility. "All of the new cloud stuff is going to be built to be mobile first. If you talk to people in the venture capital community [in the Silicon Valley], they'll say, 'This company was built to be mobile first.' They mean [this in contrast to] those first-generation cloud vendors that didn't build for mobile and now have to refactor to make their interfaces mobile-ready," he continues.

If a matrix of enterprise IT issues helped push cloud to the forefront, Cunningham argues, mobility -- or at least the demands created by pervasive mobility -- "will push [cloud] over the top."

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