Cloud Trends of 2010 Foreshadow Cloud Computing in 2011

It was a watershed year for cloud computing, but what lies ahead?

By John Barnes, Chief technology officer, Model Metrics

For cloud computing, 2010 was a watershed year. For IT departments around the globe, it’s no longer a question of if but when and how to take advantage of one of the most monumental technological shifts in a decade.

From a cloud implementation standpoint, we have seen a significant shift over the last year from cloud deployments at a divisional level to those at an enterprise level, but what’s most interesting to me is how the implementations we’ve been involved with illuminate three trends that occurred this year and foreshadow what’s to come in 2011.

2010 Trend #1: Cloudiness on cloud computing

The first trend currently hitting a fever pitch is confusion as to what cloud computing really is -- and is not. The initial promise of cloud computing is tied to fundamental values of cost and resource savings and innovation, but with the technology’s growing popularity, everyone wants a piece. As technology vendors redefine cloud computing to serve their business interests out of fear of becoming irrelevant, we’re getting farther away from those values. This is cloudwashing -- vendors “washing” their existing solutions with cloud terminology to get in on the action. To clear things up, companies need to ask themselves the following when hearing about a new cloud solution:

  • Is it available over the Internet in a browser or via an open API?
  • Can I get started with zero capital expenditure?
  • Is it pay-as-you-go?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is not truly cloud computing and will not yield the expected cost savings and innovation.

2011 Prediction #1: Businesses wise up

We’ve seen enough companies embark down the wrong road thinking that they are trying out the cloud in a safe way, with disappointing results. I’m referring to private clouds. Although they make sense (for example, for industries that are highly regulated and require data to live within a company’s data center), they are not going to deliver on the true promise of cloud computing.

Private clouds are becoming the runway for public clouds as companies use them to test the waters before moving entirely to the cloud. Only then will they experience the inherent benefits that come with freedom from the constraints of traditional IT. Most analysts agree that even a well-implemented private cloud can only achieve a maximum of about 40 percent hardware utilization. Why pay for more hardware and a virtualization layer for something that isn’t used 60 percent of the time?

2010 Trend #2: Consumerization of IT

A second trend we saw in 2010 was the consumerization of IT. There are really two trends converging: more “cool” mobile devices coming to market and the need to enable the mobile workforce. Employees not only want to use the latest and greatest device, and they want one device for both work and personal needs. Simultaneously, businesses know the productivity premium of mobile workforces.

In fact, a recent iPass report concluded that 94 percent of employees need to be connected at all times. As a result, businesses must extend enterprise functionality to multiple device options including Android tablets and smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and traditional tablet PCs. This leads to my second prediction for 2011.

2011 Prediction #2: Adoption of the mobile cloud

Businesses will find that the best way to mobilize their workforces for success and efficiency on the go is via mobile cloud platforms. Juniper Research predicts the mobile cloud computing market will reach $9.5B by 2014, with the majority driven by businesses. Cloud platforms from vendors such as Salesforce.com provide a way for businesses to deliver critical business functionality on a wide range of mobile devices to employees wherever they are, on or offline, to maximize productivity and ultimately increase revenues. The cloud is global, scalable, and built around open standards, making it a perfect fit for a mobile platform.

2010 Trend #3: Cloud mixology

As more businesses adopted the cloud this year, many moved beyond single application deployments such as CRM and expanded their use of the cloud throughout their organizations. This growing complexity as companies discover the innovation made possible with cloud computing and expand its use often requires more than one cloud platform.

In an analysis of more than 1,300 implementations we’ve been involved with, there has been a 76 percent increase over the last seven years in multi-cloud (versus single cloud) solutions to meet an enterprise’s exact requirements. Cloud mixology is about leveraging the flexible nature of leading cloud platforms and complementary technologies from providers such as Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Apple, Google, and salesforce.com to create solutions that are easily portable across cloud technologies, architectures, and mobile deployment languages.

2011 Prediction #3: The clouds connect

As enterprises shift purchasing decisions away from pure on-premise software solutions to cloud-based solutions, a new problem is emerging around cloud identity management. Business users already manage a large number of accounts and passwords across their personal clouds (Flickr, Facebook, Google, TurboTax, Amazon, Gmail, etc.) and the problem is only magnified as other cloud solutions are implemented within a company. Some of the more mature cloud platforms support open authentication standards, while newer offerings may not.

There are several vendors scrambling to take advantage of this situation and put solutions in place that allow for identity management across multiple clouds. In 2011 we will see more standardization from the cloud vendors to manage users as well as user access. Some analysts are even predicting that your Facebook login will become your enterprise systems login within the next five years.

The Final Word

Cloud computing has driven year over year shifts in business, and 2011 promises to be no different. The year ahead will see cloud confusion give way to more businesses moving entirely to the cloud, greater adoption of the mobile cloud as critical enterprise functionality is extended to multiple devices, and increased focus and standardization around cloud identify management.

For the last seven years, we’ve been on the front lines as cloud computing has evolved and matured into a critical technology for the enterprise, and the new projects we have underway for 2011 indicate that innovation in this market will only continue to thrive.

John Barnes is as an application development expert and a developer who uses cloud computing technologies from Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com, Google, and Adobe. He has over 17 years of technology experience and currently leads the mobile platform development and R&D teams as CTO of Model Metrics, a leading cloud-computing consulting firm with customers including Abbott, Honeywell, MasterCard, Medtronic, NBC Universal, The Boeing Company, and Walgreens. You can contact the author at jbarnes@modelmetrics.com