The Year Past, The Year Ahead in the Cloud

Key events in cloud computing this year, and three predictions for its growth in 2012.

By Rajesh Ramchandani, Founder and VP of Products, CumuLogic

It has been a big year for the IT world and the overall influence of cloud computing, and in many ways the cloud phenomenon will continue in 2012 – yet more so as the cloud becomes a driving economic factor.

2011 Trend #1: Cloud computing went mainstream

There’s no question that 2011 was the year of the cloud. For a long time, Amazon was considered to be the king of clouds and had no real competition from large technology companies, many of which had very little to offer with cloud solutions. That all changed in 2011 as several large companies including Citrix (with its cloud.com acquisition), Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle announced or began to deliver cloud offerings. The cloud is being widely adopted by small startups, Web developers, and large enterprises. Enterprises are taking cloud computing seriously in the form of both public and private clouds, which is why large companies are investing in the technology.

Time and time again in 2011, we saw the benefits of the cloud come to life for thousands of startups and organizations: infrastructure agility, reduced hardware requirements, improved developer productivity, and overall lower IT costs. In 2011, cloud computing proved that this trend is here to stay.

2011 Trend #2: The emergence of PaaS

In 2010, companies began announcing Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technology, but in 2011 we actually saw PaaS emerge into the marketplace. With the launch of several PaaS offerings in 2011, users saw the huge value proposition PaaS offered, and that by adding the technology to the already popular Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings, developers saw improved productivity. PaaS is still in its infancy and is playing catch-up to the already evolved IaaS and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies, but the PaaS wave is coming.

Traditionally, developers install, configure, and monitor the software stack to develop applications, but PaaS provides developers an integrated software stack tht is managed and scales with unpredictable application workloads allowing developers to focus on writing quality, scalable applications rather than investing time in underlying infrastructure. PaaS promises to substantially improve developer productivity and frees developers to write infrastructure-independent code.

2011 Trend #3: Big data adoption

Big Data was big buzz in 2011, yet several large corporations successfully implemented big data infrastructure from the likes of Hadoop and MapR, and implemented several tools to customize them for their own specific use cases. This progress also caused confusion as big data acquisitions were rampant and people struggled to determine how different solutions would actually be used.

Predictions: The Cloud Next Year

Now let’s take a look at what’s ahead for cloud next year.

2012 Prediction #1: PaaS will become the dominant layer of cloud computing in the enterprise

In 2012, we‘ll see PaaS technology go mainstream in the enterprise as corporate IT calls on it to help them simplify cloud application development. Ultimately, it will replace IaaS as the dominant layer of cloud computing.

Before we get to wide-scale enterprise adoption, companies will need to do some restructuring of IT organization. No longer will a functional structure based on operating systems, network, database, or storage groups be the best approach with PaaS as the main jumping off point into cloud app development. IT will need to tweak business process and reorganize teams so there are clear owners of the PaaS. Once this is sorted out, IT personnel will be able to up level their skills, freeing them from infrastructure worries and allowing them to focus on developing tools that solve business problems and positively impact bottom line business results.

2012 Prediction #2: Big data will grow in power, be more accessible

As I noted earlier, there was a growing interest in big data in 2011, but as we progress into 2012, we’ll see changes and opportunity for new solutions as big data starts to merge with cloud computing.

The challenge with big data is that it takes time and infrastructure for the data-crunching that is performed on clouds. Today there is no infrastructure for real-time big data analysis, so as the big-data industry evolves, there will be groundbreaking new approaches to computing, both in hardware and software.

One opportunity that will be addressed and acted on is the development of tools to analyze the massive amounts of data from new sources such as location data, sensor data, machine data, and social data. Today, if I want to run an analysis of online sentiment toward my company, there is no self-serve application where I can go put in keywords and instantly get results. Today, I have to take an infrastructure such as Amazon Cloud and build custom tools to analyze the data.

In 2012, we’ll see cost effective solutions emerge that provide seemingly simple solutions to help companies react quickly to knowledge gained from massive amounts of data that in the background is being driven by manipulation of these big datasets in the cloud.

2012 Prediction #3: New platforms and ecosystems will emerge

We’ll see a variety of new cloud platforms emerge in 2012 -- based on the success of platforms such as Salesforce where we develop, host, and sell applications within the Salesforce network, or Apple and Android App stores and marketplaces on the consumer side. These platforms have been so successful for all participants, and we’ll see the model evolve in a number of areas. For example, a telecommunications or wireless company might roll out a platform for building 3G or 4G applications or an Internet company might roll out a collaboration platform.

The cloud will power these platforms and the applications and ecosystems will emerge that benefit all -- the platform companies and application developers via revenue and the community members via the availability of solutions that solve business issues.

Final Thoughts

If there is one take away from these 2012 predications, it is that the cloud continues to play a dominant role in computing. It is more than a change to the way we access or process information. It levels the playing field bringing solutions and technology to the masses that previously were the domain of only the top 100 or so large corporations. Armed with these new tools, applications companies are sure to develop solutions and applications that benefit enterprises and end users lifting the entire economy.

Rajesh Ramchandani is the Founder and vice president of products at CumuLogic, a Java Platform-as-a-Service software provider. You can contact the author at rajesh.ramchandani@cumulogic.com