Whatever else 2010 might have been, it was the Year of the Cloud. Cloud computing became the buzz phrase of the moment, with Salesforce.com, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon, Rackspace, Dell and others investing major efforts to position themselves in the new clouds. But what's ahead for cloud computing?
It depends who you ask, of course. For instance, a new study by Cisco Systems, released earlier this month, found opportunity for enterprises and service providers.
For enterprises, the report projected that almost 12 percent of all enterprise workloads will run in the public cloud by the end of 2013. This includes not only desktop applications, e-mail, collaboration and enterprise resource planning, the study said, but potentially any application. "Enterprise executives," the report said, "believe that no applications should be automatically excluded from migration to the cloud."
The report said the key opportunity for service providers is that they could "differentiate themselves by becoming cloud service providers."
The study involved in-depth interviews with more than 80 enterprise IT decision-makers in 43 enterprises and public-sector organizations in the U.S. It said the key issues determining migration decisions revolve around perceptions by executives about security and control, data-center overcapacity and scale, and the availability of skilled IT people.
But discerning patterns in the clouds, as any sky-watcher can assert, depends on one's perspective and disposition. While Cisco's study focuses on opportunities, a new study from Gartner describes cloud computing as currently at "the peak of inflated expectations."
"Misconceptions abound, especially as they relate to cost-cutting," the Gartner report said.
Nevertheless, the study found that half of the world's 1,000 largest companies will be using external cloud-based services for the top 10 revenue-generating processes within the next five years. To handle that volume and the complexities of integrating and coordinating cloud suppliers, Gartner envisions that cloud service brokerages, or CSBs, will assume a greater role.
'A Genuine Opportunity'
Al Hilwa, program director for application development at IDC, sees expectations for cloud computing on the software side as "a bit overblown, but a genuine opportunity." Restraints on its growth, he said, include issues of data custody, control, security, privacy, jurisdiction and portability standards for data and code.
Hilwa noted that these need to be resolved "before cloud becomes a majority of the software market." For software that is offered as a service on the developer's own infrastructure, or on a third-party infrastructure that is then sold directly to the customer, Hilwa said, IDC's expectation is that this might total one percent of worldwide software revenue in the near future.
But, he added, if you expand the viewpoint to include software "that is sold at the factory through standard mechanisms, but then offered through hosters on a more granular basis," such as per user or per megabyte, then as much as three to five percent of the total software market might be affected.
Hilwa said both of these software types could have "significant growth rates" over time, but it's "definitely not the case" that all software is going to become cloud-based in five years.