Making predictions for Cloud Computing is like casting seeds into the wind to see what grows and what gets eaten by the birds. Sometimes something magical will sprout, and other times it simply gets consumed by something else. So, as I put my pyramid hat on, wrap myself in tinfoil and gaze into my crystal ball, I realize that doing any sort of predictions for a coming year is an educated guess at best.
What do I think will happen in the world of Cloud Computing in 2012? A lot! Probably too much to really grasp. If you have ever watched a time-lapsed movie of a cloud being born, you will see how beautiful and complicated it can be. And you don’t really know what will happen, unless you study weather patterns for a living, then it makes more sense.
[iframe_loader width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/Rl8nXs-5puw?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]
Over the past 4 years, I have watched clouds form, evolve and even dissipate. But, I liken the cloud market evolution to the video above, the skies filling with complexity and diversity. Each year I have made predictions as to where I think this whole cloud thing is taking us, and probably for the first time, there seems to be much more structure and direction to the usual nebulosity of an emerging technology or solution movement.
Taking a single point in time (e.g., the New Year) is an interesting way to put a stake in the ground and say “ok, where are we and where are we going”, but it is an arbitrary measure especially when you are dealing with something that seems to transform so quickly and distinctly as clouds do. But I’m up for the task!
6 Cloud Computing Predictions for 2012
1. Confusion, Splintering and Bifurcation (Multifurcation)
Unfortunately, I do feel that there is still general confusion within the consumer market, news media, and business and enterprise marketplaces as to what cloud is and what it can do. To complicate this, because there are now so many births, acquisitions and restructuring of “cloud-related” organizations compared to a few years ago, it’s not surprising that the business or consumer buyer of “anything cloud” is confused. 3-4 years ago, there were a handful of players dominating the space and a bunch of others evaluating to see if they should hop on the cloud bandwagon. Now, with 2 years of cloud-washing and retooled business models, the leaders are maturing and the newcomers are quickly coming to speed. Where there were 5 vendors, there are now 50 to choose from, and there is distinct specialization taking place. One would have hoped that things would have settled down by now, but it’s quite to the contrary. So, expect 2012 to be laden with more confusion due to mergers, acquisitions, new terminology and new services. Think of it not as splintering or bifurcation, but rather “multifurcation.”
2. Explosion of Big Data
The cloud is birthing a vicious circle. It provides services to allow us to build more products, applications and services. These services create huge amounts (think petabytes) of data that needs to be cataloged, organized, parsed, filtered, managed, stored and distributed. If you consider social media or advertising (compiling an individual’s shopping profile or persona), a single individual can create mountains of data, a data mountain that reaches to the clouds, literally. It is often non-relational, thus requiring a Big Data type of solution, something that Big Data is good for. Big Data will be an even more popular buzz word in 2012. Right here and now, I’m coining the term “Big Cloud Data” which encompasses the idea of Big Data and Big Clouds to manage it. The problem is, cloud isn’t quite prepared to manage the high-performance requirements of Big Data…but it will, and 2012 will be the year where you see all sorts of solutions utilizing cloud or hybrid environments to make more businesses seriously consider it as opposed to traditional SQL (relational) databases.
3. Cloud “App Stores”
Consumers proved the success of App Stores or Marketplaces. You find them on smartphones, TVs, computers, eBook readers and other consumer electronics. And, if designed properly, they are making tons of money. So why not bring this concept to SMBs, VARs, MSPs and the Enterprise? That is what is starting to happen as specialization occurs and actually dove-tails into the next two concepts below of clouds becoming more solution-driven. In the meantime, what we will see are “app stores” of sorts where business can pick and choose pre-baked infrastructure or framework application conglomerations. Want a Big Data solution? Just buy this “app” for $15,000 and away you go. Don’t forget about those in-app purchases though for added bandwidth, storage or scalability.
4. Solution-driven NOT Service-driven
I think that the whole ___aaS is becoming a bit overplayed and overused, much the way the term “cloud” has been over the past few years. So, I would like to tweak what it stands for a bit. Instead of it being “as a Service” it becomes “as a Solution” meaning that cloud services become cloud solutions. There are a plethora of services out there and many businesses struggle to cobble them together for their own solution that meets their business needs. In 2012, business won’t care about what services are available; they will be concerned about how, when packaged together, they become tangible solutions that can be used successfully.
5. Solutions as a Service – the blending of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS
As I mentioned previously, cloud solution-selling will be prominent in 2012. Solutions as a Service, to flip my previous section around, will be the way that cloud organization gain traction. And it won’t be siloed within the layers of the Cloud Pyramid, it will be a blending of solutions that accomplish this. Back to the Big Data movement for a second, a Solution as a Service could consist of distributed cloud-based management applications (SaaS) with underlying infrastructure (IaaS) providing the horsepower. So your Big Data app will be a melding of various other cloud services as a single solution as a service.
6. Consumer-based Clouds maturity
If you thought that 2011 was “cloudy” for consumers, it will be even more so in 2012. All new devices will need to have cloud integration in one way or another. If you take a picture on your smartphone, the picture needs to go to cloud storage, be visible on your big screen TV immediately and post automatically to one of your many social networks. Heck, we are doing this already in one form or another with iCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Instagram, Foursquare…need I go on? People already live and breathe by Dropbox and Google Docs. In 2012, we are going to see that next level of integration at the consumer electronics level and people will not be wow-ed over it, but rather expect it. Devices missing these types of integrations will be considered outdated. And, as consumers expect cloud technology to be present everywhere, it will have a trickle-up effect to the B2B marketplace (“If my iPhone can do this, why can’t our CRM solution?”).
A Cloudy 2012
2012 will be extremely cloudy, I guarantee it. Many companies who sat on the sidelines either in embracing a cloud strategy or transforming their business model to provide one, will now have jumped on the cloud bandwagon. Because of mainstream media and consumer marketing and the prevalence of consumer technology embracing the cloud, there will be a stronger desire by businesses to provide the cloud to consumer. We will see more and more cloud services (sorry, solutions) businesses emerge to support the consumer push. As this market explodes, more Infrastructure providers will be needed to support these other cloud solutions. Clouds will be everywhere and well used – think of rolling a snow ball down a snowy slope – watch this snowball effect as cloud grows during 2012.
I have cast my seeds of prediction into the wind, or should I say, into the clouds – fall where they may – eaten or sewn – and we will see how things grow in 2012. The Cloud Computing movement will accelerate, become even more complex and competitive, offer more solutions, and generally be more widely accepted by both consumers and businesses alike.
HTD says: For your New Year’s Resolution, be sure that some of it is “in the cloud.”
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.