The second half of 2010 has laid a foundation in the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market that looks likely to make 2011 a landmark year. Moves by a variety of players may just turn this into a vibrant, steady market rather than today's Amazon Web Services and a distant race for second.
VMware vCloud Director finally shipped after much delay - a break from VMware's rather steady on-time execution prior - and will power both ISP public clouds and enterprise private efforts in 2011. VMops changed its name and landed a passel of service providers; we'll see if they live up to be the ".com" in Cloud.com.
OpenStack came out of the gate with strong ISV support and small ISP momentum; 2011 may prove a make-or-break year for the open source upstart. And nearly every enterprise software player and professional services organisation moved from learning about cloud to delivering value-add around it.
But enough with the past, what matters as 2010 edges towards a close is what enterprise Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals should be planning for in the coming year. My esteemed colleague Gene Leganza has compiled the top 15 technology trends to watch over the next three years, with cloud computing serving as an engine behind many of them. But let's drill in more specifically on IaaS.
Not all moves that show promise today will result in a sustainable harvest come 12 months, but a few trends are likely to play out. Here are my top expectations:
And the empowered shall lead us
In Forrester's new book Empowered, we profile a new type of IT leader, and they don't work for you. They work for the business, not I&O, and are leveraging technologies at the edge of the business to change relationships, improve customer support, design new products, and deliver value in ways you could not have foreseen. And, despite your "better judgment" you need to help them do this. Your frontline employees are the ones who see the change in the market first and are best positioned to guide the business on how to adjust. They can turn - and are turning - to cloud services to make this change happen but don't always know how to leverage it best. This is where you must engage.
You will build a private cloud, and it will fail
And this is a good thing. Because through this failure you will learn what it really takes to operate a cloud environment. Knowing this, your strategy should be to fail fast and fail quietly. Don't take on a highly visible or wildly ambitious cloud effort. Start small, learn, iterate, and then expand
Hosted private clouds will outnumber internal clouds 3:1
The top reason empowered employees go to public cloud services is speed. They can gain access to these services in minutes. Private clouds must meet this demand and not once, but consistently. That means standardised procedures executed by automation software, not hero VMware administrators. And most enterprises aren't ready to pass on the baton. But service providers will be ready in 2011. This is your fast path to private cloud, so take it.
Community clouds will arrive, thanks to compliance
The biotech field is already heading this direction. Federal government I&O teams are piloting them. And security and compliance will bring them together. Why struggle alone adapting your processes to meet FDA requirements when everyone else in your industry is doing the same? Cmed Technology is on to something here.
Workstation applications will bring HPC to the masses
Autodesk's Project Cumulus and the ISVs lining up behind GreenButton are showing the way, and they'll do it because it expands - not threatens - their market. Both these companies have figured out how to put a cloud behind applications and in so doing deliver game-changing productivity: the kind of performance that can potentially match traditional grid computing, but with nearly no effort by the customer. These moves leverage cloud economics and may disrupt supercomputing.
Cloud economics gets switched on
Being cheap is good. We all know the basics of cloud economics - pay only for what you use - but the mechanism isn't the lesson; it's just the tool. Cloud economics 101 is matching elastic applications to cloud platforms and moving transient apps in and out so their costs are constantly returning to zero. Cloud economics 201 is designing and optimising applications to take greatest advantage. Cloud economics 301 is knowing when and which cloud to use for maximum profitability. Look to early efforts such as Amazon Web Services' Spot Instances and Enomaly's SpotCloud to show the way here and the Cloud Price Calculator to help you normalise costs. As cloud segments such as IaaS commoditise, tools that let you play the market will grow in importance.
The BI gap will widen
If business intelligence to you means a secure data warehouse, you will quickly learn which side of this gap you are on. Cloud technologies such as AWS' Elastic Map Reduce, 1010Data, and BI unification will deliver real-time intelligence and cross-system insights that help businesses skate to where the puck is going and see - and make - the market shift before their competitors.
Information is power and a new profit center
Not only will cloud computing help leading enterprises gain greater insight from their information, it will help them derive revenue from it too. Services such as Windows Azure DataMarket will help enterprises leverage data sources more easily and become one of those providers themselves. The Associated Press, Dun & Bradstreet, and ESRI are the model. Are you the next great provider? What value data are you keeping locked up in your vault?
Cloud standards still won't be here - get over it
Despite promising efforts by the DMTF, NIST, and the Cloud Security Alliance, this market will still be too immature for standardisation. But that won't mean a lack of progress in 2011. Expect draft specifications and even a possible ratification or two next year, but adoption of the standard will remain years off. Don't let that hold you back from using cloud technologies, though, as most are built on the backs of prior standards efforts. Existing security, Web services, networking, and protocol standards are all in use by clouds. And cloud management tools are doing their best to abstract the difference from cloud to cloud.
Cloud security will be proven but not by the providers alone
Because cloud security isn't their responsibility - it's shared. The cloud-leading enterprises get this, and we have already seen HIPAA, PCI, and other compliance standards met in the cloud. The cloud providers are certainly doing their part as evidenced by AWS's recent ISO 27001 certification. The best practices for doing this will spread in 2011, but we should all remember that you shouldn't hold off on cloud computing until you solve these high-bar security challenges. Get started with applications that are easier to protect.
James Staten is principal analyst at Forrester Research where he serves infrastructure and operations professionals, providing insights and best-practice use of emerging infrastructure technology and services trends, including cloud computing (IaaS and public and private clouds), strategic rightsourcing, infrastructure consolidation, and application-specific infrastructure optimisations.
This blog post has been syndicated with the permission of Forrester Research. James Staten blogs at: http://blogs.forrester.com/james_staten
Previous Forrester Articles in the series:
This was first published in January 2011