Cloud Computing 2011, through my binoculars

By Subraya Mallya - January 2011 | Topics - Cloud Computing

2010 was a blockbuster year for Cloud Computing, no two ways about it. The year started with naysayers pooh-poohing Cloud Computing as YATF (Yet Another Technology Fad) only to come back and endorse cloud with a backhanded compliment albeit calling it Private Cloud.

A lot was achieved in terms of bringing down the hurdles that gated a wide spread adoption of Cloud Computing.

  1. They said “lack of tools is an issue” – many companies like RightScale, Makara, EnStratus, CloudSwitch, VMWare built tools that made it easy for companies adopt and move things to Cloud.
  2. They said “Cloud billing is complex” – and companies like Zuora, Aria sprung up and built robust subscription billing.
  3. They said “Cloud hosts are not Audit Compliant” – and leading vendors like Amazon, Rackpace turned around and got themselves certified for SAS-70, HIPAA et al.
  4. They said “Cloud creates vendor lock-in” (as if the on-premise had any less vendor lock-in) – and now Amazon is creating a portable VM image that can be ported to another cloud vendor.
  5. The last strand they were hanging onto – “Cloud is not secure” – and Cloud vendors went ahead and implemented some of the most stringent security standards like Multi-factor authentication, encryption (on the wire & disk).

But naysayers are naysayers, you cannot change them if they have made up their mind. Just in case you were still wondering who the “they” I am referring to. These are the guys who have the most to lose if  Cloud became the de-facto way of technology delivery and consumption.

With that said, what do I see in store for Cloud Computing on the heels of a robust 2010. Looking through my binoculars, I see these technologies making big strides in 2011.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

What Cloud Computing did for servers, VDI can do the  same for desktop and mobile devices. Given all the concerns around security and data leaks companies will increasingly embrace VDI in the coming year. At least something good came out of all the Wiki leaks. Educational institutions, Non-profits, Government organizations that are “lethargic” in their adoption of technologies (and hamstrung by budgetary constraints) will specially find VDI appealing to them to cut costs, improve service levels. In addition to the investments companies are making into IT Asset Management solutions, protecting IP is another reason VDI will increasingly find favor amongst global corporations.

Expected Big Winners : Citrix, VMWare, NComputing

WAN Optimization

With technologies increasingly moving to Cloud, companies that consume those technologies will continue to bear the latency over the wire. In the days gone by where each company built out their own data center, they could buy dedicated pipe from their datacenter to their corporate network and get guaranteed bandwidth. But in case of Cloud, that might be a challenge given consolidation of disparate traffic that funnels into Cloud data centers that might be spread across the world. That is where WAN optimization really plays a big role. WAN Optimization, to the uninitiated, mimicks a local datacenter and optimizes the traffic over the wire to the physical data center.  I would like to refer to this whole area as Cloud Backhaul, where besides the WAN optimization, we will see better caching, deconstruction-construction of content, compression, security technologies to securely push more packets through the wire and reduce latency. With just corporate data center and office locations it straightforward, but the next generation WAN Optimization needs to deal with not just the latency from data center to office locations, but the last mile issues with users accessing the application using mobile devices. CDNs ain’t going to cut it when it comes to providing the user experience. Look for innovation coming that area. 

Expected Big Winners – Riverbed, F5 Networks, Blue Coat, Aryaka and new software companies in this space.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

If Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service have lead the cloud computing gains in 2010, 2011 will be a big year for Platform-as-a-Service. There is still significant amount of homegrown, legacy applications that are occupying data centers around the world. IT Organizations, Data Providers, Service Providers, Specialty Consulting Organizations (read Risk Management, Audit Services) will leverage platforms to create offerings for their target market. A comprehensive platform will merge all the flavors of PaaS including application development platform, database, system management, identity management, analytics layer, mobile support and be IaaS agnostic. Platforms will also include support for on-boarding existing products to cloud with little or no retrofit.

Expected Big Winners – Microsoft Azure (if they figure out how to put together the building blocks they already own), Salesforce.com Heroku, Red Hat (if they realize how good their stack is and stop beating around the bush and jump headstrong into Cloud)

Cloud in a Box

Much as I think Private Cloud is going to be just a temporary band-aid to the IT woes,  it will continue to gain ground in the next few years. Once companies’ realize what they are in for, the sheer magnitude of managing a cloud on their own, better sense will prevail. Our beloved George Costanza would say – “Where did you get the ego to think you can run your own cloud?”. Anyway, in the interim, there will be a lot of companies adopting the temporary painkiller i.e, Cloud-in-a-box. Come to think of that is the most sensible thing to do – instead of embarking on building a cloud ground up. Look for cloud-in-a-box offerings like Oracle Exalogic, HP, IBM  and Cisco Acadia to flood the market and consequent increase in the rhetoric around Private Cloud.

Expected Big Winners – Oracle, IBM and HP.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Suites

SaaS vendors were the first to demonstrate the virtues of Cloud Computing and there are some truly successful SaaS solutions in the Financials, CRM, Human Resources area. While they have reached the potential of point solutions, much is still to be done, if there is any chance of uprooting large ERP installations. Much maligned as the large ERP suites might be, there is a reason why they came into existences. Customers are loathe to paying integration (and their upkeep) costs, much less when those applications are on islands of their own, as in case of SaaS. So in 2011 look for SaaS solutions to make love. A certain large acquisitive SaaS CRM vendor might acquire one of the SaaS HR and/or SaaS finance solutions to build a suite. The said Finance and HR companies might themselves getting into wedlock. The SaaS Suite approach will start draining the maintenance gravy train of large ERP vendors, as they continue to flounder in their SaaS efforts.

Expected Big Winners: Workday, NetSuite, Salesforce.com

Besides these big winners, I also think the NoSQL movement will become mainstream and secure a place in all kinds of data applications besides Big Data. As I read somewhere it will continue to move towards becoming Not Only SQL instead of NoSQL.

Here are some resources for you to continue your research around the topics I mentioned

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  • Devon Watson

    Great article from Prudent Cloud, key excerpt: “PaaS will…..be IaaS agnostic. Platforms will also include support for on-boarding existing products to cloud with little or no retrofit.”

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