Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A cloudy look forward at 2011

A bunch of us in the cloud computing business here at CA Technologies put our heads together to see if we could articulate what we thought some of the big trends were going to be in cloud for 2011. It was a long and interesting list, as you might expect.

So, I cherry-picked a handful of key ideas from that list for this post. Don’t consider this a set of broad, all-knowing pronouncements, but instead think of this as some concepts that are getting traction – ones that I believe we’ll want to watch as we start the new year. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or have something even better to add.

Of course, you can’t surf the high tech pubs over the past few weeks without hitting dozens of such lists. So why is this one worth a scan?

I think the items on this list do a good job representing conversations and work we’ve been doing with two important constituents: leading-edge service providers and more traditional enterprise IT operations teams. We work with both and see a lot of ways that the two groups are learning from – and influencing – each other. Trend #1 to watch: I’m betting this cross-pollination continues, especially as people start thinking about hybrid public-private cloud computing environments.

Even better, most of these concepts represent an evolution of issues and trends we’ve been talking about over the past few months. I’m including links to posts that I or someone on our team has written in case you’re interested in a little background or supporting commentary.

As Casey Kasem used to say, on with countdown…

The “old guard” of IT will push back and then face up to the changing role of IT

A lot of people will continue to rail against cloud computing, highlighting its failures. Network or system administrators, those whose jobs are focused around traditional IT silos or the “break & fix” process, and even some traditional IT vendors will likely all chime in. After all, from their perspective, their livelihoods are being threatened with this transition. The smartest of the bunch will seize the cloud as an opportunity, transforming their own roles, leading to the emergence of new IT titles. We’ll see Chief Sourcing Officers, Cloud Service Architects, even Cloud Orchestrators. And that’s just for starters.

MSPs become the model of cloud progress

Many MSPs are bringing innovative, cloud-based solutions to market (many building on top of CA 3Tera AppLogic). They have spent 2010 working through the kinks, and they are showing IT pros from enterprises and service providers alike that real cloud computing progress is being made. MSPs are showing the industry how to do it. The GM of the CA Technologies cloud business, Adam Famularo, commented on how this is shaping up in CRN and CA’s Matt Richards noted a few examples in a recent blog as well. Enterprises are starting to not only see MSPs as a source for cloud services, but also as a model for how to operate IT.

The hypervisor will begin a 5-year march to obscurity

OK, maybe that sounds like I’m overstating things a bit. Even so, expect the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing will become much clearer in 2011. Companies are now understanding that virtualization alone does not equal cloud. And even recent moves by VMware and the other hypervisor vendors show that the VM is not the strategic center of the cloud universe. Hypervisors are an important piece of technology, but aren’t the be-all or end-all.

Agility will be prized more highly than depth of functionality

The cloud is driving organizations to realize that they don’t need to have complex, process-heavy IT for everything they do. In fact, “good enough” is a kind of catchphrase for the cloud. For the apps where speed is more important, optimize on that. Embrace that agility where it makes sense (and it will make sense in a lot of places).

A government will ban using the cloud for any of its services…

It seems that all the discussion about the concerns of privacy, security, and the like, will probably lead to a government somewhere that will forbid all use of cloud services. I’d expect that to come as a knee-jerk reaction to some government agency or private organization experiencing a major breach or failure. At the same time, cloud security and SLAs will grow in importance as public and commercial industries alike seek to address these risks.

…while another government will fully invest in cloud computing

Other government entities, however, will find the cloud too compelling to ignore. The U.S. federal government, for example, has made an aggressive move to the cloud and continues to show its commitment to this approach, providing education and other support for government agencies. Our federal government even has a stated “cloud first” policy for some items from U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra. So, despite the perceived security and quality of service risks, governments will continue to drive innovation and advancement of their own IT systems by using new cloud services.

People will stop trying to define “cloud computing”

Thank goodness. And not a moment too soon.

Seriously, though: there’s no longer a debate about the viability of public vs. private clouds – we know that most enterprises are going to have some combination of both. At the same time, NIST is talking about expanding its existing definition of cloud computing in interesting ways. We’d recommend thinking about how to encompass the way IT is starting to think and act – focusing on the delivery of services more than the underlying technical components.

There will be a groundswell of consumer interest in cloud

Consumers are starting to hear about this cloud thing. You can grumble about Microsoft’s odd “to the cloud” holiday card ads (I have), but the profile of cloud computing continues to increase. There will be a follow-on groundswell effect within organizations, as business users’ expectations for speed, choice, and agility dramatically increase. And increase. And increase some more. IT pros will need to move quickly in order to provide the necessary infrastructure and services that its users come to expect.

Attempts to develop a single cloud performance benchmark will fail

As the choices for cloud services increase (and they will…daily), there will emerge an even greater need for transparent and reliable metrics and the ability to compare services against each other. Vendors and third parties will continue on the path of trying to find a single benchmark to measure performance, but they will fail. Instead, I’m betting folks will come to realize that cloud services need to be measured on many factors, including cost, security, agility, and more. A single benchmark will not give organizations the insight they need to make smart decisions aligned with their specific priorities. (CA Technologies is working as part of the Service Measurement Index (SMI) Consortium to address exactly this issue, by the way.)

Despite “troughs of disillusionment,” “cloud-washing” and FUD, users will show real progress in the cloud

Organizations will try a lot of things in 2011. Some will fail (hopefully fast), and the best projects will succeed. They will uncover realistic, practical uses that give them the flexibility and speed they require to improve how they serve the business. Sure, some might say we’re about to enter that unpleasant phase of an emerging market where the reality begins to expose the hype for what it is, but that’s actually a very healthy part of the cycle. It separates the real from the, um, PowerPoints.

Finally, if you don’t like our thoughts…

If you don’t like our ideas (or at least the ones I highlighted), comment here with some of your own. Also, here are some interesting lists from a few notable industry voices and what they think has been happening and what they think you might expect from the next 12 months: Derrick Harris from GigaOm on 2010 and 2011, Forrester’s James Staten, Bernard Golden at, Chris O’Brien from the San Jose Merc on Silicon Valley in general (and his self-assessment on his own past predictions), Gordon Haff from Red Hat (and some good back & forth comments on his ideas), the gifts of 2010 according to James Urquhart’s Wisdom of Clouds, Krishnan Subramanian’s Cloud Ave list of key cloud acquisitions of 2010, and Christian Reilly, giving a user’s perspective to keep everyone honest. Finally, the folks at have an even longer list on their site if that’s not enough.

So, take it all in. Let us know what you think. Oh, and happy new year.

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