Cloud Views for 2013

Gartner predicted in December 2011 that cloud computing would be getting real in 2012. They said cloud computing "is becoming a reality." But did that happen? In my view, not exactly.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

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Gartner predicted in December 2011 that cloud computing would be getting real in 2012. They said cloud computing "is becoming a reality." But did that happen? In my view, not exactly.

SaaS was a reality of 2012. But it was a reality before that. AWS was a reality of 2012. But it was a reality before that. OpenNebula, CloudStack and Eucalyptus were open source cloud realities in 2012, but they were realities way before that. EngineYard, Heroku and other PaaS vendors -- same thing. They were a reality already when 2012 started.

All of these saw impressive growth. But did any technologies of significance go from promise to reality? Not really. VMware turned its version numbering around -- vCloud Director (VCD) 1.5 became VCD 5.1. Oracle said at its OpenWorld event that it always was a cloud provider.

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But perhaps Gartner meant that cloud computing is becoming a reality to people and organizations to whom it wasn't a reality before.

Did that happen? Oh yes, that did happen.

Companies like Box, Dropbox and Workday are amazing innovators in the SaaS space, and they welcomed hordes of new users and customers in 2012. You could add Zendesk, Good Data, Zuora and others to the list. These pioneers of cloud took their "already-a-reality" services to new territories where cloud had previously not existed. I can imagine that many of their customers thought that cloud was now becoming a reality for them.

So if 2012 was a year of customers making cloud computing a reality (versus new technologies or vendors becoming reality), then the question remains, what might 2013 look like? Will 2013 for cloud computing be a year of promises, of reality, of failures, or of what?

It's difficult to predict change. It is easier to predict what will not change. And easiest of all is not to try to predict the future at all, but just work toward influencing it. But let's give predictions a try anyhow -- if for no other purpose than for the fun of it.

In 2013:

* Cloud computing will grow faster than Moore's law. In the next 18 months, we will see cloud capacity more than double, leading to new management, security, governance and big data challenges.

* Customers will do fewer cloud projects than the vendors collectively hope for, but many more projects than were done in 2012. IT is getting savvier when it comes to the cloud, with more and more companies building cloud-based applications from the ground up. The innovations of open source cloud computing models are also encouraging cloud projects. With few barriers to entry and bustling user communities, open source clouds will accelerate cloud projects and continue to drive cloud adoption.

* China's consumption of computing will lead to growth of the cloud computing industry through the government's Five-Year IT focused spending. China currently accounts for 3% of global cloud computing market share and, according to Gartner, is expected to grow at an annual rate of 40%. Although China will develop much software itself, in 2013 it will also be a major consumer of cloud software from other countries, most notably the U.S. We will also begin to see new ways in which China will build competing services to some of the top U.S. vendors.

* Google, Microsoft, VMware and Oracle will continue to claim they are leaders in cloud computing. These vendors are out to prove it by beefing up their cloud capabilities through acquisitions, such as VMware's purchase of Nicira to expand its virtualized data center offering.

* There will be clear distinctions between the leading open source cloud computing players, such as OpenStack, CloudStack and Eucalyptus. The industry currently lumps these vendors together, but they each have distinct audiences for their solutions. As more users adopt open source cloud offerings and technologies mature, the differences between them will become more obvious.

In 2013, some of the predictions for the year will be proven wrong, and new equally fanciful predictions for 2014 will be made. What does your crystal ball or gut instinct predict?

Eucalyptus Systems is the leading open source software for building AWS-compatible private and hybrid clouds.

This story, "Cloud Views for 2013" was originally published by Network World.

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