Looking Back at the Year in Cloud Computing

CIO.com columnist Bernard Golden reviews an eventful year in cloud computing. He also grades the 2014 predictions he made at this time last year.

open windows clouds
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Just about a year ago, I published my 2014 cloud computing predictions. It’s been an amazing year in cloud computing, with a few of these highlights:

  • Amazon Web Services continues to grow and innovate. At its November Reinvent conference, the more than 13,000 attendees learned about its many new services, including new Lambda, as well as new instance types (and Intel appeared, talking about how it had designed a new, highest-performing-ever chip just for Amazon).
  • Microsoft, charging from behind, seems to be making up lost ground, and, according to all reports, is now a significant player, leveraging its capability to deliver a homogenous hybrid cloud offering.
  • Google made it clear that it wants its place in the cloud universe, using price slashing (historically the tool of a new player trying to squeeze its way into a market) as its weapon.
  • Both HP and IBM brought new public offerings to market (Helion and BlueMix, respectively), indicating they aren’t planning to forfeit the public cloud computing market by staying stuck in their legacy on-premises businesses (although, to be noted, both provide on-premises solutions that are compatible with their public offerings, thereby providing customer value through consistency and portability).
  • The OpenStack Foundation held two Summits with rapidly growing attendance, indicating high level of both vendor and user interest. While OpenStack the platform is still maturing, it’s clear that, as an industry, we have chosen OpenStack as the only meaningful nonproprietary software platform for operating cloud infrastructures.
  • More generally, cloud computing is continuing its journey to becoming *the* de facto enterprise computing platform. It’s still early in this journey, but I’m no longer hearing skepticism about cloud’s benefits, as I did even two years ago. Today, the industry -- both vendors and users -- is trying to figure out how to best extract value from cloud. The discussion about whether cloud computing is real, however, is done. It’s obvious it’s real; now the question is how, not why (although, sadly, there is still too much fixation on what, as in “what is cloud computing,” as though a definition needs to be fixed before getting on with the job).

Given these developments, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit my 2014 predictions, both as a perhaps-humbling effort to evaluate my foresight, but also to measure how the torrid pace of innovation in the cloud market has supported or outstripped what I expected to see during this year.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions, a self-assigned grade, and a comment on each of my 10 2014 cloud computing predictions.

User Predictions

2014 Prediction 1: More businesses become software companies. Grade: B

Comment: In my prediction, I quoted Marc Andreessen’s statement that “software is eating the world” and went on to say:

The net effect of the ongoing shift to IT-wrapped products and services is that global IT spend will increase significantly as IT shifts from back office support to frontline value delivery. The scale of IT will outstrip on-premise capacity and result in massive adoption of cloud computing.

I would say I was correct directionally, but premature operationally. Most of the IT organizations I’ve interacted with this year are highly motivated to accelerate their application pace of delivery, and many are under pressure from business units to help them roll out new products and services. As I noted in my last blog posting, this is leading many IT organizations to “cross the chasm” toward behaving more like a software startup, with the growth of corporate innovation labs illustrating this trend.

However, most IT organizations are still developing the capability to operate like a software company. They are sorting through key issues like process, toolchains, and employee skills, trying to develop a roadmap to get them to the place they need to be. So … this will come, just not as quick as I predicted.

2014 Prediction 2: Application developers become more important. Grade: A+

In my prediction, I quoted the analyst firm RedMonk’s mantra as “the developer as kingmaker,” and discussed the enormous change in development practices as reflecting the increased importance of developers. The accuracy of my prediction could be seen in the response to my recent blog posting “The Coming War for Developers.” It had, by far, the largest number of pageviews of any post I’ve ever ;done, indicating the intense interest in this topic.

In my prediction, I commented:

It will be interesting to watch mainstream companies address the new importance of developers. Many of them have traditionally downplayed the importance of IT and treated it as a cost center to be squeezed and indeed gotten rid of entirely via outsourcing. When these companies start to ramp up their app development efforts they will confront an expensive resource pool with plenty of job options.

Frankly, it’s fascinating seeing this play out. IT organizations are riven as they try to come to terms with bringing in this new breed of employee. I’ve seen lots of organizational angst as long-time employees resent and resist the arrival of the new breed of developer.

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