Cloud Computing: 2011 Predictions

Looking ahead, CIO.com's Bernard Golden discusses ten developments he expects to see in cloud computing for service providers and enterprise users.

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Prediction #3: More hybrid cloud confusion. I see more vendor hype and end user wishful thinking on this topic than any other in cloud computing. Vendors breezily assert and end users blithely repeat that the future will be applications effortlessly, transparently, and automatically migrating between internal IT infrastructures and external cloud providers.

No cloud vendor, no matter how large or smart, can repeal the laws of physics, and migrating workloads and (especially) data between sites confronts the issue of "the skinny straw," which is the fact that the connectivity between internal sites and public cloud providers is much lower than that within either of those environments.

Furthermore, supporting seamless migration requires a sophisticated IT infrastructure and operations capability, which translates into investment and skill building. While these factors can be procured or created, it's not a trivial task to do so.

Both of these challenges will make IT executives realize that the all-moving hybrid cloud strategy is overly ambitious and needs to be scaled back. Trying to implement such a vision, for many organizations, will prove to be "A Bridge Too Far".

In 2011, people will come to recognize that the key to a hybrid strategy is proper placement of workloads depending upon cost and operational and compliance factors, and will create appropriate plans to leverage a mixed environment.

Prediction #4: Application architecture challenges. As IT organizations deploy their first cloud computing applications, they'll find achieving agility and elasticity is hard — and requires new application architectures.

Implementing robust applications to run on less-than-robust infrastructure imposes design requirements for redundancy, failover, and session isolation. Designing elastic applications that can automagically grow and shrink in response to application load necessitates functionality that allows graceful on-the-fly configuration without human intervention.

As you might imagine, this demands a new set of technical skills for architects and software engineers. This pattern of new skills being called forth in response to the shift to a new computing platform is nothing new — and won't change in the case of cloud computing, either. But every time an emergent platform collides with existing skill sets, IT executives are shocked anew that employees aren't prepared. Expect to see many, many articles next year about the technical skill challenges associated with cloud computing.

Prediction #5: IT operations challenges. Operations will be challenged in three ways during 2011. The first challenge is associated with process re-engineering. The manual operations practices in place at most organizations aren't sufficient for the self-service vision of cloud computing. Application groups will clamor for the immediate resource availability associated with the public cloud providers, and will expect internal IT operations to respond as quickly. That's challenge number one.

The second challenge for IT operations is associated with managing the dynamic application topologies that are fundamental to cloud computing apps. The vision of cloud computing is applications that have additional resources joining or leaving the application topology in response to load, response times, etc. IT operations will have to figure out how to implement management practices to support that vision. New types of system management software will be needed that supports dynamic operations, which circles back to the previous predication about organizational skill building.

The third challenge is one of scale — not of individual apps, but of the total number of apps that the business wants to run. As noted in End User Prediction #1, above, the number of applications companies will be running is going to explode. Operations practices appropriate for one scale of application numbers will fall over when confronted with ten times as many applications. It's unclear how this will turn out, but it's very clear that existing operations practices will be stressed as never before.

And, by the way, this is all without the previously-developed public cloud applications being dropped off at Operations doorstep with a note asking it to take responsibility for this abandoned child (we call this phenomenon "the cloud boomerang").

So there you have it. My list of ten things we can expect to see next year in cloud computing. If you thought 2010 was exciting, you'll find 2011 exhilarating. If you found 2010 full of cloud hot air (fog?), you'll hate 2011. What do you think? Are there other developments we can expect? If you have thoughts of your own, please feel free to comment.

Bernard Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus, which specializes in virtualization, cloud computing and related issues. He is also the author of "Virtualization for Dummies," the best-selling book on virtualization to date.

Follow Bernard Golden on Twitter @bernardgolden. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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