Cloud computing in 2011: What's on tap?

Where will the cloud go in 2011? For starters, expect growth in cloud-based media and telecom services. Our expert offers up all his cloud expectations for the new year.

Driven by the development of enterprise-class cloud virtualization infrastructure, the cloud computing market will continue to mature in 2011. A strong focus on security and the development of security architectures will help this along. At the same time, expect to see growth in whole new categories of value-added cloud services in analytics, media, telecom and high finance.

Here are some specific predictions based on discussions with industry experts:

Security and compliance drives the cloud
Companies will ramp up their investment in virtualized security controls, which will help in the transition to cloud services. As workloads are decoupled from physical hardware, they'll need to rethink how their security is delivered as well as reconsider the use of physical attributes like IP address or physical host separation. This will strengthen efforts to create a security infrastructure that secures data. The Named Data Networking protocol, developed by many of the pioneers behind TCP, will gain traction as a result.

The massive growth in online video and music distribution will help drive the move to cloud media management platforms.

George Lawton, Contributor

The actions of WikiLeaks will usher in the dawn of more leak dissemination services, leading to a greater investment in data leak prevention systems. Other security vendors will follow Trend Micro's SecureCloud vision to provide cloud-based data leak protection services.

Cloud contracts refined
As cloud providers compete for new customers, many will begin to extend more elaborate guarantees, concrete remedies and better data transit awareness. The guarantees will provide better legal protection on the control of data. Confident providers will also include more detailed service-level agreements (SLAs) and financial remedies, covering all aspects of the cloud service, that could affect the customer's business performance. Cloud providers will also offer to provide improved visibility into the movement of data to maintain legal requirements.

New, in-depth cloud services on the way
Cloud service providers will increasingly optimize for more specialized services like analytics and high-performance computing (HPC) for internal and external applications.

Expect to see a growth in offerings that bring advanced analytical capabilities to basic computers and mobile devices. Improvements in analytical interfaces, modeling techniques, MapReduce techniques and raw throughput will lead to more timely and accurate predictions. The field is still in its infancy, however, and companies will have to make significant investment in their operational infrastructure to find real benefits. After numerous flops in 2011, a few shining examples will lead the way to better and more widespread cloud business intelligence implementation in 2012.

Outward-facing analytical and context analysis cloud services will see growing acceptance in 2011. These tools will make it easier for business users, researchers and citizens to mine information using sophisticated Web crawlers, linguistic processing tools and data extraction tools on a pay-as-you-go basis. Microsoft's Project Dallas and new offerings from Extractiv and Needlebase are showing the possibilities for data analysis. The recent release of Google Earth Engine will take cloud-based analysis and presentation to a new level with programmatic access to terabytes of historical data and satellite imagery.

Other services will present new tools that provide compliance and appropriate data governance in specialized niches like healthcare. Renewed interest in eHealth will drive interest in medical data management, analysis, and presentation tools like Microsoft's Health Vault, Google Health and the recently launched Verizon Health Information Exchange. Iron Mountain found a niche in managing data-intensive medical images, and other vendors will emerge to help improve the aftermarket of this data for research purposes. A public outcry, however, will be the result.

High-speed financial market trends will lead to the formation of new ultra-low latency market making services that use networking gear and data centers placed in strategic locations worldwide. Algorithmic traders can leverage minute differences between different markets to improve profits. Last year, telecom giant Cable & Wireless launched a low-latency algorithmic trading service linking exchanges around the world; other algorithmic cloud trading services will extend this infrastructure to specialized price tracking and trading tools staged in strategically located data centers.

Another niche will grow around HPC services that allow computer users to execute complex computations on demand. Autodesk's Centaur project and are new services that render complex models in the cloud. The launch of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud for HPC has raised the bar by making it possible to tightly couple nodes together for use with the Message Passing Interface. U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored researchers will demonstrate improved cloud-inspired tools for scheduling and programming HPC applications.

Media meets the menu
Finally, the massive growth in online video and music distribution will help drive the move to cloud media management platforms. Both Google and Apple are expected to make major moves in this arena. Meanwhile, several cloud services will help cable operators find new ways to keep customers from these media upstarts.

Expect to see growth in whole new categories of value-added cloud services in analytics, media, telecom and high finance.

George Lawton

Expect more cloud-enabled services like those from Cloud TV and Clearleap, which gather information about a user's viewing history and deliver content to virtually any platform. Others, such as Rovi, will focus on providing a magnetic menu with rich information that induces consumers to discovery-based purchases and repeat sales.

The Apple iPhone 5 will usher in the era of high-definition voice in 2011, which will lead to the development of new cloud services providing high-bandwidth, low-latency and new models for managing communications. The traditional world of telephony has standardized on 64-bit audio codecs, but these new services will require new protocols supporting higher bit rates and a new switching infrastructure.

Parallel to this, telecom equipment providers will grow their unified communication offerings in the cloud. This will make it easier to provide a consistent telecom interface across work phones, smartphones, computing pads and computers without a significant upfront investment in hardware. Vendors like Microsoft and Cisco have started forming alliances with voice over IP (VoIP) providers and telecoms like Verizon. The telco plans to extend its basic phone service with a suite of managed communications applications, and others will follow.

In short, it will be another year of expansion and evolution in cloud computing history.

George Lawton is a journalist based near San Francisco, Calif. Over the last 15 years he has written over 2,000 stories for publications about computers, communications, knowledge management, business, health and other areas which interest him. Find out more at

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