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Tales from the cloud: 2009 in review

For all its successes, the cloud computing market featured its fair share of blunders in 2009. Famed holiday humbug Ebenezer Scrooge took some time to explain where cloud went wrong.

Bah, humbug! It has been one hell of a year for the world of cloud computing, as a bevy of cloud washing product launches, product failures, major outages and screw-ups took place in the cloud market. So for all you children that love to read, I'd say it's past your bedtime! The adults are going to pop open a bottle of wine, hunker down in front of the fire and rant about all the miserable, mixed-up things that took place in the cloud over the last calendar year.

• Larry Ellison's rant on cloud computing: During a September appearance at the Churchill Club, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison unloaded on cloud computing in response to an audience question. While it's no secret how Ellison feels about the term "cloud computing," it is interesting to see how he ducks the fact that it's a marketing concept, something he tried himself a while back with the "network computer."

More on cloud computing in 2009:
The top 10 cloud computing news stories of 2009

The top Amazon Web Services stories of 2009

The top five cloud computing tips of 2009

• IBM discovers the cloud: From January through October, IBM launched LotusLive Engage, LotusLive Connections and LotusLive iNotes, all in an attempt to embrace the cloud. But one has to wonder, is IBM really seeing the light of the cloud or is the behemoth just trying to keep the Lotus Notes name alive a little longer?

• Microsoft loses data: Microsoft is one of those companies attempting to dominate the cloud, but only on its own terms -- after all, aren't hosted applications, Web mail and Ajax code all a threat to Microsoft's primary applications business? Perhaps the company was just trying to prove a point when it lost tons of customers' data on thousands of T-Mobile Sidekicks. Now the masses have learned a lesson -- you can't trust your data to the cloud…well, a Microsoft cloud, anyway.

• Amazon adds insult to injury: And as if Microsoft couldn't make its point alone, Amazon Web Services showcased several outages over the last year. Some affected only a few customers, but others affected thousands for many hours. The latest glitch, in fact, was blamed on "power issues." Talk about passing the buck. It's the evil electric company that crashed your cloud, not poor old Amazon. Haven't these folks heard of failover technologies and geographic mirroring?

• Rackspace adds…even more insult to injury:Finally, over six weeks, Rackspace experienced a few outages, leaving customers without access to their applications, servers and data. And of course, the company's November 3 outage was blamed on interrupted power. Maybe this is where Amazon got its excuse from. Perhaps it's time for some of these providers to invest in some onsite emergency generators? As for the other outages, Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier issued an apology but gave little in the form of details as to the root cause -- not a very comforting feeling for those with their livelihoods parked in a Rackspace data center.

• Here today, gone tomorrow: Coghead, a venture-backed, online application development platform, closed its doors, leaving its customers with a problem to solve. Some thought there would be salvation when SAP bought Coghead's intellectual property and hired its engineering team, but SAP may have had ulterior motives. It seems that SAP will not continue selling the service, opting to use Coghead only as an internal tool. That's one way to beat the competition -- buy them and keep them away from the customers.

• Mixed message madness: Research firm Gartner gave Software as a Service (SaaS) a thumbs-up with one hand and a thumbs-down with the other. The great minds at Gartner say that SaaS is cheaper during its first two years of use, but the total cost of ownership over five years would be lower for on-premises software. Then they went and ranked cloud computing as the top strategic technology area for 2010, along with forecasting that revenue will grow from about $56.3 billion in 2009 to $150.1 billion in 2013. Should companies be adopting cloud or not, guys?

• Big bucks: surpassed $1 billion in revenue. While many claimed that SaaS and cloud computing had no real business potential, executives laughed all the way to the bank. One thing is certain: SaaS is now a mainstream technology, regardless of what the non-believers think.

• Jumping on board: Never one to miss an opportunity to minimize the channel and fatten their own profit margins, Dell became a reseller of SaaS solutions. As a channel partner, Dell will be offering customers access to AppExchange SaaS vendors.

• We can build it better: unveils Chatter, its social computing strategy. Instead of betting on proven players such as Facebook and Twitter, is attempting to reinvent social networking. Simply put, the company thinks it's best to alienate the majority, who use services for free, and try to get new customers to pay for something they cooked up themselves -- good luck with that one!

What does 2010 hold for the cloud? Well, for every success, I'm sure there'll be more than a few major failures to mock! And that's the true joy of the holiday season, isn't it? With visions of these inevitable future errors dancing in my head, I say bring on 2010.

Frank Ohlhorst, also known as Ebenezer Scrooge, is an award winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with over 25 years of experience in the technology arena. Frank has written for several leading technology publications, including ComputerWorld, TechTarget, PCWorld, ExtremeTech and Toms Hardware. Frank has also contributed to business publications, including Entrepreneur and BNET, multiple technology books and several white papers, case studies, reviewers' guides and channel guides for leading technology vendors.

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