Over the coming year, cloud infrastructure services will make progress, albeit slowly. New platforms will be released, new application programming interfaces (APIs) will be developed and private clouds will start to make inroads into the enterprise. At the same time, companies will start to use the cloud for testing out software and applications, disaster recovery and scaling up new Web sites. But the progress and the growth of the industry will be incremental and marginal compared to the world of IT in general.
Here are some specific predictions, based on discussions with industry insiders in the know, for cloud computing in 2010.
The rise of the applications
The largest growth of cloud applications over the next year will be for software testing, data analysis, disaster recovery and email campaigns. Other application domains will see some growth, but they will be hampered by concerns over security and integration challenges.
The year of the platform
Platform as a Service (PaaS) will start to become a bigger player in the cloud. Although it will continue to remain a smaller domain than Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, it will grow at a faster rate. This is going to be lead by the release of Microsoft Azure and the millions of eager .NET programmers ready to support it.
Salesforce.com's Force.com will grow in importance in the enterprise space, while Intuit's QuickBase will prove attractive amongst the millions of small businesses already using its accounting applications. Services like Heroku and Engine Yard will achieve wider use among Ruby on Rails developers.
Larger middleware and systems management vendors will make several high-profile acquisitions of PaaS companies in order to extend their reach. This will help launch the beginning of software development, deployment and management frameworks that can run across private, public or hybrid clouds. One of the challenges that will emerge will be the proliferation of programming interfaces. Applications will be tied to a specific platform.
Here come private clouds
Private clouds will start to gain traction, as the coming year should allow companies to leverage cloud technology with greater security and compliance controls. Prospective consumers will be attracted by better automation and self service for users, but these early adopters will be met with challenging decisions and integration headaches due to a general lack of standards.
As private cloud technologies are adopted, managers will start to grow comfortable with the use of cloud technologies inside their walls. As a result, they will start to look more seriously at the cost/benefit analysis of private versus public clouds. More efforts will be taken to verify the promises of the cloud in terms of cost savings and the ability to deliver functionality quickly.
The acceptance of hybrid clouds
Companies will start to take a more serious look at building hybrid clouds that better integrate existing enterprise applications with cloud-based applications. GoGrid has already announced a hybrid service, and several others will also be launched in 2010 from major cloud providers.
The proliferation of different services will lead to several models designed to meet the needs of different companies. Most will not prove practical, but a few models will emerge that help balance the needs of security, compliance and cost savings in a practical way. Although hybrid systems will eventually dominate the cloud, they will struggle over the next several years with system integration challenges.
Security remains a top concern
The number one concern about cloud computing will continue to be security. It's going to take a long time for companies and their regulators to let sensitive data loose on the Internet. The stream of record-breaking credit card data thefts and privacy breaches will keep data managers wary about losing physical access to their servers.
Work on improving standards and policies for security in the cloud will continue throughout the year, and several new security-enhanced cloud offerings will be announced.
The birth of botnets
The first botnet in the cloud was recently discovered at Amazon. In this case, the cloud was being used to distribute malware code used for capturing banking information from consumers.
In 2010, there will be several large scale incidents reported in which cloud infrastructure is used for controlling large-scale botnets or collecting data from compromised computers. There will be at least one report where a cloud-based application is used to automatically generate new Web pages optimized on the fly to capture Google search traffic on popular newsworthy query terms.
Meanwhile, hackers will build larger, cloud-like infrastructures as the profits from Internet crime feeds back into new technologies.
The API wars continue
The number of Cloud APIs will continue to grow for at least another year. Last year saw the release of Citrix's Xen Cloud, VMware's VCloud and Red Hat's Delta Cloud. Amazon, however, still rules this arena with the popularity of the Amazon Web Services API. The Distributed Management Task Force (DTMF) will release another API this year created by its members (which does not include Amazon).
The bubble won't burst...yet
Investors are liable to overinvest in the cloud as startups cloudwash their offerings to capitalize on the hype around the cloud. Eventually, this will lead to a bubble and several high profile cloud technology companies will go out of business. But it'll be a year or two before the cloud bubble bursts.
George Lawton is a contributor to SearchCloudComputing.com.