While I am sure there will be many exciting cloud computing developments in the coming year, perhaps the most exciting one will be that cloud computing will no longer be exciting. As case studies of the benefits of cloud are beginning to surface in even the most conservative and security conscious of domains such as healthcare, government, and accounting, its benefits are certainly becoming much more broadly understood. Thus, cloud itself will not be that exciting. With that as context, here are a few things I expect might happen in 2013:
1. The year of community clouds
Community clouds provide service to members of groups with shared objectives or constraints. It is in the context of the latter that I believe the popularity of community clouds will rise in 2013. Organizations with common challenges such as the security and compliance constraints shared by healthcare organizations can better address those requirements by leveraging the high caliber resources and personnel that community clouds can provide. In addition, it will become more widely understood that community clouds of sufficient size can provide most, if not all, of the economic benefits of public clouds. Public cloud providers will also realize this presents good business opportunities and they will begin to increase their specialized, community, or vertical cloud offerings.
2. Brace for brokers
Though still nascent, next year I expect to see some (cloud) service brokers emerge. While it won’t become the dominant model in 2013, I do expect that organizations will – consciously or subconsciously – begin preparing for that it. They will start to think harder about service level agreements (SLAs) and service models that support it. Brokers who provide “one throat to grab” SLAs will become increasingly attractive as organizations become more comfortable with the various types of services they should acquire from the cloud, and as the service landscape becomes even more complex. In larger enterprises, savvy IT leaders and CIOs will begin to adopt the broker role; and that transition may be imperceptible to most. We will also see the return of an emphasis on service-oriented architectures (SOA) that provide flexibility and enable businesses to get the most from cloud services.
3. SLAs take center stage
The buzz surrounding cloud SLAs has begun to increase of late. I expect discussion and debate over cloud SLAs to reach a crescendo in the coming year. As businesses of all sizes begin to further leverage cloud services they will get serious about SLAs and how to measure them. A serious or spectacular service related event (good or bad) may serve as the impetus for increased focus. Larger enterprises – which have lots of experience creating and negotiating both sides of SLAs – will help drive discipline, completeness, and sanity to cloud SLAs; as will the large providers they have long trusted, as those providers increase their cloud service offerings.
As the increased adoption of cloud services by larger businesses delivers an incentive to provide more reasonable SLAs – and, more importantly, the resilience, systems, and processes required to ensure SLA violations are unlikely to be triggered – experienced providers, both large and small, will offer more robust and reasonable SLAs and others will be forced to follow. Though I anticipate positive progress, there’s one caveat: just because a provider commits to an SLA does not mean they are capable of delivering to it.
4. Apps get the wrecking ball
OK, not so much the wrecking ball. More like a precise renovation driven both by cloud and mobile computing. Today’s mobile applications have proven the value that atomization (delivering small, limited – or even single – function applications) delivers to both the app consumer and the app provider. Certainly cloud services will need to support applications of this nature, though there is another trend I expect to see emerge in 2013. More businesses will begin to realize that pulling functionality out of their existing, large applications and into atomized services will enable them to respond to requests for changes more quickly. Changes to these smaller services will require less testing (compared to the mammoth apps), will present much less risk, and will be much less costly to maintain and test. Extracting services in this way also creates an opportunity for some of those services to be provided via cloud computing. In addition more applications will be architected specifically for cloud computing. These cloud architected applications will exploit the increased resilience, agility, and performance cloud computing can offer. A few companies, Netflix for one, have already demonstrated many of those benefits.
5. A high-impact cyber attack is launched from a cloud
Those who specialize in IT security appear to broadly agree that a catastrophic, or highly visible or impactful, cyber attack is bound to happen. And just as cloud computing offers benefits such as performance, scalability, and resilience to legitimate businesses and citizens; it also offers those benefits to people with more sinister objectives. And, public cloud services may offer them the added benefit of anonymity, or at least the perception thereof. It affords those malevolent people with a platform from which they could launch a low-cost, high impact attack. While many providers are diligently looking for inbound attacks, they may not be equipped to sense something outbound. If they sense it, they may not be able to stop it (or stop it quickly enough), and they may even be prevented or delayed by the regulations and laws to which they are subject. Such an event could lead to even more tension between governments in the context of data location and other such regulations.
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” – Derek Bok
Like any sophomore, we in cloud computing have begun to learn from our experience, and from our freshman missteps. And, like most sophomores, we are likely to make a few more mistakes throughout our journey. Though I believe both cloud computing and business consumers’ understanding of its value, applicability, and benefits have matured immensely in the past year or two. Conversations have evolved from “if” to “what“, “when“, and “where,” and they will continue on this trajectory in 2013.
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.