2013: What happens in the cloud

January 11, 2013: 11:45 AM ET

A look at what's in store for cloud computing next year.

By Mathew Lodge, contributor

lodgeFORTUNE -- Last year was a big year for cloud, with rapid growth in consumption, and 2013 looks like it will be even bigger. Last year, I was rash enough to make five predictions for the rapidly-changing cloud computing space. It's time to be called to account, to see if I was Nate Silver or Nostradamus.

I'll rate last year's prophecies Mythbusters-style: confirmed, plausible or busted.

1) Private cloud grows bigger, faster: Plausible

There was a big acceleration in vendor investment in private cloud products and services in 2012, but public cloud also grew very quickly – hence the plausible rating. Many public cloud providers embraced private:  Amazon Web Services (AWS, the grand-daddy of IaaS) formed a partnership with Eucalyptus for an API-compatible private cloud, Rackspace announced its private OpenStack cloud initiative, VMware launched its vCloud Suite to provide an integrated cloud infrastructure, and OpenStack announced a wide array of distributions targeted at private cloud dollars.

2) Hybrid cloud continues to grow: Confirmed

This year, Gartner acknowledged that hybrid cloud computing was necessary, embracing the term and positing that "hybrid cloud" is replacing "cloud computing" as the category term. A "completely unscientific" poll of the audience at Gartner's Datacenter Conference in November also revealed a strong appetite for hybrid cloud.

Organizations around the globe, like eMeter (Siemens), Oxford University and SEGA Europe leverage hybrid cloud for an array of needs such as accessibility to their IT infrastructure, centralized IT services, IT agility and speed. And, pretty much everyone with a private cloud play announced some form of hybrid cloud interoperability approach.

3) PaaS reduces demand for developer-centric IaaS: Busted

PaaS certainly expanded in 2012, but there's no evidence this was at the expense of developer-centric IaaS. AppFog, ActiveState, Tier 3 and Uhuru all launched PaaS offerings based on Cloud Foundry; Microsoft doubled-down on its Azure PaaS; and IaaS adoption continues to grow at the same time. It'll be interesting to see what 2013 brings for PaaS.

4) There will be further cloud outages, driving greater awareness of service quality: Plausible

There were certainly more cloud outages, but little evidence of service quality awareness. The proof: even though another hiccup of AWS' Elastic Block Store (EBS) took out major web sites and services in late October, there were few public defections. That's possibly because it's incredibly difficult to move an application off AWS to another cloud. Fundamentally, cloud adoption has been about delivering agility, and it seems that many organizations are willing to trade off reliability and uptime to achieve it.

5) Organizations will continue to assume that private clouds have Hogwarts-like magical security protections: Confirmed.

Surveys throughout 2012 continued to show that respondents believe private clouds share the same kind of magical protection. A recent ESG survey commissioned by VMware showed that security remains the number one concern of those who have yet to adopt public cloud. Many believe that owning or leasing the walls around servers confers greater security, despite the threat landscape and confidentiality risks being identical for private and public clouds.

The 2012 final analysis: two confirmed, two plausible and one busted.  Enough to encourage me to look ahead to 2013:

-       Enterprise becomes the key cloud battle ground: during AWS' first cloud customer conference in November, its messaging, targets, speakers and keynotes were all about winning enterprise business, a major shift away from the developer audience that has fueled AWS' growth to date.  But VMware, Microsoft, IBM, HP and many other players – large and small – also target the enterprise with their own cloud strategies. The demand is there: enterprise appetite for the cloud was amply demonstrated in 2012. The result? A major battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the average company – not just Silicon Valley innovators.

-       Hybrid Cloud accelerates: Some public cloud providers continue to froth at the mouth at the mention of private cloud. Yet organizations continue to reap the benefits of standardizing and automating their own infrastructure with private cloud, while also sweating existing assets, maintaining exiting compliance regimes, and maintaining complex integrations with existing applications and data. The clear message from enterprises is that they need the best of both worlds: strong integration between what they already have, their own private clouds, and the agility and cost advantages that public cloud brings.

-       Chaos monkeys continue to cause chaos: before Christmas Eve, perhaps the only application running on AWS that hadn't gone down when that service experiences a serious problem is the Netflix streaming website. But despite what recently happened to Amazon's North Virginia data centers, Netflix's resilience is tested by The Chaos Monkey, a tool designed by Netflix to randomly kill components of the application. Is Netflix streaming an outlier, the product of a super-talented engineering team and carefully crafted cultural discipline, or a postcard from the bleeding edge future of cloud application architectures? Netflix is very open with its architecture, design and organizational approach – despite direct competition from Amazon itself with its Instant Video offering – because it knows that only a handful of organizations can replicate the skillset and culture required to make this application as resilient as it is. And that's why I predict that its unique and aggressive approach to resiliency will remain an outlier rather than a model in 2013. The cloud needs a different approach to application resiliency – one that does not assume super-human engineering and culture behind every single application.

-       Cloud drives a healthy re-examination of IT's capabilities and organizational identity: CIOs get that the business expects them to act more like a service provider and less like a manager of technology. The problem is how to get there from here, and whether traditional IT staff can adapt to the changing landscape. The accelerating adoption of public clouds will be a key forcing function in 2013.

It's safe to say that 2012 was a year of tremendous adoption and learning across the industry. Only time will tell what happens this coming year, but if I were to channel Nate Silver or Nostradamus, I'd say that 2013 will be another big year for cloud.

Mathew Lodge is Vice President, Cloud Services with VMware.

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