Over the coming year, cloud computing will move out of its infancy and into adolescence. Indeed, as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings mature and gain wider market acceptance, the topic of cloud will quickly capture the attention of CEOs and their boards, and eventually lead to an enterprise-wide transformation centred on cloud enablement.
Already, there are a number of very positive signs that many of the key issues traditionally associated with cloud are starting to clear. For one, some of the more established cloud service providers have started to think seriously about the security, regulation and controls of their environments.
Salesforce.com, a leading SaaS provider, has adopted ISO 27001 standards, and both they and Amazon Web Services (a leading Infrastructure as a Service – or IaaS – provider) have completed SAS 70 certification, reflecting a desire to address user concerns from both a policy and process perspective.
Other growing pains will also be laid to rest as cloud continues to mature and develop. The traditional software licensing models, for example, will undergo substantial change as software moves from physical assets, onto virtualisation platforms, and consumers increasingly demand models that reflect the new elasticity of cloud computing over ones that tie them to static seats.
But other key enablers of cloud services will require a broader agreement on standardisation. Here, too, we are seeing greater momentum. In late October, 70 global firms with a combined IT spend of £32bn, came together in a rare display of solidarity to demand unified standards for cloud computing technology. They are right to do so: the standardisation of both software and hardware protocols will be critical if cloud is to be widely adopted.
And while the road to standardisation will be marked with fierce competition and some false starts, the industry is already taking early steps towards building consensus and new operating models. The Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA), for example, recently demonstrated its first cloud standard aimed at enabling data management interfaces across cloud vendor platforms.
Simultaneously, the Open Grid Forum (OGF) showcased their Open Cloud Computing Interface, an open application to support cloud infrastructure interoperability. These developments will certainly reduce some of the concerns around vendor lock-in, but it may be some time before an obvious leader emerges from the pack.
'Private cloud' models will also continue to develop during the coming year, whether proprietary to one organisation or shared within an integrated industry model. Already, many organisations are leveraging core technologies (such as Cisco's UCS) within their in-house architecture to achieve some of the flexibility and elasticity of public cloud within a closed system.
When combined with in-house virtualisation trends, these models represent an exciting evolution of current service provision standards that will better enable the eventual adoption of the wider public cloud.
But it will be another five years or so before businesses begin to feel comfortable migrating their core services out to the cloud