Forecast: Cloudy but fine

Forecast: Cloudy but fine

The Cloud will be one of the top three drivers of significant technological change this year

Don’t worry, the Cloud isn’t about to clear in the foreseeable future. That’s the tip from industry experts analysing its outlook.

The Cloud was the industry buzzword in 2011 for good reason. The technology and market had matured enough to the point where businesses began to adopt it in earnest. But 2012 has opened with a new buzz phrase, Big Data. And while it is also tipped to have an impact this year, Ovum enterprise IT chief analyst, Tim Jennings, is predicting the Cloud will be one of the top three drivers of significant technological change this year.

“Organisations’ approach to Cloud will shift from a low-level Infrastructure-as-a-Service [IaaS]/cost-cutting discussion to a higher-level Platform-as-a-Service [PaaS]/Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] discussion,” he said. “Access to innovative mobile, social and collaborative apps underpinned by analytics and management reporting will drive adoption.”

The IT industry has always moved at a rapid pace, and none more so than in the Cloud space. Servcorp CIO, Marcus Moufarrige, has seen the Cloud market mature in the last six to 12 months, especially in the way people perceive it.

“There has been a massive evolution in people having the perception that the Cloud is a place to store your data,” he said. “It has become more of a more detailed review of how your sales and businesses processes work, and it’s coming into the mainstream.”

While SaaS and data hosting have been around for a long time, Moufarrige said people are now starting to realise that the integration of those two things is going to break down geographical barriers.

“Whilst that was the aim in the beginning, broadband infrastructure in almost every country now is really getting to a level that can support that,” he said. “There are also a lot more applications that are enabling people to change their sales and business processes to easily take advantage of what the Cloud can deliver.”

Important marker

Thomas Duryea EIS national practice manager, Rhys Evans, has also seen Cloud adoption become an important marker on the roadmap of many businesses.

“This is a key change from 12 months ago, when it was just on the radar and people were looking at it but not deploying it,” he said.

But the growth of the industry has meant that everybody now has a Cloud offering, which Evans feels has become an issue from a market perspective, as customers have to now figure out how to spot the good solution from the bad.

“Everyone is trying their best to push an offering, but in the next six months, I foresee a very definitive set of global Cloud providers with very solid offerings that will take over the market, as opposed to everybody having some form of Cloud available.”

With the maturation of the market, Cloud providers now have had to reassess where the opportunities lie in the market. IBM, for example, has kept a close on PaaS, a next generation Cloud platform services.

IBM global technology services Cloud computing executive, Dean Evans, sees enabling clients to move key enterprise business processes into Cloud environments to innovate, reduce costs and increase agility as a business opportunity.

VMware A/NZ pre-sales manager, Tim Hartman, said the Cloud trend was here to stay. When asked to sum the benefits it can deliver, Hartman broke it down to “business transformation through IT transformation”.

Evolving rapidly

“Cloud-based delivery of IT services is evolving rapidly in many different directions that present new opportunities for people to fundamentally do things better,” he said.

“We see customers and partners do things that are very innovative and in most cases see benefits that they hadn’t even expected.”

As an example, he said customers now had a lot more choice in what they deployed and where, how they were going to pay for it, and on what terms.

As Cloud computing has proven itself to be a “valid technology” and something that all markets, small, medium and large, can benefit from, Brennan IT managing director, Dave Stevens, feels that some of the opportunities around it might be in reselling other products instead of building your own environment from scratch.

“If you don’t get that critical scale, then you just won’t make money as a reseller of IaaS,” he said. “There are good opportunities for system integrators to find companies that already have good wholesale products and sell them on their behalf.”

However, the biggest change Evans has observed with the Cloud in the last 12 months is its maturation from a “land grab” where every integrator had a Cloud-something.

“What has happened is customers are figuring out what’s real and what’s not, and they are showing interest in very distinct Cloud areas such as disaster recovery [DR] and backup as a recovery system,” he said.

As such, customers are now looking at infrastructure and services being on a platform to support them.

While Ovum’s Jennings has also predicted that Big Data and analytics will be a key trend in 2012, where new data sources have the ability to create transformation opportunities, key players in the Cloud space are not worried about the Cloud being overlooked by customers.

“There are many links between Cloud, Big Data, analytics and handling large volumes of real time data,” Hartman said. “They are both current and exciting opportunities for now and the foreseeable future.”

Despite the buzz around Big Data, companies such as Brennan IT remain “well and truly focused” on IaaS and their Cloud offering.

“For us it’s less about the hype and more about technology that is actually going to deliver a benefit to the mid-market,” Stevens said. “The Cloud platform really does deliver all sorts of additional business outcomes such as high availability and disaster recovery, as well as lower cost computing as well.”

He said the Cloud is substantial and real and is going to remain significant for a long time to come. 

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