Dealing out my tarot cards, here's what I see shaping up for 2014's cloud industry.
I may be wrong about the fine details, but I know tomorrow's broad strokes. IT spending is moving to the cloud. It won't be coming back. No matter how nervous people get about privacy and security, the bottom line of cloud cost-savings ensures that enterprise computing is going to the cloud and staying there.
I also think it's a sure bet that we're moving to hybrid cloud computing. Public clouds give us flexibility, private clouds give us control and security, and the happy medium for most businesses will be in the middle.
Now, let's get down to specifics.
1) Big money goes to cloud IT.
Businesses save money by turning to the cloud, but that doesn't meant they won't be spending cash — a lot of it — on the cloud. IDC predicts that in 2014 we'll be spending over $100 billion on the cloud. That sounds about right to me.
If you want to make money from technology in 2014, you could do far worse than ignoring the gadget tech stocks and investing in the companies that supply hardware to data centers, network operation centers, and cloud providers. The infrastructure for a cloud-based IT economy is still being built.
2) 2014 will be the year Platform as a Service (PaaS) really kicks into gear.
Today, we all use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). They're easy to use and it's easy for management to get their heads around a hard drive in a cloud or a Web-based program. PaaS is more complicated, but I see it really coming on.
This is arising from the growing maturity of DevOps and the resulting creation of easy-to-use PaaS offerings. At the same time, businesses are trusting clouds more. This, in turn, means they're more likely to give the more complex PaaS programs a try.
3) Containers vs, virtualization.
Clouds depend on virtual machines. We all know that. Without virtualization, clouds would just be a rehash of client-server architectures. What you may not know is that containers - which offer most of the advantages of virtualization, with even lighter system resource requirements - are on their way.
A container is a segmented area of memory with corresponding CPU time and disk storage space where only the core application files and necessary libraries to support it exist. It's actually an old technology, but it's only recently become easy enough to gain popularity. The net result you can run even more instances of applications you need on your existing cloud hardware.
4) Cloud consolidation.
Today there are more cloud companies and cloud technologies than you can shake a stick at. It's not going to stay that way. 2014 is the year when we see who's really going to be in the cloud business for the long run and who's out.
If you're looking into investing in the cloud, take a long hard look at the companies you're considering using and their technologies. If they look shaky, you'll want to look for another partner.
5) Desktop as a Service (DaaS) finally gets going.
For decades vendors have tried to talk IT into using diskless workstations, thin clients, and virtual desktops. It never really worked. Oh, the arguments were fine — better security, ease of management, easy deployment, etc. etc. In the end, users always wanted final control of their PCs and that was always the end of it.
Today, many end users use bring-your-own-device (BYOD) smartphones and tablets for work. You cannot believe in BYOD all you want. It won't do any good. People are using their own devices. And, curiously enough, I think this will actually lead to more businesses using DaaS.
After all, BYOD users need some kind of universal access to corporate services and resources, and DaaS gives them exactly that. DaaS won't be for everyone. SaaS will be fine for many employees. But for knowledge workers, DaaS may just what they need. I know the idea of someone running say a Windows 7 virtual desktop on an iPad may sound quite silly, but I've seen companies do just that and you know what? They're pretty happy with it.
So there you have my predictions for the cloud in 2014. What about you? Where do you see it going?