Joe McKendrick | Forbes

Every year at this time, analysts, prognosticators and pundits alike try to size up the year ahead in technology. And — no surprise — cloud computing is this year’s hottest topic. Cloud is already a force to be reckoned with on the business technology scene — IT executives, vendors and analysts alike are trying to keep up to determine what it all really means and where it is taking us.

To that end, I culled analysts’ prediction lists for 2013 and identified some practical predictions that are likely to come to pass, if they haven’t done so already. Here are some of the predictions that really make sense:

1) More hosted private clouds: They’re not on-premises, but they’re not public shared services either. Over the coming year, there will be a movement to private clouds manged by someone else, off-premises, says IDC’s Chris Morris. It will be more cost effective as well, IDC says. “For critical applications, only a secure, non-shared private cloud will pass all compliance requirements. Initial enterprise strategies for on-premises private cloud environments have been limited by cost and time overruns and while [virtual private cloud] solutions have provided an effective solution for some organizations.”

2) Cloud and mobile becoming one. This is an interesting one from Forrester’s John Staten. Many cloud projects are driven by the need to mobile access to back-end applications. “More often than not, we are finding mobile applications connected to cloud-based back-end services (increasingly to commercial mobile-back-ends-as-a-service) that can elastically respond to mobile client engagements and shield your data center from this traffic. Nearly every software-as-a-service (SaaS) application has a mobile client now, which is proof of the model as well.”

3) The new PCs — personal clouds. Gartner predicts the personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where individuals “keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and center their digital lives.” (And still can be called PCs, by the way.)  “The personal cloud will entail the unique collection of services, Web destinations and connectivity that will become the home of computing and communication activities.” And, Gartner optimistically predicts, “no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate. The personal cloud shifts the focus from the client device to cloud-based services delivered across devices.” (See “cloud and mobile becoming one, above.)

4) More cloud services brokerages. Gartner predicts that IT organizations will increasingly be assuming internal “cloud services brokerage” roles — overseeing  the provisioning and consumption of  heterogeneous and often complex cloud services for “their internal users and external business partners.”

5) The rise of industry-specific and community clouds.  Look for ”clouds that are purpose-built to serve specific vertical markets, such as healthcare, finance, retail, and manufacturing,” says Dave Linthicum, CTO & founder of Blue Mountain Labs in Cloud Computing Journal. This will provide for the demands of the “specialized security, processes, and compliance requirements for each vertical market.”  Brian Patrick Donaghy , CEO of Appcore, (also quoted in Cloud Computing) says specific industry regulations will increasingly be addressed through what he calls ”community clouds.” A prime example are those arising in response to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations around standards for health-related data protection and storage. Another example is a telco community cloud provided specifically for telco disaster recovery to meet specific FCC regulations.

6) Cloud talent shortages looms. IDC warns of impending talent shortages that will emerge as a major differentiator for innovation and potentially as a constraint to enterprise technology adoption. Complicating this challenge is the factt hat cloud engagements are coming from all different directions across businesses. “The unavailability of appropriate IT talent is being exacerbated by an expansion of technology procurement from IT to business units and consumers,” the consultancy warns. “The IT team is no longer just a team of system administrators, DBAs, network managers and application developers but must also include service delivery managers, contract managers, relationship managers and business analysts.”

7) “Cloud” as a defining term fades. Forrester Research’s James Staten predicts that “we’ll finally stop saying that everything is going ‘cloud,’ and get real about what fits and what doesn’t.”  Sam Johnston , Director of Cloud & IT Services at Equinix , agrees, adding that “anyone with ‘cloud’ in their company and/or product names will scramble to rebrand… how many companies do you see with generic terms like ‘internet’ or ‘client/server’ in their names today?” As an added bonus, he says in Cloud Computing Journal, “there will also be a merciful fading out of the clunky-sounding ‘as-a-Service” or ‘aaS’ monikers, which “will also go the way of the dodo.”


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