2013 is poised to be another great year for the cloud computing market. It is still early enough in the adoption cycle of cloud technologies, especially for infrastructure and platform services, that the players in the market can look forward to strong growth. The drivers that led many companies to seek cloud alternatives in order to optimize their costs should also remain in place for this year: uncertainty regarding economic growth and stakeholder pressures for medium and large companies; and the advantages of not having to purchase hardware upfront for small businesses and startups.
We may even see a multiplication of the power of these drivers due to the increased ease-of-access to cloud services. Over the course of 2012, most cloud service providers adjusted their tools and offerings to bring a more self-service, easy-to-start approach to the cloud. There was also a huge evolution in the understanding of the benefits (and the drawbacks) of adopting the cloud, mainly on the infrastructure layer. This has made it much easier for companies to make an informed decision about the move to the cloud, which in turns lead to an increased adoption rate.
These, however, are only the macro-scale trends for the market. Many of them are good not only for 2013, but for the following years as well. There are many other, more specific, trends that may have a significant impact on the cloud market on a shorter timeframe. I chose, here, what I consider to be the four most important ones to explore.
While cloud computing is still a headlines-grabbing IT buzzword, Big Data is definitely the IT buzzword for 2013. Towards the end of 2012 we saw increasing coverage related to it, be it in the form of blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, or any other conceivable medium. Big Data is quickly becoming a concept that’s as mainstream as the cloud, which is an excellent thing, since the two technologies are so strongly tied together.
Without cloud computing Big Data space would only be another concept being pushed by enterprise software companies, mainly database-focused ones such as Oracle. Handling most Big Data workloads, even with the shiniest new tools available in the market, requires massive amounts of processing power, not to mention storage capacity, albeit only for short periods of time. In other words, Big Data workloads are one of the textbook scenarios for showcasing the benefits of the cloud.
If the cloud computing market hadn’t evolved to its present state, it would be almost impossible to create startups to operate on this market. The sheer hardware and software costs would make any venture into what is defined as the Big Data space (over 5 Terabytes of usually unstructured data) impossible for most companies, let alone small ones. Fortunately, it has evolved, and we’re now witnessing an explosion of new companies, products and services focused on Big Data.
Given their requirements, it is only natural that companies that employ cloud services to operate on this space become some of the key customers of cloud service providers, not only in financial terms, but also in helping them further develop their offerings. There is huge growth potential for cloud offerings related to Big Data that goes beyond simply software-as-a-service offerings focused on this market. Infrastructure offerings such as high-memory instances or machines with solid state disks (which some providers, such as Amazon, already offer) can also make big inroads on this market.
One of the easiest things to forget with respect to cloud computing is its dependence on the underlying network (both the internet and the internal networks of datacenters). As usage grows, the importance of maintaining functional and efficient networks becomes ever more important. The growth of Big Data applications also has a huge impact on networks: all that data needs to be transferred somehow.
Most modern cloud-based software relies heavily on distributed systems, virtualized storage, and other technologies that are directly impacted by the performance of the network upon which they are running. Furthermore, the web is the access medium for end-users to access their servers, data and applications. The increased demand for cloud computing, then, is sure to lead to an increased demand for network-related technologies and professionals.
The Infrastructure-as-a-Service market, while still growing strongly and attracting new competitors, isn’t really the focus for most cloud vendors. The places where everyone wants to be are the Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service markets, where there are much better margins to be had. In fact, even Amazon and Rackspace, arguably the two leaders in the IaaS market, are quickly launching new services focused on the upper layers of the cloud stack: Amazon with its myriad cloud services beyond EC2 and S3, and Rackspace with Cloud Databases.
This trend of new services that move further away from the infrastructure layer will continue throughout 2013. Companies looking to move upmarket, however, face many of the same challenges they faced when first moving into the cloud computing market: explaining the services and how they work to customers, convincing them of the benefits of adopting these services in place of their traditional counterparts, and so on.
As I mentioned before, 2013 has everything to be another exciting year in the cloud computing market. From the increased competition to the new services being offered, there are sure to be many interesting developments for everyone to see.