Cloud Forecast 2013: Seven Hot Trends

Cloud computing is hot. So what does that mean for you in IT? Here’s a look at seven trends and predictions for the cloud world in 2013:

A massive breach terrifies the market. Growing volumes of data (particularly big-data) in the cloud present a tempting target for hackers. Cybercriminals will shift their attention toward enterprise cloud providers, eventually resulting in a headline-grabbing data breach that will make the Sony outage look small. While this will rattle a few nerves, the resulting shakeout will be good for the industry, forcing out businesses that were in over their heads and highlighting security as a prime concern.

Hybrid clouds gain steam. As the enterprise becomes more comfortable with the cloud paradigm, IT will be deciding which services require a private cloud and which can be moved to a public cloud. The potential cost savings and flexibility of a public-cloud component will more than offset security concerns for many enterprises, and hybrid clouds will take off in 2013. Expect a corresponding bump in professional services specializing in setting up hybrid clouds.

Cloud backup adoption increases. Improved compression, increased comfort levels with cloud security, and falling bandwidth prices will lead to an uptick in cloud-based backup. Since these services will remain supplementary to on-site backup for some time, expect new, integrated, cloud-based offerings from existing enterprise storage vendors.

Google Compute Engine takes on Amazon EC2. With the arrival of Google Compute Engine earlier this year, Google threw the gauntlet at Amazon’s feet. Currently, Google offers a price advantage, while Amazon offers enhanced features. Those gaps should narrow as 2013 becomes a horse race. Google may be holding its price points artificially low while it acquires customers, so a slight bump in the next six to 12 months wouldn’t be unexpected. The big question is when Google will begin competing with Amazon for its Windows server business. In any case, competition is good news for customers, who now have a viable second option from a familiar brand.

Personal cloud demand increases, services stumble. Virtualization and a widening number of devices are increasing the demand for syncing data to a personal cloud service such as iCloud, SkyDrive, or the Google ecosystem. Unfortunately, none of these services are close to perfect, since they tend to focus too narrowly on a specific product feature (DropBox and file storage), work best on a specific type of device (iCloud and Apple, Google and Android), or aim at selling a specific product (Amazon Cloud Drive and music). ISVs are already doing their best to integrate with multiple personal cloud providers. Eventually, the providers themselves will open up. Until then, 2013 will be a battle for platform dominance, so don’t expect any massive adoption in the next 12 months.

Cloud service commoditization. By its very nature, cloud computing is elastic and impersonal. It’s the perfect commodity. Where you have commodities, you have brokers. In 2013, cloud brokers will come into their own, evolving from shopping consultants into legitimate, value-added services that manage multiple cloud provider relationships at once, audit provider practices, and adjust service levels and pricing on the fly. Ultimately, when businesses reach a certain scale — or when market shakeouts reduce the number of service providers — brokers may become less useful. For the near future, they will be an important part of the ecosystem for medium to large enterprises.

Traditional computing survives. Despite the legitimate benefits of cloud computing and all the hype surrounding its growth, it’s important to remember that traditional, on-site computing and storage will still account for the majority of computing in 2013, 2014, and probably several years to follow. Some applications and data simply cannot be placed in a cloud. Others can be, but there’s no compelling reason to change something that already works. In a world where millions of transactions per year are batched through COBOL applications, change doesn’t — and shouldn’t — happen overnight.

Cormac Foster
Cormac Foster is a writer, consultant, and skeptic who finds enterprise technology more exciting than he probably should. Before coming to ReadWrite, he spent time as an analyst at Jupiter Research (now part of Forrester), a writer at CNET and a business analyst. He's consulted with and written for dozens of tech companies, including Avocent, Research in Motion, Trend Micro and Veracode.
Cormac Foster
Cormac Foster
Tags: Cloud Computing,IT Security,Storage,Technology,Virtualization