I've been doing some research into cloud, the wheres, hows and whys, and it's thrown up some interesting (if not spectacularly surprising) results.
On the face of it, and if you're taken in by the hype, cloud is the next wave of technology before which we should all genuflect. But lets get this into perspective. Research forecasts predict that cloud computing will only represent about 10 percent of global enterprise technology spending in the longer term, with most of it going on the kinds of stuff it does now.
The one-to-one relationship which is the simple way of presenting cloud will be rare, by which I mean the idea of one company having one relationship with one cloud provider. It'll be a lot messier than that, as cloud providers will offer different services at different price points and in different geographies. Even smaller companies, who are the most likely to adopt one provider for all their IT services, are likely to buy in services from elsewhere as well. Dropbox anyone?
Expect to see cloud providers specialising in particular areas in terms of services, verticals, and geographies. Yes, geography still matters, as you do still care about where your data lives. Heard the story about how, under the US Patriot Act, the FBI ripped out an entire rack of servers in a datacentre just in order to grab one of them? All the service provider's other customers in that rack were seriously affected even though they had nothing to do with it. And there are legal stipulations on data location too.
Underneath all this there's a lot of centralising going on. Amazon Web Services (AWS) along with Rackspace is one of a handful of big cloud infrastructure providers. There's there's likely to be fewer of those over time, and they'll be big. On top of their infrastructure, other companies are building what the trade jargon calls over the top (OTT) services. For example, Dropbox's data lives on AWS kit. Who knew?
On top of the likes of AWS, service providers will increasingly build mash-ups of services from other providers. This is happening already of course. You can already find applications that bring together data from diverse sources and present it in new and useful ways. It will get easier as the tools mature, making this development methodology faster, cheaper and far more prevalent. All this needs open APIs to allow developers to grab data and make use of it, and organisations such as The Open Mashup Alliance are working in this direction.
But cloud, while an important element of any company's IT thinking, needs to be kept in perspective. Use it when it's appropriate, not when it's not, and don't be swept along by the hype. In other words, research it.
Of course, there are still some companies, like Apple, who really don't get the power of cloud. Ever tried syncing an iPhone to two separate computers? Can't be done without a good deal of chicanery, goat sacrifices and widdershins dancing, as the experience of a good friend attests. If instead, Apple used a cloud-based repository as Google does for Android...