2013 will likely go down as the year the cloud went mainstream. It was the year that small businesses and enterprises alike began taking a "cloud first" approach to their IT procurements, and largely dropped their fears of the public cloud in particular.
For firms such as Xero and RealEstate.com.au, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) proved tempting. For firms like Cash Converters and Canon, platform as a service (PaaS) allowed them to launch cloud-based applications for staff and consumers, respectively. For firms like BioPak and NRMA Motoring Services, software as a service (SaaS) was especially compelling.
Even normally conservative areas, such as the government and education sectors, have begun establishing extensive private cloud environments with a view to eventually bursting out to the public cloud.
So if 2013 was the year the cloud went mainstream, what does 2014 hold?
Cloud in 2014
Michael Warrilow, research director at Gartner, said the fruits of a "distinct mood change about enterprise cloud in Australia during 2013" would come to bear in 2014.
"During the last 10 months, many Australian enterprises went from cloud denial to beginning their cloud evaluation strategy. These activities will lead to cloud projects in 2014+, both on-premise and using cloud vendors.
"In 2014, there will be an increase in private cloud projects, as well as a greater increase in private cloud failure. To be successful at private cloud requires improvement in service delivery, process automation, and organisation structure. These are difficult, mostly non-technical issues, hence the likelihood of increasing failure."
There would also be further increase in competition for enterprise public cloud in Australia during 2014, with the greater risk being cost control, and potentially security.
For Sheng Liang, CTO Cloud Platforms Group at Citrix and founder of Cloud.com, the relentless growth of the public cloud will be one of the hallmarks of 2014.
"What's surprising is the degree to which major enterprises, which are very security conscious, are willing to move their compute infrastructure off-premise — whether to a purely public shared infrastructure like AWS, or some kind of hosted private cloud managed by a service provider running Citrix cloud platform or Apache cloud stack.
"Even companies as recently as a year or two ago were questioning the viability [of cloud] and were still wanting to hold onto their compute resources. Now they have adopted a cloud-first strategy, and that is public cloud and shared infrastructure. That is a surprise. That will continue to play out in 2014."
Simon Elisha, principal architect, AWS Australia and New Zealand, said a major trend in 2014 will be that of organisations increasingly migrating traditional workloads such as SharePoint, Oracle, and SAP out to the cloud.
"Organisations will look to aggressively innovate in their markets, particularly in the digital channel space, seeking to introduce product into the market more quickly and move in a more agile manner," he said.
"This will demand much faster access to infrastructure and the ability to experiment at low cost, and scale as needed. Organisations will [also] seek to leverage real-time analytics in their environment; understanding customer interactions, making recommendations, and providing live dashboards at a scale previously unattainable at economic cost."
Elisha said that higher cloud adoption would also be driven by the need to access skilled professionals, as well as specialists with key certifications and qualifications. Another feature of 2014 would be the application of cloud to a broader set of problems in their environment, now that they have confidence around aspects such as reliability, performance, and security.
"CIOs and IT managers have a renewed opportunity to be increasingly relevant to the businesses they serve," he said. "Being able to deliver more capability, faster and at a lower price point, enables organisations to be more competitive both locally and on the international stage.
"CIOs will seek to build teams with the right skill sets, experiences, and less-siloed structures to enable faster and higher-quality outcomes."
For Peter Nikoletatos, CIO at the Australian National University, the "as-a-service" model will see even more widespread adoption.
"I still think that the sweet spot is PaaS," he said. "This is where demonstrable value-add will occur. PaaS changes the game. Solutions like Azure will come into play here, for ANU at least.
"IaaS will be simpler going forward, as it is relatively low hanging fruit, and predictable — that is CPU, storage, cycles, etc.
"SaaS will be what becomes of commodity solutions moving to the cloud; for example, email, CRM, and enterprise project management. It's the scale and speed argument."
NetSuite managing director of APAC and Japan Mark Troselj said he expects to see increased competition on two fronts in 2014.
"The big cloud ERP players will emerge with new and rebranded products to take advantage of the SAP void," he said. "And new players will enter the market in a land grab for a share of an increasingly valuable market."
According to Troselj, 2014 will also see larger organisations that have existing investments in on-premises solutions begin to move parts of their business to the cloud, fuelling demand for big system integrators and driving impressive year-on-year market growth levels.
"We also anticipate more and more manufacturers and distributors will adopt omni-channel sales," he said. "In order to grow and expand their business, the ecommerce channel will be a top priority for such businesses in 2014 and beyond."