Next year is THE year for cloud computing

Here is what Indu Kodukula, CTO of SunGard Availability Services thinks how cloud computing is likely to transform the computing industry landscape in 2010.

Commentary - Yogi Berra had it right - it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. It’s especially difficult to make predictions about the future in a new, industry-changing discipline like cloud computing.

Still, since that’s the task at hand, here is my view on how cloud computing is likely to transform the computing industry landscape in 2010.

Cloud computing will become mainstream and stop being a 5-letter word.
There is no doubt that cloud computing is at the peak of the hype cycle right now. And yet, when you talk to real customers, there is genuine interest in using the principles of cloud computing - virtualization, pay-as-you-go, and the ability to extend the enterprise boundary beyond the traditional firewall - to solve key CIO challenges. Specifically, capital constraints in an economic environment that continues to be challenging, combined with data-center overcrowding will lead CIOs to explore cloud computing providers that can serve their needs securely and deliver on SLAs. The specific manifestation of this trend will be the issuance of RFPs for cloud computing by Fortune 50 customers valued in the 8-figure range.

Cloud service providers will start to differentiate.
Today, all cloud vendors essentially have the same offering - a set of racks that offer unified computing, storage and network capability all tied together according to a pricing schedule that’s roughly comparable to what EC2 and S3 offer. This is fine when CIOs look at cloud computing with a benevolent twinkle in their eye as the latest buzzword from the industry. But as CIOs start to depend on cloud providers for part of their infrastructure, they will start demanding architectural guidance through the cloud deployment process, SLAs and maintenance of operational control in using the cloud. As a result, men will separate from the boys and those that can deliver cloud services while allowing CIOs to maintain operational control will start to pull away from the pack.

Further vendor consolidation will drive the new platform wars.
It’s pretty easy to visualize the four contenders for the “cloud platform” wars - IBM, Microsoft, Sun/Oracle and VMware/Cisco/EMC, with HP as a possible fifth contender. At the hardware and infrastructure level, all of these stacks (with the obvious exception of Microsoft) offer fairly similar value proposition - increasingly, the stack will be fought at the software level. We will start to see cloud applications that are truly elastic while maintaining their enterprise grade characteristics. “Orchestration” - a truly horrible term since it means everything and nothing, but should really be best thought of as compositing underlying cloud components to deliver meaningful applications - will achieve definition.

Cloud-driven business recovery offerings targeted at enterprises will appear.
There are already cloud-based backup and recovery offerings in the industry, but most of these are geared towards small and medium enterprises. However, in 2010, enterprise-grade, cloud-based backup, replication and recovery solutions will be available. As a result, CIOs will be able to tier their applications and thereby ensure that application and business continuity are now possible for an entire class of applications that they could not afford to protect earlier.

Indu Kodukula is executive vice president of Products and chief technology officer for SunGard Availability Services.