The future of cloud computing: 9 trends for 2012

The view of cloud computing remains mixed as the technology brings benefits and risks in equal measures. Here's what 39 major tech firms said about it.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor


We're all about seeing around corners here at ZDNet, frequently taking the pulse of the technology industry to determine where it's headed next.

Venture capital firms are interested in the same thing -- for them, the difference between right and wrong is measured in (millions of) dollars.

North Bridge Venture Partners, which is split between Boston and San Mateo, released a survey this morning on the future of cloud computing. The firm polled 785 people at 39 high-profile enterprise technology companies -- Akamai, AWS, Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, SAP and VMware among them -- to see where their respective heads are at with regard to cloud computing.


Since North Bridge is in the business of putting its money where its mouth is, the details matter.

Here's what they found:

  1. The cloud is mature -- for some. Half of all respondents said they were confident that cloud solutions are viable for mission critical business applications.
  2. Scalability is driving adoption. Fifty-seven percent of companies said it was the top reason that they switched to the cloud. (Business agility was a close second.)
  3. Security remains the main hurdle. The cloud may be maturing, but security anxiety is the top reason companies don't make the switch -- 55 percent of respondents expressed concern about it. (Rounding out the top three: regulatory compliance and vendor lock-in.)
  4. SaaS leads in dollars spent. A whopping 82 percent of respondents said they use software-as-a-service offerings today. An additional six percent said they'd use it within five years.
  5. But PaaS and IaaS aren't far behind. There's a lot of interest in platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service offerings. Forty percent of respondents use PaaS today but 72 percent said they'd adopt it in the next five years; IaaS, 51 percent to 66 percent.
  6. Efficiency is the name of the game. At 43 percent, backup and archiving was the number one use case, followed by business continuity (25 percent), collaboration tools (22 percent) and big data processing (19 percent).
  7. But the savings picture is fuzzy. Fifty-three percent of respondents said that the cloud leads to a lower total cost of ownership, or TCO, and a less complex IT workflow.
  8. Public or private clouds? Both, actually. Forty percent of respondents said they are deploying public clouds; 36 percent said they're going with a hybrid approach. But 52 percent said they'd be using a hybrid approach within five years.
  9. Big data is the elephant in the room. Eighty percent of respondents deemed it the area most likely to be disrupted by cloud computing. Analytics, too.


North Bridge partner Michael Skok has more in a blog post announcing the results.

"As the business-driven equivalent of weather patterns play out," he writes, "we'll see a few early rainmakers that emerge as key enablers of these trends."

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