Virtualization Technology News and Information
Skytap: 2011 - The Year of the Usable Cloud

What do Virtualization and Cloud executives think about 2011?  Find out in this series exclusive.

Contributed Article By Sundar Raghavan, chief product and marketing officer at Skytap

2011 - The Year of the Usable Cloud

Google Trends shows a steady and growing interest in cloud computing. The slope of interest is still pointing upwards, boding well for 2011. Cloud computing will remain a key initiative for CIOs, IT architects, enterprise application developers and software publishers.

Figure 1 - Google Trends for "Cloud Computing"

However, will cloud computing primarily be limited to IT and development community?  Can business users take advantage of the cloud model?

Usage patterns of cloud solutions show an acceleration of adoption by tech savvy dev/test users in 2010. These users embraced the cloud model to accelerate application deployment cycles for both existing and new enterprise applications. With recent innovations in usability and self-service capabilities, functional users in consulting, training, and sales activities who are close to line of business activities are becoming direct consumers of cloud services with little to no support from IT.  I believe 2011 will see an acceleration of adoption by this type of user.

Here is why.  Having established a recovery path in 2010, most businesses are looking to 2011 to gain agility and competitive advantage. Functional users close to the business are seeing how the cloud model allows them to collaborate with customers, iterate products faster and get to market quicker than the competition.  These users will choose cloud models that are simple, easy to use, ready to go and require minimal IT support versus those that require deep technical knowledge and coding.  Driven by this adoption curve, I believe 2011 will be the year when the "usable cloud" becomes a reality. Under this theme, here are my top five cloud computing predictions for 2011:

1.      Usability and collaboration will become a central theme for cloud automation

Business users who are planning for growth and productivity gains in 2011 will look at cloud automation as a way to quickly share and iterate new ideas and initiatives. In addition to dev/test teams, functional users from consulting, sales, customer training and partner management will expand their usage. These users will expect the cloud to provide Facebook-like simplicity and ease of use combined with enterprise grade support, security and control. Specifically, these users will look to the cloud to answer line of business questions such as, "Can I use the cloud to solve important business challenges? Can I leverage my current investment in applications and processes? Can I gain business agility and competitive advantage when I move to the cloud model?"  The most successful cloud services will be those that empower users to share and collaborate with customers and partners.

2.      Functional users will continue to prefer cloud models that run their existing enterprise applications without any rewrites

Functional users prefer the central tenets of the cloud model - on-demand resources, scalability, multi-tenancy driven economics and self-service provisioning. However, they are equally, if not more fond of their specific need applications that they have built over the years. Cloud solutions that power existing applications without major rewrites will experience faster adoption among functional users.    

3.      In enterprises, functional users will play equal part with IT users in evaluating and driving cloud adoption

Much of the discussion in cloud computing has been around technical features such as virtualization, load balancing and scalability. These technical features will continue to play an important role in cloud evaluation cycles.  However, Skytap anticipates that functional users will take point on evaluating cloud offerings and drive very specific solution requirements over the next year. Requirements such as usability, business process automation, workflow and time to value will equal the importance of technical specifications.  Solutions that deliver the best of both worlds will achieve faster traction.

4.      Pricing for cloud automation solutions will evolve to include per user pricing

As the adoption of cloud services by functional users grows, so will the need for pricing reform across the industry towards a user-based versus capacity-based model. Solutions that are simple and easy to use will be perceived to deliver more value in terms of business productivity and agility. Based on this definition of value, cloud providers will begin to offer services on a per user basis - similar to high value applications such as or Google Apps. Many will also offer distinct pricing for users at different levels. Vendors that charge based purely on usage will be under pressure to rapidly change their pricing model if they hope to compete in the market.

5.      "Hybrid Cloud" will continue to gain popularity among enterprise customers

Most enterprises have invested heavily in purpose-built applications that store a tremendous amount of business data and access in-house security models. The cloud will undoubtedly drive new business models and innovation, but it's clear the cloud must also leverage the business insights embedded in these in-house systems. Cloud automation solutions that enable seamless and secure connectivity between applications running in the cloud and on-premise enterprise applications will achieve better traction. We expect this trend to continue as more companies transform their IT operations through the adoption of cloud services.

The coming year is shaping up to be a truly dynamic time in the cloud market. The "Year of the Usable Cloud" will be marked by the continued introduction of innovative solutions, new business models based around per user pricing and the increased adoption of cloud services by savvy business users.

About the Author

Sundar Raghavan is chief product and marketing officer at Skytap, a leading provider of cloud automation solutions. Sundar is responsible for overall product direction, marketing strategy and execution. He is an industry veteran with a successful 18-year career in product and marketing roles at Google, Ariba, Arbor Software (now part of Oracle), and Microstrategy.

Published Monday, November 22, 2010 5:00 AM by David Marshall
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