The Big Opportunities in the Cloud

Filed in Cloud Industry Insights by Ben Kepes | April 3, 2012 12:21 pm

CloudU Notebooks is a weekly blog series that explores topics from the CloudU certificate program[1] in bite sized chunks, written by me, Ben Kepes, curator of CloudU. How-to’s, interviews with industry giants, and the occasional opinion piece are what you can expect to find. If that’s your cup of tea, you can subscribe here[2].

Recently I was invited to take part in a series of private briefings where large financial institutions sat down with one or two industry analysts to “pick their brains” about what they’re seeing as broad trend in the sector. In an attempt to democratize what could otherwise be information kept within a walled garden, I decided to jot down my thoughts. Obviously no one will make large investment decisions based on the opinions of a humble industry observer, but it’s what I’m seeing…

I see a few big trends around Cloud, and separate them into various themes;

Cloud control across multiple geographies, stacks and delivery methods

A couple of years ago there was serious levels of angst amongst Cloud pundits about private Cloud. The purists were adamant that Private Cloud was an entirely flawed concept and that it simply could not deliver the benefits that organizations were looking for in the Public Cloud. On the other hand organizations (especially larger enterprises) were highly skeptical of the Public Cloud, listing it’s alleged shortcomings in terms of security, reliability, compliance and control.

It seems to be that we’ve moved beyond this point now and have arrived at a more moderate state where there is a general acceptance that different approaches work for different workloads and different organizations. Public Cloud, private Cloud and hybridized mixtures of the two are all “fair game”. Add to that a variety of different Cloud software approaches (from VMware, Microsoft, OpenStack, Amazon and many others) and you have a situation where choice is wide (a good thing) but overall management is difficult and complex (a bad thing).

This is where my first hot area comes from. I believe that offerings that span a number of different deployment methods and operating systems are a big area of opportunity. enStratus is a good example of a vendor dealing in this space, an company that offers organizations the ability to orchestrate, deploy and manage cloud solutions of a myriad different flavors.

Visibility is Hot

Another hot area I’m seeing is in the opportunity to increase the visibility that an organization gets in terms of the performance and cost of it’s Cloud services. A number of vendors are tackling the problem of giving an executive one dashboard where she can view all the Cloud spend within her organization, even that spend incurred by business units with a degree of autonomy over there buying decisions. This visibility reduces the potential negative impacts of Cloud adoption and hence is a significant lubricant to the Cloud on-ramp – as such it’s a big opportunity space.

Integration is Key

Moving up the stack a little, I’m am very excited by companies that provide solutions that enable disparate applications to be tied together. A number of different vendors are tackling this problem – both for SMBs and for enterprises. And their ultimate vision is to enable the simple bolting together of different applications, as simply as Lego blocks. Again any solution that reduces the pain of an organization moving to Cloud applications is valuable. Especially so given some research I have seen lately which found that uptake of Cloud applications is far higher when easy and deep integrations are available than when the application sits on its own. Expect a lot of development in this space in the time ahead.

API Enablement is a Massive Opportunity

Friend and co-Clouderati Christian Reilly speaks often of the fact that existing enterprises have vast catalogs of legacy applications running on old technology (there’s many a mainframe running a critical enterprise application. He remains adamant that these applications will be unlikely to attract the budget to be moved to the Cloud, and in fact the work involved in making this move outweighs any benefits the Cloud may deliver. What these applications do need however is to be enabled for more flexible data access. Employees are utilizing a variety of different form-factor devices and making huge use of mobile access, tools that help an enterprise enable the flexible consumption of core application data will be hugely valuable. It is Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that deliver these sorts of benefit.

A number of vendors exist in what I call the API enablement and management space and all have a slightly different perspective on the problem that organizations are trying to solve and the solution set needed going forwards. However these handful of vendors are all doing interesting things and providing some pretty amazing results for traditional organizations.

Summary

Cloud is a very broad term and encompasses a plethora of products and services. Within that however there are some areas that are ripe for some big moves to be made, in part because they unlock cloud as a broad approach to go really, really big. These are my top picks – but what are yours?

Endnotes:
  1. CloudU certificate program: http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/cloudu/curriculum
  2. here: http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/blog/author/ben-kepes/feed/

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