2012 Cloud Predictions – Winners & Losers

The year 2012 brought a significant amount of growth in enterprise use of cloud services but did it fulfill our expectations? With just five weeks left in the year, it’s time to reflect on our predictions for this market in 2012. Back in November 2011 we said that the cloud market was entering a period of rebellion, defiance, exploration, and growth, not unlike the awkward teenage years of a person’s life. The market certainly showed signs of teen-like behavior in 2012, but many of the changes we foresaw, it appears, will take several years to play out.

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Cloud Keys An Era Of New IT Responsiveness And Efficiency

James Staten and I wrote this vision of the future of cloud computing. The full report is available to Forrester clients at this link. The research is part of Forrester’s playbook to advise CIOs on productive use of cloud computing and is relevant to application development and delivery leaders as well.  

This research charts the shifts taking place in the market as indicated by the most advanced cloud developers and consumers. In the future, look for the popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) models to become much more flexible by allowing greater customization and integration. Look for more pragmatic cloud development platforms that cross the traditional cloud service boundaries of SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and IaaS. And look for good private and public cloud options — and simpler ways of integrating private-public hybrids.

The key takeaways from this research are:

  • IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS boundaries will fall. In the future, no cloud will be an island. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS will remain distinct but expand to anchor cloud platform ecosystems that weave together application, development platform, and infrastructure services. Business services built in these ecosystems will be easier to develop, better performing, more secure, and more cost-efficient.
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Platform-As-A-Service: Cloud Providers' Silver Bullet?

I’ve been writing about platform-as-a-service (PaaS) since the beginning of 2009, and we published our first Forrester Wave™ on the PaaS market about 18 months ago. While the lines between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are blurring in the minds of some end users and developers, delivering PaaS requires a lot more intellectual property on the part of the cloud provider. IaaS is “just” the offering of an industrialized infrastructure service — but full PaaS service turns the cloud provider basically into a real software vendor or VAR of a decent stack of software platform components.

The market has undergone amazing changes since 2009 and the market landscape has been shaken up considerably since the last Forrester Wave. Why? A number of vendors have joined the crowd from three different directions:

  • IaaS cloud providers such as Amazon are moving up the stack to PaaS. From advanced database, messaging, and parallel processing to identity management and federation services, Amazon is arming itself with a myriad of value-added PaaS services to combat margin pressure in the commoditizing pure infrastructure space. Other IaaS providers are about to follow, most by OEMing PaaS stacks like those from Cordys or LongJump, or some other PaaS stack that is available to third-party infrastructure provider models.
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Q: Which Apps Should I Move to the Cloud? A: Wrong Question

Out of all the inquiries I get from Forrester enterprise clients, the above question is by far the most common these days. However, the question shows that we have a lot to learn about true public cloud environments. 

I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but public clouds are not traditional hosting environments, and thus you can't just put any app that can be virtualized into the cloud and expect the same performance and resiliency. Apps in the cloud need to adapt to the cloud - not the other way around (at least not today). This means you shouldn't be thinking about what applications you can migrate to the cloud. That isn't the path to lower costs and greater flexibility. Instead, you should be thinking about how your company can best leverage cloud platforms to enable new capabilities. Then create those new capabilities as enhancements to your existing applications.

This advice should sound familiar if you have been in the IT business for more than a decade. Back in 1999 we did the same thing. As the Web was emerging, we didn't pick up our UNIX applications and move them to the web. We instead built new web capabilities and put them in front of the legacy systems (green screen scrapers, anyone?). The new web apps were built in a new way - using the LAMP stack, scaling out, and being geographically dispersed through hosting providers and content delivery networks. We learned new programming architectures, languages, and techniques for availability and performance. Cloud platforms require the same kind of thinking.

Sure cloud platforms build off the web generation - we still scale out via load balancing, HTML and Javascript are key components, and app servers and databases play key roles - but what's different this time are two key factors that demand your attention:

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