Peering into the 2015 crystal ball – the clouds will reign

Last year I would have called this my IT predictions for 2015.  This year my crystal ball is pretty cloudy (no pun intended).  It’s safe to say that Apple Watches and Windows 10 will be delivered in some form.  Although cloud computing will certainly continue to make progress towards maturity, 2015 may be the year that the term “cloud computing” is finally retired (or perhaps re-invented with a new meaning).

Let me note that lots of predictions for 2015 are already available.  For some reason, 2015 seems to be a magic year.  One vision that first appeared in 2011, the Intel Cloud 2015 Vision, has been well publicized.  Gartner, Forrester and IDC have published their 2015 predictions.  It’s certainly nice that we can make totally new predictions every year!

Microsoft says we already live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world (has that really happened already?).  Clearly, most people would agree that the macro-goals are to make the world safer, easier to live in, more productive to work in, and more inclusive and interactive.  There seems to be a reasonable chance that these goals will begin to be realized in 2015.

It’s important to understand the context and perspective of those who make the predictions.  Basically, every stakeholder has hopes and dreams for cloud computing (including the analysts).  Often, predictions are just the transformation of wish lists (sorry, I meant “use cases”) into claims.  The idea is:  I need it today, so let’s claim it will happen in the next 12 months, and then maybe it will.

Gartner’s emerging technologies hype cycle identifies cloud computing as being pretty close to the bottom of the “trough of disillusionment”, and suggests that hybrid cloud is not far behind.  That would mean we should see some negative press and some reality level setting in 2015.  In fact, cloud computing may not live up to the lofty expectations with the current suite of products and the maturity of the various competitors.  We will also see increasing difficulties with deploying cloud solutions into current enterprise environments, issues with procurement processes with pay-as-you-go dynamic products, and multiple deficiencies in organizational ability to support cloud services.

Progress can be measured using three dimensions:

  • Technology progress – We may start to see Cloud V2.0 (i.e., the Inter-cloud) components from the manufacturers and new services for portability, interoperability and manageability from the service providers; Cloud technology progress in 2015 will include: multi-cloud solutions, application containers, management and identity integration;
  • Implementation progress – Hopefully, we will start to see more success stories from the early adopters (and early majority), indicating that the cloud chasm has been crossed, at least in some countries; and
  • Value progress – There should be at least some evidence that cloud computing is providing “value for money” and that the rapid expansion in the number of services and apps has resulted in better outcomes for both individuals and enterprises. Applications of cloud computing in healthcare would be strong evidence for this. As cloud computing passes Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment it should start to show more value to those using it.

Here are some of my thoughts on the journey towards cloud computing in 2015:

  1. Progress will continue to be rapid to the point where buyers can hardly keep up. At a recent Microsoft conference they stated their goal is a new announcement every week. If every provider is the same, that’s a lot of announcements to keep track of! Continuous improvement has certainly placed emphasis on the continuous part – hopefully the improvement aspect will not be forgotten. Look for many more steps towards the future “Digital Economy/Digital Society” in 2015.
  2. A high rate of change will be the norm throughout 2015 – changes in the services being offered, the APIs, the underlying resources used, service provider consolidation, reduction in prices, and so on. Just-in-time education and training will be important for sponsors, users, buyers and providers alike. Apparently CxO awareness of cloud computing is still quite low, especially its strategic importance, so 2015 may be a turning point in the overall understanding of how clouds can benefit the business.
  3. There will be more national, regional, municipal, and enterprise “cloud first” strategies adopted to complement those from the USA, UK and Australia. The “xx-first” label could even be expanded to include technologies such as “mobile first” and “SDN first.” In 2015, we should see some important developments in public sector cloud solutions as a result of these strategies.
  4. Solutions involving multiple clouds will become more important and more necessary. Hybrid cloud computing will expand to include cloud hierarchies – for example, a private on-premises cloud that integrates with several hosted customer clouds, one or more public clouds, and supplier clouds.
  5. Data centres will pop up in more and more locations. While data centre proliferation may be good for the economy and job creation, it increases supplier costs and complexity. At some point, cloud providers will need serious capacity planning tools to manage their resources, which can never really be infinite even if they give that appearance.
  6. A new form of “Noah’s Ark” could be needed for the worldwide flood of data. Even the IT OAM&P data generated from SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) services and the Internet of Anything/Everything will rapidly become unbounded – raw input data, metadata, output data, and derived management data will all be included. Everything we say, everything we see, everything we do, and everything all those “things” produce will all potentially be stored and processed for at least some period of time. It seems the tidal wave (or Tsunami?) of data will get much worse before we learn how to control, manage, and digest it.
  7. Privacy including security and protection will continue to be stressful for the cloud architects, operators and customers. In 2015, properly implemented cloud systems will be acknowledged to be at least as secure as any “legacy” system. Unfortunately, that won’t eliminate breaches and other incidents, but it will be harder to distinguish whether it was the cloud or an in-house system that caused the problem. Related areas to watch in 2015 include identity management, single sign on, and the whole area of naming and addressing.
  8. Standards to provide an industry-wide basis for clouds will continue developed, although always too slowly for most people. Standardization organizations will expand to include new requirements. Most importantly, there may be some consolidation and increased collaboration among standards development organizations around the world.
  9. In 2015, we will see many IoT-like announcements, even though they may not all be labeled as such. More and more cars will be connected to the Internet. Wearables associated with people should be independently addressable. Home computing will evolve as components become increasingly integrated and collaborative. Mobile and cloud-based financial services will become more sophisticated and also more popular – your bank account may become a “thing” from an IoT perspective. Robotic devices going beyond vacuum cleaners will be available (JIBO, for example).
  10. There will be significant developments in all areas of the “-ilities.” This includes (but is not a complete list!): Interoperability, Portability, Usability, Accessibility, Manageability, Confidentiality, and even Credibility.

There are many ways to slice and dice cloud computing for the purpose of making predictions.  The perspectives of the consumer, the enterprise, the data centre provider, the network provider and the broker will all be very different and all important.  In 2015, I believe there will be increased emphasis on aligning these perspectives through agreement on complex use cases and service level agreements.

I think an argument can also be made that enterprise cloud computing has, to date, been primarily vendor-driven.  There is a good chance that, in 2015, this will change to a customer-pull marketplace in which providers are expected to respond more directly and quickly to specific customer demands.

All in all, it’s going to be an exciting year for “cloudies” and there will be many opportunities for innovators to make an impact and to prosper.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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