I love this time of year because it is one of those rare occasions during the corporate and product development process where creative ideas and concepts designed to stimulate future success enter the entrepreneurial blood stream. It is that rare moment where you have the benefit of an entire year of business fresh in your mind to build upon and an entire new year ahead of you to set new standards and push the envelope of success.
For our company and for the industry, 2010 was a huge year. We completed our Series A round of venture financing, relocated the company to the coveted North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus and tripled the size of our team. Meanwhile, the industry took meaningful steps toward maturity as mainstream private sector businesses and governments of all shapes and sizes began giving IaaS a very serious look. If 2010 was the year of formal organization, 2011 will be the year of some serious and meaningful growth. Not just for our company and our technology, but for the IaaS market as a whole.
In a post I wrote recently I did my best to explain some of the core characteristics that would be central to IaaS achieving mass adoption as the technology revolution marches forward. While I think it’s very difficult for anyone to offer up accurate predictions for the year ahead of any fledgling market, there are some specific ‘themes’ that I think, as we look back a year from now, will have clearly emerged as bell weather trends in the industry.
To borrow a format from Peter King, one of my favorite sports writers, here are the six things (6 things, 6fusion, get it?) I think I think (for the cloud biz in 2011):
- Hybridization Will Prove Critical to Enterprise Adoption. I’ve been to the edge and back and I have a few words of wisdom to share with my peers about the Enterprise cloud. Unless what you are doing bridges a gap between what exists inside the four walls of the enterprise data center and what might safely and securely exist outside of those four walls you are just another GUI in the Red Ocean peddling the same wares we’ve seen for years. Hybridization is something enterprise buyers will use to separate the crème from the crop in 2011.
- Regional Clouds Unite. The arms race among regional managed hosting providers to beef up for cloud services was evident in 2010. But the silo approach to building up IaaS on a regional basis will prove difficult if not impossible to compete on scale – and it won’t take long to figure this out. In 2011 expect to see the concept of broad-based IaaS federation become a much more prominent theme as owners of regional facilities and compute partner to create scale and increase market size in the quest to truly monetize their resources and compete with the national players.
- The Ecosystem is Bigger Than the Organism. The IaaS industry is beginning to realize that the creation and quantification of IaaS demand is much more important than the creation of supply. Its one thing to have the capability to power or enable the creation of IaaS resources, but it is entirely another to drive revenue and margin to the cloud. The emergence of business ecosystems will be a consistent theme for the coming year because partnering is the key to success in a nascent market. In 2011 you will see more and more eyebrow-raising deals announced based on ‘synergistic’ partnerships – partnerships that drive mutual revenue and margin between companies that are bound by the common interest of leveraging, distributing and powering IaaS.
- It’s All About the Channel. Building a global business tackling one end-user customer at a time doesn’t scale if your business is supposed to compete with the market pioneers. In order to generate a serious outbound push to globalize IaaS the cost of business acquisition will be too high for almost every player. In 2011 IaaS vendors will wake up to the fact that they need help in order to scale revenues and ultimately generate the ROI they are promising shareholders. Queue the channel gold rush.
- Communities Will Emerge. I subscribe to the notion that one day every business in every vertical will consume a form of public cloud – but we are not anywhere close to this reality. Large scale IaaS operated by a trusted third party and made available to a select group of common-interested stakeholders is a concept that has legs. Trust me on this one. Building out community clouds will emerge in 2011 as one of, if not the most important, concepts to help accelerate IaaS adoption.
- A Course Will Be Charted for an IaaS Futures Market. If you don’t subscribe to the notion that the final destination for this ride is a commodity exchange for compute, stop and take a look around. Spot markets emerged in 2010, much to the surprise of many industry pundits. But spot markets, as novel as they are, do not a true market make. The real money and the real opportunity are in futures trading. There are forces at work on this as I type away, and although you won’t actually see compute on a major exchange in 2011, do expect to see this theme to creep it’s way into mainstream IaaS thinking.
Ok, so with the predictions for themes and threads out of the way, I’ll conclude this post with the 6 things I’ll be watching closer than my wallet at a pick-pocket’s convention as 2011 progresses:
- Shifting Big Iron: Companies like HP and IBM have yet to emerge with serious IaaS plays and if you read the tea leaves they won’t any time soon. I’ll be watching to see if any of the whales in the pool make a splash in the IaaS business.
- Processor Plays: Intel made huge moves in the cloud in 2011 and you don’t need your tarot cards out to see where they are going. Anyone know what AMD is thinking these days? I’ll be watching to see if this gentle giant makes any moves that can rival thier kool-aid-drinking-all-in-pot-committed competitor.
- Government Clouds: The GSA announced a major IaaS initiative announcing a schedule of vendors that could be purchased from their schedule. But will these IaaS vendors truly make any money this way? I’m not so sure. My personal opinion is that the money is at a different level of the Public Sector. Can’t wait to see!
- Hypervisor Competition: KVM is rocketing up the relevance chart. No doubt. I’ll be watching to see how VMware plans to keep it’s toe-hold on the hypervisor market as IaaS enablement begins to drive more and more purchasing decisions.
- Network Providers: The accelerated adoption of cloud services will put a big piece of the pie squarely in the hands of the network operators. I will be watching to see how Network operators jockey to position themselves. I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that operators will follow the lead of companies like BT and DT.
- Disclosure Watch: As more and more private sector orgs make the move to the cloud, the greater the potential that something somewhere is going to go wrong. I will be keeping a watchful eye on key disclosures and cloud failures which could dramatically stunt the industry’s pace of growth.
6fusion’s first webinar of our 2011 series called: “Make your 2011 New Year’s cloud Resolution Now”. I’ll be elaborating on some of these points and drilling down into how service providers can drive new business to kick the session off. Come join the discussion!