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Top ten predictions: The future of cloud computing

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This new era of cloud computing is behind some of the biggest shifts in business since the Industrial Revolution. Today, the genie is out of the bottle, and change is imminent and inevitable. We’re not alone in predicting a major role for cloud computing. Gartner placed cloud computing at the very top of its “Top Ten strategic technology areas for 2010” report, and virtually every research organization and think tank has declared it to be a technology that is destined to change the way we think about computing.

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There is no doubt that as a disruptive technology, cloud computing’s future is assured, but what will that future be? Following are ten predictions for how cloud computing will play into the future.

1.  Cloud infrastructure commoditizes, and prices fall.

Cloud computing already provides a pricing  advantage to end users, who gain access to high-end applications at entry-level prices. But the infrastructure, upon which the rest of the cloud lives, will also decrease in price as more major players enter into the market to provide commodity infrastructures to hold the increasing number of cloud applications. Meanwhile, the competition is steepening. Together, this will make it even cheaper for applications providers to enter into the market.

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2.  Open standards emerge as dominant in cloud platforms.

Cloud-based development becomes simpler, giving rise to greater competition from smaller players. It’s “déjà vu all over again” as the proprietary shakeout gives way to open systems. These open systems not only simplify development and provide for more robust applications, they allow for a greater level of customization, and they also answer the vexing question of what happens to an application if a provider goes out of business.

3.  Homesourcing becomes mainstream.

Cloud computing will drag us kicking and screaming out of our cubicles and into our homes. There will be resistance on several fronts, but the move is inevitable due to the incredible efficiency gains and cost savings to companies. Because applications and data no longer need to reside on the computer in front of us, the physical office is quickly becoming redundant.

4.  Corporate processes become decentralized.

Larger companies take advantage of the decentralization made possible by cloud computing. This leads to a greater level of outsourcing, which in turns triggers the need for more smaller companies to fill the need for those outsourced services.

5.  A new wave of entrepreneurship emerges.

Cloud computing  ushers in the next great dotcom boom, only this time things are different. Cloud computing  has lowered the barriers to entry so that anyone can be a dotcom  superstar. Entrepreneurs won’t need to be programming wizards or venture backed. They only need an idea, ambition and a credit card.

6.  Smart phones evolve with cloud apps.

Smart phones like the iPhone and BlackBerry continue to gain functionality and power, and their reach extends further with easier access to wireless broadband. This makes smart phones more attractive as an actual working machine, and a tool for accessing productivity apps over the cloud for corporate use.

7.  The days of multi-million dollar enterprise software projects comes to an end.

Those years-long deployments, high failure rates and big price tags are already pushing their limits, and enterprise customers are demanding something better. Enterprise-level cloud computing apps will gradually replace those huge on-premises implementations with a more modular approach; and the existence of cloud platforms will encourage new entrants into the enterprise market. The days of multi-million IT projects will eventually fall by the wayside along with the fall of

ground-up Web 2.0 engineering. Think about it – who, these days, would want to write an e-commerce website from the ground up when you can rent an e-commerce server? Yesterday’s million dollar systems only cost a few dollars today. Likewise, cloud platforms will become the norm rather than the exception. The same thing is happening with other types of platforms, from social platforms to enterprise business systems.

8.  Cloud computing penetrates all areas of business management.

The earliest applications delivered more consumer-oriented applications and services, although cloud computing is by no means a consumer-only technology. Already in widespread use by SOHO and small businesses, it is expanding into larger enterprises. The result will be that cloud applications will evolve to accommodate more mission- critical needs, delivering full-fledged management systems to the largest government agencies and corporations in the world.

9.  Big-name companies struggle for new identities.

Something fascinating happens when computing platforms change: the big IT boats get rocked. Hello IBM, do you remember that little company named Microsoft? Hello Microsoft, do you remember that little company named Google? Hello Facebook, do you remember that little company named??? The emergence of new cloud offerings from names like Rackspace will drive competition in the cloud infrastructure arena. Cloud platforms are enabling 10s of thousands of software newcomers. Cloud platforms will gain attention from infrastructure providers looking for new competitive advantages. In the end, several new brands will emerge, both from established players and newcomers to the market. The space will become more cluttered before eventually shaking out.

10. Social networking systems will evolve into collaborative management systems.

Today’s managers need to get things done despite growing challenges. Their teams are more scattered and complex… more difficult to motivate, coordinate and hold accountable. An honest manager will tell you that real work is still being done with spreadsheets and emails. For these reasons and more, the future of collaboration will be more focused on the emerging needs of mangers who are coping with more complexity and demands. They need more than social networking. They need interactive management systems with real reports.