Cloud loses disruptive edge

For two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, cloud computing has ranked third on a CIO's top five priorities list.
So said Gartner vice president Tina Nunno at a the Gartner 2013 APAC local briefing, held yesterday in Hong Kong and attended by some 200 senior IT executives.
Gartner announced its 2013 top 10 technology priorities last week. Cloud computing trailed analytics/business intelligence and mobile technologies, which were ranked first and second respectively.
Nunno also advised that CIOs to anticipate significant changes over the next three years. Based on the Gartner 2013 CIO Survey, conducted between September and December last year on some 2,000 enterprises, 5% responded that all their critical applications and operations are already sourced via the cloud. Around 25% anticipated this will happen by 2016, and 45% indicated that they "do not know when."
At the event, Gartner vice president and fellow Stephen Prentice presented the firm's major IT predictions for 2013. These predictions highlighted what Gartner viewed as the “most disruptive” IT technologies or trends for the years between 2014 and 2017 - and the cloud did not get a look-in.
In the following interview with Asia Cloud Forum, Prentice explains why, and offers his views on several issues of cloud computing - ranging from its place on the Hype Cycle, how cloud is giving way to "big data" as the next loudest IT force, and the development of cloud standards.
Asia Cloud Forum: There is nothing cloud-specific in your list of predictions. Has cloud computing fully matured? Where is it heading?
Steve Prentice: I wouldn't say fully mature. But it's certainly more in the mainstream than it used to be. I wouldn't say people are taking it for granted -- people are aware of it. It has been featured in many of the predictions and some of the background. Cloud is becoming a delivery mechanism as it were.

The top predictions really are talking about disruptions, the new things, different things. And cloud is not as disruptive as it used to be. It's not new, and it's making steady progress.
In any Gartner Hype Cycle, a technology will normally undergo a trough period. Do you see cloud computing approaching the trough period any time soon?
Prentice: Cloud is probably going through the trough on the Hype Cycle. The Hype Cycle has two curves. The first, the big peak, is about the hype. And we've seen that with cloud for the last few years. The second curve, is the one with a steady uptake. Cloud has always been on that. So we're seeing companies that are using it [cloud] more and more. We are seeing the infrastructure of cloud improved. We're seeing the number of [cloud] service providers increased. It's steadily maturing.

We've probably not seen mainstream adoption as fast as it might have been. There have been security issues, and concerns that organizations have about cloud, globally. It just takes time, and the second curve is about steady adoption. I think cloud is making it quite up there, relatively slowly.

People don't talk about it [cloud] much anymore. That doesn't mean it has got away.
When you said "big data will replace cloud," what did you mean?
Prentice: Big data replaces cloud in the sense that it's the thing that everyone is talking about. It doesn't replace cloud in the sense that it is a replacement for it, it's a replacement talking point: everyone wants to know about big data, everyone sees big data being the next big thing, in the way that cloud was a few years ago.
What about cloud standards? Do you see any emerging ones?
Prentice: I'm not an expert in that area, but I certainly understand [cloud] standards are gradually coming in and people are feeling more confident [about cloud computing]. As you get more and more companies in there, you have more choices.

Standards in the IT world these days tend to come more from the market, instead of from the academic committees that we used to see 20 years ago. Therefore big vendors create the standards by having a dominant presence in the marketplace. And that's the sort of thing that we are seeing. You have big companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and vendors like Salesforce -- everyone is doing things in cloud. And as they do, it becomes more of a normal approach to business, and less and less something that is seen as potentially risky. But it has its ups and downs.
So cloud standards are likely to be driven by the industry. What about the role of governments? Will they take the lead in driving cloud standards development like China?
Prentice: Ah… that's an interesting one. I don't necessarily see they take the lead in driving [cloud standards]. But there are certainly great drivers in government circles -- not just in China -- for a "national cloud." Because they set in place their own legislation about data privacy, they are looking to protect jobs and all of the other sort of things. They look for a cloud presence that respects national boundaries, which of course means cloud and the internet struggle to do so under normal circumstances.

So whether they come up with standards, I don't think so, but they drive the development of standards, or they encourage organizations do deliver a standardized offering that is appropriate for government purposes.
Is cloud computing here to stay?
Prentice: Cloud computing here to stay. I don't see any reason why it will change. It’s a delivery model that suits the technology we've got. Generally speaking, people are interested in moving from products to services as technology becomes more of a commodity. There is less need, less desire to do it all ourselves. And cloud is simply the modern approach to deliver that. And we saw the precursors of cloud 30 years ago in time-sharing bureaus, when people decided that they wanted things but didn't necessarily want to be able to create everything themselves. And cloud is just the modern 21st century version of that.

Figure 1. Gartner's 2013 top IT predictions
By 2014…
  • IT hiring in major western markets will come predominantly from Asian-headquartered companies enjoying double-digit growth.
  • European Union directives will drive legislation to protect jobs, reducing offshoring by 20% through 2016.
  • Market consolidation displaces up to 20% of the top 100 IT services providers.
  • Employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices.
  • Software spending resulting from the proliferation of smart operation technology will increase by 25%.
  • Ninety percent of enterprises will bypass broad-scale deployment of Windows 8 until at least end of the year
  • Three of top five mobile handset vendors will be headquartered in China.
 By 2015…
  • "Big data" demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled.
  • Forty percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations.
 By 2016…
  • Wearable smart electronics in shoes, "tattoos" and accessories will emerge as a US$10 billion industry.
 By 2017…
  • Forty percent of enterprise contact information will have leaked into Facebook via employees' increased use of mobile device collaboration applications.
(Source: "Top Predictions for 2013: Balancing Economics, Risk, Opportunity & Innovation," Gartner, Janurary 2013)