2012 Future of Cloud Computing - 2nd Annual Survey results

2012 Future of Cloud Survey Reveals New Cloud Formations

I’m excited to announce the results of the second annual Future of Cloud Computing Survey. This year, we saw nearly twice the participation with 785 respondents and dozens of collaborators, including vendors like Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Eucalyptus, Rackspace, SAP and VMWare.

What a difference a year can make.

In 2012, we’re seeing cloud vault ahead of its early shroud of doubt and skepticism with a full 50 percent of respondents reporting confidence in cloud for mission-critical applications. That’s up from 13 percent last year. We’re seeing software as a service (SaaS) as the primary type of cloud investment with 82 percent citing usage today and 84 percent looking to SaaS as the deployment model for new applications.

We’re also seeing surging interest in PaaS as the foundation for building new applications with 75% of respondents expecting to build new apps on a PaaS platform over the next five years.

While I personally can’t relate to or agree with every finding, it’s directionally clear that the winds of change have blown the cloud to a new level.

As an investor, I look beyond the horizontal layers of the cloud stack—IaaS, PaaS and SaaS—toward a more business-oriented view of how clouds are forming on the horizon. Most significantly, we’re seeing an overriding belief that cloud is disrupting software in fundamental and lasting ways. The majority of respondents see cloud as a disruptor to most software categories, with particular emphasis on big data, CRM, e-commerce, social and mobile.

Here, I see a number of interesting patterns, which you may think of as “cloud formations.” These formations reveal what I believe some of the breakthrough applications enabled by cloud.

1. Media + entertainment

Without massively and dynamically scalable commodity infrastructure, streaming music, video, rich, interactive games and other such on-demand diversions may be possible, but rendered infeasible at the scale and scope we’re witnessing today.

Cloud has made media and entertainment a fundamentally engrained, pervasive part of our daily experience and it’s shaping new generations of users who expect rich content on demand from the cloud to whatever device they’re using whether it’s their iPad via iCloud/iTunes or their TV via Roku and Netflix or their Mobile Phone via Spotify.

2. Social/collaboration

As Facebook approaches 1 billion users—roughly a sixth of the earth’s population—we should reflect on the importance of this milestone. If you’re skeptical you might think Facebook is just a productivity drain.

Nevertheless, Facebook is not just the world’s largest social network, it’s and example of what’s now available in the social graph that can be mined by add-ons products and services that extend its utility. And the so called “Facebook effect” is even more than that because it has engrained an enduring culture of social collaboration, which is extending into all manner of enterprise use cases, and sets the bar for expected ease of connection, collaboration, reach and scale in cloud based applications.

In my own portfolio, I’m seeing real enterprise applications of social collaboration with Acquia’s community-driven applications as the basis for tremendous value being realized by companies as diverse as Twitter, Mercedes and even the United States Government.

The Social & Collaboration cloud formation is enabling applications that enrich supply and demand chain relationships, improve customer intimacy and loyalty, enable collaborative, crowdsourced product design and development which draws us ever closer to the markets we serve.

3. Mobile/location

What makes our phones smart?

Certainly an ecosystem of cloud-delivered services in the form of content, applications, apps, video and games contributes to smart phones.

Today, smart phones are not only always on, but often personally upon us. By default, wherever we are, there they are. And they are becoming the primary on-ramp to the cloud as people to connect to everything from their email to their business processes.

And as personal GPS devices, they provide continuous location data.

This mobile and location cloud formation means that wherever we are, the need we have in that moment can be targeted to our location and situation.

4. E-commerce/payments

The cloud gets truly interesting when looking at these formations in the context of commerce.

Like a horticulturist identifying new innovation at the intersection of breeds and genes, cloud formations appear when you cross technology strains. For example, social commerce occurs when community ratings and reviews influence purchasing behavior (and they do!). Mobile commerce occurs when location-based offers are served up at the point of need. This type of “situational commerce” takes target segmentation to new levels of specificity: The market of you in the moment of now. 

The payments cloud is forming more slowly as the politics of control between merchants, banks and consumers is not an easy one to resolve. However the cloud is a key enabler as everthing can be connected, validated and certified via the cloud.

5. Big data/analytics

Everything we’ve discussed generates and relies upon massive volumes of so called “Big Data” like profile and behavioral data, which needs to be stored, managed and analyzed on demand. With that said then, it’s no wonder that this year’s survey points to Big Data as the software category most open to disruption by the cloud.

So, these are some of the cloud formations that I see on the horizon:

As the business driven equivalent of weather patterns play out, we’ll see a few early rainmakers that emerge as key enablers of these trends. For example the survey identifies backup, archiving and business continuity which we know to be the case from our own investment in Actifio to be true. And it also confirms, collaboration and analytics to be hot near-term categories..

Some of the press coverage - FORBES, GigaOM, ZDNet.


What do you see on the horizon?

As always, I look forward to your thoughts...


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