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Taking the Pulse of Cloud Computing, Fall 2011

As Cloud Expo Silicon Valley approaches, what's being said, written, and done?

The markets may be melting, but Cloud Computing continues to attract headlines, VC dollars, M&A activity, and more. So let's take a quick look at what's being said, written, and done about the Cloud...now that we have reached Fall 2011.

Given the state of the economy, let's start with Forbes.com, where Joe McKendrick (@JoeMcKendrick on Twitter) recently wrote:

"As we ponder unemployment and underemployment in our economy, the availability of cheap cloud computing may be laying the groundwork for a startup boom, the likes we have never seen before."

McKendrick insists that cloud computing isn’t revolutionary because it’s changing the mode of technology delivery. "The real revolution that is underway," he claims, "is that it is opening up new lines of business in information technology or service delivery — even among non-IT businesses." Fighting talk.

Another Cloud commentator worth consulting is always Forrester's James Staten (@staten7), whose blog is always worth reading.

He recently wrote that, in his view, "our beloved cloud computing market showed significant signs of maturing," citing as evidence three simultaneous but independent announcement - from VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft. He felt that it was a kind of tipping point for the Cloud:

"Together, these announcements are strong milestones to the continuing progress and solid traction cloud platforms are having with the market. While the private cloud market is still very, very young, moves like these put it on more solid footing..."

One of the unusual characteristics of cloud computing is that it has perhaps one of the most vocal community of practitioners - infrastructure gurus of every stripe. So let's look what some of them are saying, to see if they share this heady enthusiasm as expressed by the analysts.

Where better to start than with the CTO & Co-Founder of Cloudscale, Randy Bias (@RandyBias)? Bias, like many of the Clouderati, is also keen blogger. In a recent post he opined that such confusion as we still see around virtualization and cloud computing "is because the change is so big, it’s hard for people to wrap their head around it. Folks struggle to find simple answers to a complex, multi-pronged, disruptive change."

Bias then continued with a call to action to his readers and followers:

"You need to watch the people and organizations who are part of the change.  Watch Amazon.  Watch Google.  Watch OpenStack and Open Compute.  Watch Cloudera and Hadoop.  Watch Salesforce, Heroku, and Engine Yard.  You can even watch VMware and what they do with CloudFoundry."

Bias's advice is worth bearing in mind if you want to bring yourself up to speed with the fundamental and deep changes to how the entire IT stack is designed, delivered, and managed.

Next let's turn to another card-carrying member of the Clouderati, Simon Crosby (@SimonCrosby). Now helping head up Bromium, Crosby recently surveyed the entire IT landscape through the lens of cloud computing, in the course of which he made the following observation:

"The Enterprise Private Cloud market is growing at about 30% per year, but IaaS and PaaS clouds, already well beyond the hypervisor-as-service-interface, are growing at break-neck pace of about 70% per year, driven by the staggering growth of mobile apps and our insatiable consumer appetite for services."

Crosby is no stranger to being - and staying - ahead of the curve. He is a true IT canary.

As is James Urquhart (@jamesurquhart), who recently blogged about how cloud computing "is an operation model, not a technology." For Urquhart, the chief thing to bear in mind is that "for the foreseeable future, applications are king" - a thought that he developed as follows:

"The application-centricity of cloud leads to an interesting corollary: if the focus of cloud is on applications, then all cloud solutions must look at the problem they solve from the perspective of the application. In other words, designing a tool for virtual machine management in the cloud is a short-term game. Eventually, the application will begin to hide the containers in which it runs, and the concept of managing a guest operating system in a virtual machine won't make sense.

However, designing tools with the development, deployment, and operations of code and data in the cloud model has tremendous promise. It's a disruptive concept--displacing our server-centric past--and one for which few enterprises have any serious tools or processes. Certainly not in terms of operations."

Urquhart is not alone in stressing the "application-centricity" of the Cloud. Peter Coffee (@PeterCoffee), known for decades as Technology Editor for eWEEK, is now Director of Platform Research for Salesforce.com, and is one of the many insightful speakers due to give sessions at the upcoming Cloud Expo Silicon Valley being held November 7-10 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

In a world where every IT asset has a feed - in the era of 'Cloud 2' - the cloud model, Coffee believes, is changing:

"The first decade of cloud computing decisively demonstrated that massively sharable/scalable systems can shrink operating costs and slash development delays, but the era of 'Cloud 2' goes farther to turn the cloud model from a perceived challenge into a compelling avenue for IT innovations that need not compromise security or governance."

In a Cloud Expo session called Open Networks, Trusted Clouds: The Road Map to 'Social' Security, Coffee will be exploring further the potential of “application as conversation.”

I will continue this informal round-up tomorrow morning at the same time.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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