At year's end, it's customary--or at least common--for prognosticators to trumpet the predictions they got right and to ignore the rest.
However, I've decided to break with tradition and review my entire list from last November. There aren't any howlers, but I must admit I was a bit impatient on a few fronts. (I'd like to note that fellow ex-analyst Andi Mann also did so recently.)
Less focus on definitions (and dare we say hype?). Grade: B. There's been incremental advance in user education, but I find I still need to keep a NIST definition (PDF) slide or two in reserve when I give presentations no matter how thoroughly the clouderati are beyond such things. When speaking or writing to broader audiences, I find the broader problem is overloading of terms. Does cloud mean "something out in the Internet" or does it mean something associated with a broader evolution in how computing is done? It depends on who you ask and the context of the question. Alas, I suspect that between complex topics and imprecise terminology, confusion around basic issues will continue to cause issues.
Getting down to work. Grade B. Software-as-a-Service continues to grow. There are plenty of private cloud projects underway. In some sectors such as the federal government, the pace of adoption is frenetic. That said, we're still in the early stages of a multiyear process. Even in the federal government, cloud adoption probably won't proceed as rapidly as ex-federal CIO Vivek Kundra pushed for. Real work is happening--perhaps more than is publicly visible. But there's much more left to do.
"Standards" still won't be. Grade: A. In the words of Forrester analyst Lauren Nelson: "If you're sitting on the sidelines waiting for IaaS to become more standardized, stop it. You'll be waiting there till 2015, while everyone else is building fundamental skills and ramping up their cloud knowledge. So jump in the game already!" Yes, there's been some motion within standards organizations like the DMTF whose Cloud Management Work Group (CMWG) is focused on standardizing interactions between cloud environments. But these are really baby steps.
Acquisitions of start-ups will continue apace. Grade: A .It's been a busy year whether you define cloud computing broadly to include areas like "big data" or more narrowly. Just a few of the acquisitions in 2011 include Model Metrics, Cloud.com, Gluster, Trellia, SuccessFactors, Dashwire, Savvis, and RightNow.
More nuance in security discussions. Grade: C. I've seen the needle move less on this topic than I'd have hoped. Absolutely, thoughtful discussions are happening around the new stresses that cloud computing, as it intersects with trends such as mobility and big data, places on security and privacy. But I also read and hear way too much "Is the Cloud Safe?" commentary making sweeping and simplistic generalizations. As with general education and getting-hands-dirty adoption, I see progress happening. But the progress is slow, especially when we're dealing with the complex interactions of IT architectures that span beyond a single IT organization's full control. Security is complicated.
What of 2012? Dynamic though the cloud computing space has been and will continue to be, I still see 2012 being a year of continuous evolutionary change rather than anything discontinuous that will suddenly shift the landscape. 2012 will continue to lay the foundation for some pretty fundamental changes to the computing landscape and the way computing is done--but it's going to take a while to see the full impact.
If I had to go a bit out on a limb on one thing, I do wonder if we're going to see the beginnings of a shift in the way that "cloud computing" gets defined and talked about. For a while now, I've viewed it as the coming together of a variety of IT trends. I wonder if the industry will start talking about this "Next Generation IT" as the broader trend while reserving cloud for more specific things. But there's probably too much momentum behind the status quo--however much confusion it causes.