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Once again, it's time to contemplate what unfolded over the past year and what the next has in store. It's been an exciting year for cloud computing as more and more companies experienced the benefits of being freed from the constraints of traditional software and IT infrastructure.

In fact, you could say that cloud computing has moved beyond infancy into the "tween" years, showing signs of maturation, but-as you'll notice in my predictions for the coming year-still exhibiting some awkwardness as well.

The year in review

Let's start by looking back. Industry-pundit predictions for cloud computing in 2010 were wide-ranging in terms of just how quickly the market would grow, what would happen in the vendor landscape and the ways in which businesses would deploy cloud technology. It's true that businesses and vendors embraced cloud computing in a big way in 2010, helped in part by the economic climate, but I was surprised to see how things evolved differently than predicted.

I spend a great deal of time talking to companies at the ground level, discussing how they can take advantage of this technological shift. As expected, we saw more enterprise adoption of cloud computing this year, but what surprised me was a shift in terms of companies becoming more adventurous in how they start out. Rather than testing the waters by implementing a cloud application such as CRM, which is what we've seen historically, they want to use the cloud as a way to accomplish new things that they've been too resource-strapped to do. Essentially, they're saying, "I've been wanting to build this application, but haven't had the resources. Can the cloud help me do it?"

It's also interesting to note what happened -and what didn't--in the vendor landscape. Each of the major cloud players moved into new areas. Meanwhile, contrary to many predictions for the year, nothing major transpired in terms of mergers and acquisitions, although I expect that will change in 2011. But what did transpire showed that the cloud is real.

This all sets the stage for what's to come.

Looking ahead

Current trends in play will have a large impact on the maturation of cloud computing in 2011.
Following are two predictions on what to watch for in the coming year:

1. The private cloud will gain traction, but its limitations will ultimately drive more public cloud adoption. This year proved that the cloud is here to stay. There's no question. The super-vendors and traditional systems integrators see that. While most have had some sort of cloud strategy brewing, they're now quickening efforts to take advantage of the opportunity. That includes reshaping and redefining the cloud-"cloudwashing" to serve their primary business interests, such as selling more IT infrastructure or implementation services.


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