Clouds (and their children, mobile devices and SaaS applications) will be the centerpiece of 2011 computing discussions and decisions.
Woe to the vendor who thinks desktops will continue to come before mobile devices or that clouds are not a real IT destination. They'll get plowed under by dozens of vendors. big and small, old and new, who are already offering lots of cloud-based solutions.
Ahead are lots of challenges:
- How to get to the hybrid environment, where computing and data can move readily from one environment to another -- from private to public clouds, from legacy applications in data centers to the cloud. This is not trivial -- the long-term solution is standards and we're just getting started there. This can't be about de facto standards set by a monopoly vendor (although we don't have one yet, in any real way). They need to be standards that work broadly to support interoperability across hundreds of different platforms and applications.
- Moving legacy applications -- or at least access to these applications -- to that mobile device in your hand (be it smartphone, tablet, or netbook). Simple access is simple for the programmers, but may make using the applications very hard for the users. The more users can work in what looks like a single, consistent environment, the better.
- How to pick technology winners to avoid false starts and restarts. In a week, CES will start in Las Vegas and dozens of iPad competitors will be on center stage. Some will be solid and have long-tern possibilities; others will be flashy one night stands. Telling the difference may be hard, but it's critical. Look for vendors who understand the features business users need (I am not looking for a remote control for my TV, but rather a portable device that I can carry everywhere and access anything easily.
Phil Wainewright wrote a great article about the cloud market (and other things enterprise IT). He and I don't agree about private clouds (he thinks they're a bad idea and need to disappear; I think they're a great solution to some problems, but not all) but we are very much in agreement about how clouds, SaaS, and mobile devices are going to change IT in profound ways.
Get your lifejacket out -- this is going to be a bumpy ride.
And Happy New Year to all of youl