7 Hot Cloud Computing Trends for 2012

The mobile cloud and collateral hacking will be among the leading cloud computing trends.
Posted December 20, 2011

Jeff Vance

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As cloud computing matures from the buzz stage to the “over-hyped” stage and on toward mainstream adoption (we’re not there yet, despite what some vendors claim), there is still much work to be done before the cloud is as reliable and easy to use as typical utility services.

The goal, after all, is for the cloud to mature to the point where customers simply check boxes for the features they want, and like magic, everything just works. We’re not there yet. Not even close.

However, the cloud in 2012 will present CIOs, IT managers and even in-the-trenches IT workers with a range of challenges and opportunities.

Here are 7 cloud computing trends to watch in 2012:

1. Personal and mobile clouds emerge

In 2011, both Apple and Microsoft made big pushes into the cloud. Apple’s iCloud is gaining traction from the Apple fan base, and Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 both have major cloud tie-ins.

Google has always used the cloud as a key enabling technology, and it’s working furiously to keep its cloud edge over its rivals.

As smartphones continue to displace feature phones (with smartphones likely outnumbering feature phones in early 2012) and as tablets continue to invade the enterprise (a recent survey found that 78 percent of businesses plan to deploy tablets by the end of 2013), the cloud will increasingly be the glue that holds this collection of devices together.

“In addition to device-centric personal clouds such as iCloud, a variety of innovative personal cloud services will be offered in 2012 by a range of providers, including carriers and consumer electronics companies,” said Hal Steger, VP of worldwide marketing at Funambol, a provider of personal cloud solutions. “The combined availability of these services will help to educate and encourage mainstream users to increasingly store, access and share user-generated and commercial content in personal clouds.”

Call it a “personal cloud,” a “mobile cloud” or even a “pocket cloud”. Whatever the name, the point is that without the cloud, people will have a hard time keeping track of the data, media and services that are important to them. And without the cloud, sharing and synching all those things among their many devices would be nearly impossible.

2. The cloud changes what the term “startup” means and threatens incumbents

In the not too distant past, if you wanted to challenge a major technology incumbent with a newer, innovative technology, you attracted some angel investors, worked on a proof of concept, developed a business plan, honed an elevator pitch and hit the road to pitch your idea to VCs. If you didn’t raise millions of dollars, your chances of succeeding were microscopic.

The cloud is radically changing the startup story. At every trade show I go to, I talk to more and more entrepreneurs who are running “credit card startups.” Many bring products to market and start competing before raising any outside money at all.

“With the cloud, startups aren’t constrained by capex the way they used to be,” said Chris Sharp, GM for Content and Digital Media at Equinix, a provider of global data center services. “Now, at a low cost, you can have overseas coders working when your team is asleep. You can also simply check a PCI compliance box and trust your cloud provider to properly handle your data for you. These are obstacles that in the past would have required much larger investments to clear.”

Could the cloud spark a cycle of change similar to that prompted by the Internet itself? Will we see major industries (publishing, recording, movies, to name a few) in upheaval due to the cloud?

Chances are it will play out differently. The disruption caused by the cloud is building on what happened ten years ago. This time around, the cloud could actually be the salvation for such industries as publishing and entertainment media.

According to Amazon, Kindle owners buy twice as many books as they did before purchasing an e-reader. Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video on Demand continue to gain in popularity. And for online gaming, the cloud will help push multi-player gaming to new levels and help game developers port their games to multiple device platforms.

As you can see from those examples, incumbents in these industries are different than what they were ten years ago. They came of age alongside the Internet, and as a result, aren’t afraid of the cloud.

That said, we’re only at the start of the cloud disruption cycle, so expect a decent amount of turmoil in the next few years. Another Netflix misstep, for example, could open the door for someone like VUDU or some startup that’s only now an idea in some entrepreneur’s head.

3. Collateral hacking becomes a serious security threat

What is collateral hacking? Essentially, cyber-crooks (or even agents of espionage) have a specific target in their sites, but they need to hack their way through third parties to get at that target. The term “collateral hacking” also points to one of the main effects of this sort of attack: widespread collateral damage.

For instance, Chinese attacks on Google, WikiLeaks classified information dumps and Anonymous attacks have all caused plenty of collateral damage. That’s not really terribly new. After all, DDOS attacks have caused collateral damage for years.

What is new, according to Hugh Thompson, RSA Conference program committee chair, is that in 2012 we will see more sophisticated collateral hacking, where cyber-attackers attempt to compromise cloud service provider to go after one company’s data, but, in the process, attackers get access to another company’s data.

“There is a growing sophistication of cybercriminals. Cybercrime groups now work like companies--they think about return on investment. Spending some effort to go after a big pool of data can yield a high ROI,” Thompson said.

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Tags: cloud computing, mobile cloud

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