The top 12 gifts of cloud from 2010

As this historic year wraps up, let's take a look back at what shaped the burgeoning cloud computing market in 2010. Of course, with the holidays upon us, it only seems right to choose the top 12.

What a year 2010 has been for cloud computing.

We've seen an amazing year of innovation, disruption, and adoption--one I personally think will go down in history as one of the most significant years in computing history. Without a doubt, a significant new tool has been added to the IT toolbox, and its one that will eventually replace most of the tools we know today.

Don't agree with me? Well, with the help of my generous Twitter community--and in the spirit of the season here in the US--I've assembled 12 innovations and announcements from 2010 that had big impact on the IT market. Take a look at these with an open mind and ponder just how much cloud computing changed the landscape through the course of the year:

1. The growth of cloud and cloud capacity
The number of cloud computing data centers skyrocketed in 2010, with massive investment by both existing and new cloud providers creating a huge burst in available cloud capacity. You might have noticed new services from Verizon, IBM, Terremark, and others. Tom Lounibos, CEO of "test in the cloud" success story SOASTA, notes that the number of data centers offered by Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM alone grew from four to 10, with that number slated to grow to more than 20 in the coming year.

2. The acceptance of the cloud model
A number of studies showed a dramatic switch in the acceptance of the cloud model by enterprise IT between 2009 and 2010. Two that I often quote are one by the Yankee Group that noted that 60 percent of "IT influencers" now consider cloud computing services an enabler, versus 40 percent who considered it "immature"--a complete reversal from 2009. The second, published by Savvis, claimed that 70 percent of IT influencers were using or planning to use cloud services within two years. Since then, most studies show cloud computing becoming an increasingly high priority for CIOs everywhere.

3. Private cloud a truce
Heated debates between representatives of public cloud computing companies and more traditional IT computing vendors raged over the summer of 2010, with the former arguing that there is no such thing as a "private cloud," and the latter arguing that there definitely is, and it should be an option in every IT arsenal. The argument died down, however, when both sides realized nobody was listening, and various elements of the IT community were pursuing one or the other--or both--options whether or not it was "right."

4. APIs in--and out--of focus
As we started 2010, there were something like 18 APIs being proposed to define cloud operations interfaces. As the year wore on, it appeared that the AWS EC2 and S3 APIs were the de facto standards for compute and storage, respectively. However, VMware's vCloud, Red Hat's Delta Cloud, and Rackspace's Cloud Servers and Cloud Files APIs each still have legitimate chances to survive in the wild, as it were, and without Amazon's express support for implementations of their APIs by others, standardization around their offerings remains a risk.

5. Cloud legal issues come to the forefront
Toward the end of the year, Amazon's decision to unilaterally shut down WikiLeaks' presence on their site demonstrated one of the true risks of the public cloud today: if a customer builds their business on a public cloud environment, and the provider terminates that relationship without warning or recourse (with or without cause), what are those customer's rights? The scenario was repeated in a different form with the shutdown of low-cost content-distribution provider SimpleCDN by a reseller of a third-party hosting environment. The issue here isn't whether the terminated party was doing right or wrong but what rights the law establishes for all parties in a public cloud operations scenario.

6. Cloud economics defined
Two seminal works of cloud economic analysis had significant impact on our understanding of the forces behind cloud computing adoption. Joe Weinman's "Mathematical Proof of the Inevitability of Cloud Computing," published in November 2009, treated us to a carefully thought out "proof" of why pay-per-use pricing will eventually capture such a large chunk of our application workloads. James Hamilton's "Cloud Computing Economies of Scale" analyzes of the economics of the data center, and why a large scale provider with a wide customer base has tremendous advantages over a smaller provider with a smaller customer base.

7. The rise of DevOps
Those of us studying cloud computing for some time have noted that cloud computing models are both the result of and driver for changes in the way we design, deploy, and operate applications in a virtualized model. We've seen a shift away from server-centric models to application-centric alternatives, and a rapid change from manual processes to automated operations. This, in turn, has driven several software methods that combine development and operations planning and execution. The result is automation packaged *with* the application at deployment time, rather than developed after-the-fact in a reactive fashion.

8. Open source both challenged and engaged
At the beginning of the year, open-source developers were watching developments in the cloud computing space with a wary eye and rightfully so. For infrastructure projects (one of the most successful classes of open-source software), the model threatens to change the community nature of open source. However, the year also showed us that open source plays a critical role in both cloud provider infrastructure and the software systems we build and run in the cloud. All in all, OSS seems to have found peace with the cloud, though much has yet to be worked out.

9. Introducing OpenStack
One of the great success stories in open source for the cloud this year was that of the partnership between cloud provider Rackspace and NASA, producing the popular OpenStack project for compute and storage services. Drawing more than 300 attendees to its last design summit, OpenStack is quickly attracting individual developers, cloud start-ups, and established IT companies to its contributor list. While the long-standing poster child of open-source cloud infrastructure, Eucalyptus, seemed threatened initially, I think there is some truth to the argument that Eucalyptus is tuned for the enterprise, while OpenStack is being built more with public cloud providers in mind.

10. Amazon Web Services marches on
Amazon Web Services continues to push an entirely new model for IT service creation, delivery, and operation. Key examples of what Amazon Web Services has introduced this year include: an Asia-Pacific data center; free tiers for SQS, EC2, S3 and others; cluster compute instances (for high-performance computing); and the recently announced VMDK import feature. Not to mention the continuous stream of improvements to existing features, and additional support for well-known application environments.

11. Platform as a Service steps up its game
VMware announced its Cloud Application Platform. introduced and its acquisition of Ruby platform Heroku. Google saw demand for developers with App Engine experience skyrocket. Platform as a Service is here, folks, and while understanding and adoption of these services by enterprise IT still lags that of the Web 2.0 community, these services are a natural evolutionary step for software development in the cloud.

12. Traditional IT vendors take their best shots
2010 saw IBM introduce new services for development and testing, genome research and . HP entered the cloud services game with its CloudStart offering. Oracle jumped into the "complete stack" game with Exalogic (despite Ellison's derision of cloud in 2009). My employer, Cisco Systems, announced a cloud infrastructure service stack for service providers and enterprises. Even Dell acquired technologies in an attempt to expand its cloud marketshare. Of course, none of these offerings pushed the boundaries for cloud consumers, but for those building cloud infrastructures, there are now many options to choose from--including options that don't directly involve any of these vendors.

Of course, these are just a few of the highlights from cloud's 2010. Not mentioned here were the plethora of start-ups in the space, covering everything from application management to cloud infrastructure to data management to...well, you get the idea. What does 2011 hold for cloud? I don't know, but I would hazard a guess that it will be at least as interesting as cloud's historic 2010.

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