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Five cloud computing trends that will affect cloud strategy through 2015

Continual monitoring of cloud computing trends, with regular updates to the enterprise's cloud strategy, will be essential to avoid costly mistakes or miss market opportunities over the next few years, according to Gartner, Inc. Although the potential for cloud computing is significant, the breadth and depth of the impact, as well as the level of adoption over time, are uncertain and will require frequent review.
"Cloud computing is a major technology trend that has permeated the market over the last two years. It sets the stage for a new approach to IT that enables individuals and businesses to choose how they'll acquire or deliver IT services, with reduced emphasis on the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models," said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "Cloud computing has a significant potential impact on every aspect of IT and how users access applications, information and business services."

"The trend and related technologies continue to evolve and change rapidly, and there is continuing confusion and misunderstanding as vendors increasingly hype 'cloud' as a marketing term," said David Mitchell Smith, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "This level of impact, confusion, uncertainty and change make cloud computing one of Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends to address."

Gartner has identified five cloud computing subtrends that will be accelerating, shifting or reaching a tipping point over the next three years and that users must factor into their planning processes:

Formal Decision Frameworks Facilitate Cloud Investment Optimization
The cloud promises to deliver a range of benefits, including a shift from capital-intensive to operational cost models, lower overall cost, greater agility and reduced complexity. It can also be used to shift the focus of IT resources to higher-value-added activities for the business, or to support business innovation and, potentially, lower risks. However, these prospective benefits need to be examined carefully and mapped against a number of challenges, including security, lack of transparency, concerns about performance and availability, the potential for vendor lock-in, licensing constraints and integration needs. These issues create a complex environment in which to evaluate individual cloud offerings.

Hybrid Cloud Computing Is an Imperative
Hybrid computing refers to the coordination and combination of external cloud computing services (public or private) and internal infrastructure or application services. Over time, hybrid cloud computing could lead to a unified model in which there is a single "cloud" made up of multiple cloud platforms (internal or external) that can be used, as needed, based on changing business requirements. Gartner recommends that enterprises focus near-term efforts on application and data integration, linking fixed internal and external applications with a hybrid solution. Where public cloud application services or custom applications running on public cloud infrastructures are used, guidelines and standards should be established for how these elements will combine with internal systems to form a hybrid environment.
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Cloud Brokerage Will Facilitate Cloud Consumption
As cloud computing adoption proliferates, so does the need for consumption assistance. A cloud services brokerage (CSB) is a service provider that plays an intermediary role in cloud computing. Interest in the CSB concept increased last year, and Gartner expects this trend to accelerate over the next three years as more individuals, whether they are in IT or a line-of-business unit, consume cloud services without involving IT.

To address this challenge, Gartner believes that IT departments should explore how they can position themselves as CSBs to the enterprise by establishing a purchasing process that accommodates cloud adoption and encourages business units to come to the IT organization for advice and support. The enterprise CSB approach can be implemented by modifying existing processes and tools such as internal portals and service catalogs.

Cloud-Centric Design Becomes a Necessity
Many organizations look first for opportunities to migrate existing enterprise workloads to a cloud system and/or an application infrastructure. This approach may provide benefits where the workload has a highly variable resource requirement, or where the application naturally lends itself to horizontal scalability. However, to fully exploit the potential of a cloud model, applications need to be designed with the unique characteristics, limitations and opportunities of a cloud model in mind. Gartner advises enterprises to look beyond the migration of enterprise workloads to the creation of cloud-optimized applications that fully exploit the potential of the cloud to deliver global-class applications.

Cloud Computing Influences Future Data Center and Operational Models
In public cloud computing, an enterprise is acting as a consumer of services, with the cloud services provider handling the implementation details, including the data center and related operational models. However, to the extent that the enterprise continues to build its own data centers, they will be influenced by the implementation models used by cloud services providers. Gartner recommends that enterprises apply the concepts of cloud computing to future data center and infrastructure investments to increase agility and efficiency.

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