From Red Hat’s perspective, the upcoming year in 2012 looks to be more evolutionary than revolutionary when it comes to cloud computing. That's actually a good thing. It's indicative of basic concepts coalescing and an accelerating shift from theory to practice.
That said, for 2012, we predict that we'll still see lots of learning going on. One reason is that the cloud computing moniker is often used to broadly cover large swaths of “next generation IT,” which is very much a still-evolving topic. Furthermore, even when the term is used more narrowly, it still covers a variety of X-as-a-Service approaches both within enterprises and operated by public service providers. Understanding what these different approaches are good for and how they intersect with each other is no trivial matter. Finally, even many of the early adopters are still figuring out best practices for building clouds.
To this last point, we expect to see a lot more building and getting hands dirty in 2012. Obviously some organizations have already begun, often augmenting products with custom software. A common theme we hear is that the benefits of self-service and greater automation are so great that it doesn't make sense to wait even if its takes extra work to implement a first iteration. However, with products like Red Hat's CloudForms becoming available to customers, we can expect to see broader adoption of clouds within organizations in 2012. It will still be a relatively early stage of an IT trend that will develop over multiple years, but we nonetheless expect to see planning increasingly give way to building.
As part of this process, as organizations start thinking about the concrete implications of cloud computing to their specific goals and objectives, interoperability, portability and cross-platform will feature in more discussions. These discussions aren't new of course. In 2010, Gary Chen, the research manager for enterprise virtualization software at IDC, wrote “Our research shows that 80 percent of enterprises cite the lack of interoperability standards as a challenge in adopting cloud computing services. Red Hat is on the right track with cloud by accelerating interoperability and portability to prevent cloud lock-in.” Nonetheless, we see these conversations coming to the forefront more as enterprises delve deeper into the specifics of product offering.
In spite of this, we should still expect that standards efforts will mostly remain in the early stages during 2012. Technologies and the way they are deployed are changing too rapidly at this point to lend themselves well to being constrained by formal standardization. Furthermore, a number of “de facto standards” that we see various vendors promoting are really just proprietary APIs or formats under a different name. Red Hat is involved with standards efforts such as the Cloud Management Working Group (CMDG) at the DMTF as well as work going on at NIST. However, we're also actively involved with enabling portability and interoperability through other means, such as the Deltacloud project governed by the Apache Software Foundation that is designed to act as a translation layer to multiple virtualization platforms and cloud providers.
Finally—this prediction is a no brainer—big data will be an even bigger topic in 2012. Digitization, mobility and connectedness are driving an unstructured data explosion for which traditional databases and SAN storage are ill-suited both technically and economically. Different approaches are needed. That's why Red Hat acquired Gluster, now Red Hat Storage, whose core architecture is a scale-out software-only filesytem, in October. And why “NoSQL” database vendors such as MongoDB are running in concert with Red Hat offerings such as OpenShift.