Mention the future of computing, and the word "cloud" more than likely comes up. Indeed, it looks like all kinds of computing "as a service" will dominate IT for years to come.
That said, the future of clouds won't be static. It's bound to undergo changes and challenges as it unfolds. And recent news offers more than one hint of possible things to come. Following is a list of the more notable musings on the go:
Clouds will eliminate many, if not most, datacenters. During an interview on IE Radio last week, futurist and author Christopher Barnatt reiterated his view that cloud computing represents not only the most efficient way to reduce data center complexity for most enterprises, but the future of computing on this planet. Thanks to dwindling natural resources like oil and water, organizations everywhere will no longer have the luxury of supporting their own datacenters, but will rely on cloud services from providers who can support many customers from environmentally efficient facilities.
Clouds will deploy quantum computing. In a research paper published this month in the journal Science, Stefanie Barz, lead author of the group at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) that undertook the study, is quoted as saying: "Quantum physics solves one of the key challenges in distributed computing. It can preserve data privacy when users interact with remote computing centers." That's big news, because it means that clouds can take advantage of the scale and speed offered by future quantum computing technologies. Cue the first item in this list.
Cloud services will become more specialized. The trend toward "vertical cloud services" is already underway, as big providers look to serve enterprise customers specific complex applications in the cloud. The trend will only continue, as organizations move to adopt vertically oriented "turnkey" cloud solutions.
Cloud services will force governments to loosen Web control. As the US government is learning, cloud services don't mix well with Web censorship and control. Though the US Department of Justice recently reiterated its commitment to cloud services in spite of Patriot Act guidelines, the controversy around where data is stored continues. And the US isn't alone: India and other countries are also examining the issues involved. But one thing is clear: If governments want to profit from the contribution of cloud companies hosted within their borders, they will have to lay off their wish to control the data and facilities those companies oversee.
A cloud disaster looms. The smart money has long predicted a future breach of cloud security that will land the technology in the virtual dog house. Still, as noted by Alistair Croll -- principal analyst at Bitcurrent, and conference chair of this year's Cloud Connect conference, slated for February 12 in Santa Clara, Calif. -- after the one big "messy" leak, "regulators will spring into action, enforcing two-factor authentication and password generation and refreshing policies." [Disclosure: UBM TechWeb, this publication's corporate parent, produces Cloud Connect. And Internet Evolution proudly and shamelessly endorses it.]
Some of these predictions may not occur in 2012 -- or in 2020, for that matter. Some may become ongoing developments that lead cloud computing in fresh new directions. But certainly, the points made above, which have been cited by more than one pundit, provide food for enterprise thought.
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, Internet Evolution