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Experts predict a sunny outlook for the cloud in 2015

What does 2015 hold in store for the cloud? Experts say the market will grow, with the number of available applications doubling in number.

What does 2015 hold in store for the cloud? As always, it depends on who you talk to. We asked expert cloud analysts from IDC, Forrester, Synergy, Perspecsys and Techaisle to give us their predictions for next year.

Not surprisingly, they all agree the market is going to grow. IDC says the overall cloud market will hit $118 billion next year, and that the number of applications available will double to more than 5,000. And most agree the also-ran infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players, the ones not in the top 10 today, will more than likely drop out. But on topics from partnerships to security and AWS, opinions are as diverse as the sources.

Partnerships. In the "this could be interesting" category, Facebook will team up with IBM or Microsoft to create a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, said IDC's PaaS research manager Larry Carvalho. He also suggested Amazon and HP might team up in the IaaS arena -- as well as Salesforce, perhaps with Microsoft, IBM or Amazon.

Salesforce. The company will be doing more than partnering next year. Look for Salesforce to take advantage of the huge investments it has made in the cloud space -- including Lightning and Heroku -- to "become a significant player in the cloud market next year," said James Staten, a vice president at Forrester. He believes companies will start building apps that aren't just Salesforce extensions but that are standalone products that tie in to the service but don't depend on it. "This is a huge change for them," he said. "They're going to be directly competing with AWS, Google and others for the first time."

Pricing. The pricing wars will be over next year, said John Dinsdale, chief analyst and managing director at Synergy Research Group. "The market leaders are going to gradually focus more on other selling points in order to differentiate themselves," he said. But AWS still has work to do on the pricing front, Forrester's Staten warned, if the company wants to attract enterprise customers. Microsoft and Google have easier-to-use, and understand, corporate discount pricing policies, he said, and although AWS has made some changes in its reserved or spot instance pricing, it hasn't gone far enough. He said the company needs more of a blanket pricing policy, like an Amazon Prime for enterprises.

Still the market leader. Despite increasing pressure from Microsoft and Google, analysts predict AWS will retain its healthy leadership in the cloud marketplace in 2015. That is not to say AWS is without challenges, however. With more than 400 services available, users can feel overwhelmed, or worse, locked in. Forrester's Staten predicted the company would tackle that problem by offering curated collections of services around classes of applications to make it easier to wade through all the choices. This could also help make AWS more appealing to formal IT departments, he said. Finally, AWS is going to take on the relational database market next year, predicted Synergy's Dinsdale. "Amazon Aurora will cause major pain to the traditional database vendors," he said. IDC's Carvahlo put it another way: "Aurora offers enterprise-level databases at open source prices."

Google. This will be a year of serious investment for Google, Staten predicted. Business Intelligence and big data will be two areas of focus but just as important will be connecting all the dots in the Google universe -- the Android phone, the search, the advertising and marketing -- to create a compelling ecosystem that will support the company's cloud efforts.

Microsoft. Also focusing on ecosystem development, Microsoft will make more money from the cloud than from on-premises products in 2015, Staten said. Why? The company will offer incentives to developers so that they make more money on applications for Azure than for a product for the desktop. "That’s going to be hard for a company like Microsoft to do," he said, "but they can't get partners to move unless they do something different."

IBM. With software, applications, analytics and UNIX in place, IBM is going to have a big year in 2015, predicted Techaisle's founder Anurag Agrawal. "IBM has a rich portfolio of services and is a trusted company," he said. Tiered services in areas like finance and healthcare are going to make the IBM cloud offering an easier sell to CIOs, he said. "The bottom line: IBM has a seat at the CIO table and AWS does not. AWS is where CIOs go to experiment, but they want to do business with IBM."

Security. Not all the predictions are happy ones. Virtually all the experts agree with this rather dire forecast: your data will be breached this year -- and you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Those blunt words are from Forrester's Staten, but he's certainly not alone in sounding the alarm. "We have to move away from the idea that if it's inside the firewall it's safe," he said. "It's time to have a zero trust policy with encryption everywhere." Safety is going to involve authenticating each application, each user and each access. And don't think the data breached will just be your customers, warns David Canellos of Perspecsys, as part of his "Seven Cloud Security Predictions for 2015" article. As cloud usage broadens, the cloud will contain intellectual property and trade secrets, both of which will be at risk.

Security part two/tokenization. Although no one seems to think tokenization will be the standard next year, most experts agree 2015 will be the year everyone starts to take data encryption much more seriously. One-time tokens to verify that you have the right to see the particular piece of data you're asking for make the most sense, but it's a huge undertaking, Staten said. "In order to figure out who can have access to data you first have to classify it, and that is going to be a big learning curve. Companies are going to have to tackle the data issue and become very skilled at encryption key management. This is going to be the theme of the next five years."

Speaking of big data. So much data, so little time, and apparently so little expertise, or at least that's what Techaisle's Agrawal has seen. He predicts 2015 will be the year companies get serious about a big data handling strategy that will get the information out of the cloud and into the hands of everyone who needs it. Data project managers will be hired by different lines of business, he said, and will be tasked with making all that information digestible and truly useful. Also, look for data as a service (DaaS) providers to explode on to the market next year, according to IDC.

Do you know where your data center is? Next year, you will need to know where your data center is, thanks to tightening privacy laws around the world. Certain countries -- in particular, Germany, France and Italy -- either have or are enacting laws requiring the country's data to be physically within the country. These laws have the potential to restrict cloud usage, Staten said. IBM, through its Softlayer Technologies acquisition, is planning to address this by opening 200 datacenters across the globe next year. But that may not be sufficient, Staten warned, and there could be a lot of opportunity for third-party providers.

Application development. This will be the year to not just build applications differently but to build different applications, said Forrester's Staten. Developers will start to feel confident using higher level cloud services, he said, and will have new opportunities available to them as hybrid clouds let them have self-service access for the first time. This also will be the year of user experience, predicted Techaisle's Agrawal. "Forget DevOps for 2015," he said. "We think a unified, easy-to-use interface across all platforms is going to be the most important thing."

Collabmobilicloud. Agrawal coined this term to describe 2015's intersection of collaboration, mobile and the cloud. Mobile devices and collaborative technologies will rely increasingly on the cloud, he said, and that reality will force IT departments to confront this as a management challenge. Some cloud providers started working on this in 2014, he said, including Microsoft, Google, IBM and Salesforce, and it will continue to be a priority next year.

About the author:
Valerie Rice Silverthorne is a writer and editor with nearly thirty years of experience covering business, trade, technology, real estate and lifestyle trends. She was an award-winning business writer for The San Jose Mercury News and was a Forbes Magazine top "30 under 30" journalist. She was the editor of, PC Week/Inside, and a senior executive editor of PC Week and Electronic Business. She works as a freelancer writer from her home in Amesbury, Mass. Contact her at [email protected].

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