Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Future of cloud computing and SaaS

Cloud computing is the next BIG thing with all the major platform players aggressively going for the land grab. Each player has a different approach and are trying to provide their offering at different levels - from raw computing and storage to application fabrics and SaaS platforms. Amazon, Google, Microsoft,, IBM are some key players betting big on this trend.

There is a lot of confusion and debate about which platform will prevail and what is the best approach on cloud computing. My take is that it is going to follow the path that the internet economy has taken. Broadly 3 layers are likely to emerge. These layers of clouds with current day analogies are mentioned below:

  • Infrastructure clouds - Provide raw infrastructure. Current day Amazon EC2 similar to an older day Savvis. There could be any number of providers in this category primarily differentiating on cost.
  • Development framework clouds - Provides application development framework. Current day Microsoft Azure similar to an older day Windows + .Net combination. Infrastructure cloud will be included and could be outsourced to a strategic partner. There will be a less than 5 cloud providers this category with limited portability amongst each other.
  • Application clouds - Provides higher level abstraction to build applications. Current day similar to an older day SAP. There could be any number of providers here. But the likely scenario would be a 2 tier system where large application companies like SAP and Oracle have their own cloud and other smaller application vendors sharing clouds or are part of other eco-systems. The platform with a better eco-system will emerge as an eventual leader - similar to Google in search-ads and eBay in auctions. The ability to reach a wide number of target users or customers will eventually be the key driver for application cloud adoption rather than ability to build applications. The ability to build applications will eventually be similar on most major platforms.
Another trend likely to emerge is the creation of special purpose clouds. This would be similar to special purpose social networking sites or radio channels. There will be aspects around data security, workflow, availability, SLAs and eco-system that will be better suited for market segments like legal, government, finance, insurance etc. These will be built as value-added-clouds using the infratructure and application clouds.