When people say that David S. Linthicum has his head in the clouds, they mean it in a good way. He is senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners, and has authored 13 books on computing, the most recent of which is “Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise, a Step-by-Step Approach.” His industry experience includes tenures as CTO and CEO of several software companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. This summer, he was named one of “eleven cloud computing industry movers and shapers” by TechTarget, and earlier this year he was named one of “nine more cloud computing pioneers” by Information Week. He also writes the Cloud Computing blog for InfoWorld, is an analyst for GigaOm Pro, and is the creator and host of the Cloud Computing Podcast.

What trends are you seeing in cloud that will affect users?

At the corporate level, end users will see the increased use of cloud-based systems for storage and file sharing. Services such as Dropbox and Google Drive have set expectations that sharing data is cheap, quick, and easy. Users demand these services from corporate IT. If they can’t get them through regular channels, they will work around IT to get them.

End users will also see the continued rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. Most major enterprise application providers do or will offer versions of their software applications that are cloud-delivered. Because the use of these applications becomes more affordable, users can leverage more automation around major business processes than ever before.

Finally, end users will see more use of cloud computing around business continuity. Cloud systems will be put in place to back up many mission-critical applications and databases, as well as other infrastructure. Instead of falling over to a hot standby site that costs millions a year to maintain, they will simply turn on cloud services to continue business support during disasters.

For organizations that are already using cloud, what should they be looking for in the next year?

One clear trend will be complex cloud architectures, which leverage many different types of clouds. Called multi-cloud, this means that enterprise IT now wants to mix several public and private clouds, along with different services and technology, to provide use-based accounting and management.

The rise of these complex cloud architectures is driving interest in cloud management platforms, such as those from ServiceMesh, Cisco, RightScale, and others. These systems can manage many different cloud resources using a single common interface.

Other trends include the continued use of database-as-a-service (DaaS), or, database systems that are delivered out of public clouds. These include database services from Google, Amazon, Rackspace, and others that allow you to leverage a feature-rich enterprise database, as a service, from a public cloud provider. This should allow enterprises to build massive database applications, including big data systems, without having to incur the expense of major enterprise database providers.

Finally, there is the rise of vertical clouds. These are public cloud providers that cater to a specific vertical, such as finance and healthcare, and thus provide pre-built business processes and services for those verticals. They also understand industry-specific issues, such as regulations and compliance, and thus provide a quicker time-to-market. Another value lies in their understanding the specifics of maintaining systems in certain industries, such as support for compliance audits within the financial or healthcare verticals.

For organizations that aren't yet using cloud, what's the first step they should take?

The first step is to build a business case for the cloud. Understand your own needs and requirements, and then determine if cloud computing can provide the right value. Most organizations will find many opportunities for cloud computing to both reduce costs and increase business agility. However, you have to understand where those opportunities exist before you toss any technology at them, including cloud computing.

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