Anyone wondering what 2012 will look like for the cloud computing market can look at 2011 and add a lot more of the same. If cloud computing is the tree trunk, its two strongest branches are mobile and social technologies.
Amit Singh, vice president of Google Enterprise, told eWEEK that the cloud computing sector is leaning heavily on mobile and social in 2012. He said the trend is to move from the era of individual productivity to one of teamwork, in which users work together on projects and share content, all through a Web browser.
To augment this, Google is ensuring greater integration of the Google+ social network across Google Apps, the company's suite of Gmail and Google Docs-a marriage that makes those cloud collaboration apps more social. As a practical example, Apps users can use Google+ Hangouts to collaborate with either ad hoc or scheduled video chat sessions.
On the mobile front, Singh said Google recently addressed BYOD-bring your own device. In this trend, the IT department supports employees who use their personal smartphones and tablets to communicate and share information at work.
To meet the needs of Google Apps customers that practice BYOD, Google rolled out mobile device management software. It lets IT managers control Android, Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Mobile devices from the Google Apps control panel.
"Everybody now has a computer in their pocket and is connected to a data center," said Singh. Those users are all connected in common with a multitenant architecture, which is shared through massively parallel processed servers.
Peter Coffee, vice president and head of platform research for Salesforce.com, sees the cloud helping end users break through barriers that previously existed between devices and content. For example, while employees may not author complex documents on their tablets, they can create this content on their laptops and review it on the road from their tablets.
"People do not want to be burdened by what device is holding a piece of content," said Coffee, adding that making content accessible in a device-neutral and context-neutral way is imperative in the business world.
Salesforce.com is practicing this concept via Data.com, where it pulls information from LinkedIn, Dun & Bradstreet and other sources as part of a crowdsourced database of social customer data. This enables sales teams to get information on people they do business with on their laptops, tablets and smartphones before they meet.
Forrester Research analyst James Staten thinks cloud technologies have "entered the awkward teenage years," searching for identity and independence in the high-tech sector. He said several trends will bubble up next year.
Staten said the industry will see a shift away from stand-alone mobile apps to what Forrester calls the App Internet, which entails "specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services" across smartphones, tablets and other devices. He pointed to Amazon's Silk Web browser on the Kindle Fire tablet as an example of this trend in the consumer sector.
Cloud outages will continue to plague the industry following a year in which Google, Amazon Web Services and others experienced downtime. It's how companies come back from the downtime that matters.
"Your company will survive a major cloud outage," Staten said. "It happens to every cloud service. The sooner you learn to deal with cloud outages, the better off you will be."