Weekly Update

The 5 Biggest Cloud-Computing Stories of 2009

You won’t find much argument over 2009’s moniker as “Year of the Cloud,” but you might have forgotten some of the big news that earned it that title. Here are my picks for the most important cloud news of 2009 – stories that had immediate impact in the cloud community. Next week, I’ll highlight the stories and trends that sprouted buds in 2009 and will transform the cloud market in 2010.

The Top Cloud-Computing News of 2009

1. Amazon Unveils Spot Instances

Amazon Web Services’ Spot Instances pricing model doesn’t mean cloud resources are a commodity, but it does mean cloud pricing will never be the same. Already, EC2 users are strategizing about methods to ensure they get continuous EC2 instances at the lowest-possible price. Given AWS’s considerable lead in users and features, spot pricing puts the pressure on other IaaS providers either to evolve their offerings, their pricing, or both.

2. Outages Bring the Cloud Down to Earth

Early on in the development of cloud computing, optimists carried discussions on the topic, while pessimists were laughed out of the room. That all changed in June, when a spate of outages at big-time providers made everyone realize just how precarious cloud reliability can be. Lightning took down part of EC2, power issues plagued thrice plagued Rackspace (one, two, three), and Google’s occasional availability issues finally reached App Engine. For a while, at least, security took a backseat to availability as the No. 1 potential pitfall for cloud computing.

3. Microsoft Preps Azure for Showtime

Although Azure won’t be available until Jan. 1, the late-November unveiling of the platform’s features and roadmap immediately made Microsoft a formidable cloud player. Not only is Azure more open than many expected in terms of language support, but it is unlike any other cloud offering in that includes PaaS, IaaS, SaaS and hybrid components, including the planned internal and external AppFabric products. Azure’s public availability will be big news, but perhaps less important than the moment at which we finally realized how real it is.

4. U.S. Government Embraces the Cloud

As soon as Barack Obama won the election, we started hearing about how his transition team embraced cloud computing and about how the new U.S. CIO would implement it into the government IT strategy. When Vivek Kundra landed the CIO role, he was quick to make cloud a priorty – first moving USA.gov and Data.gov to Terremark’s Enterprise Cloud, and then unveiling Apps.gov in September. Not only did the government’s blessing help legitimize the cloud, but it also proved that cloud providers might be willing to bend their rules if the money is right.

5. Larry Ellison Has a Laugh (and Sun’s Cloud Dies?)

Larry Ellison’s humorous, but slightly misguided, rant about cloud computing was not so much important as was what could be read between the lines: Sun’s cloud efforts might be dead in the water. Sun’s public cloud ambitions were big news early in 2009, but immediately entered limbo when Oracle bought the company in April. Since then, we’ve heard precious little about the Sun Cloud, but many quips about how “if orange is the new pink, we’ll make orange blouses” and bona fide descriptions of Oracle’s cloud strategy as slightly retooling clusters and software to create internal clouds.

Honorable Mentions: Rackspace Cloud Servers (solidified Rackspace’s cloud presence and vaulted the company to a solid No. 2 in the IaaS space); Open Cloud Manifesto (proved that cloud computing is serious business, not the open utopia for which some were wishing); Cloud Security Alliance (from a public relations perspective, there is nothing cloud computing needed more than a consortium of security experts improving, and making very public statements about, cloud security; McKinsey & Co. (its report on cloud computing ruffled a lot of feathers and spurred important discussions about the real economics of moving operations to the cloud).

Question of the week

What cloud news do you think should have made this list?