Future of cloud computing … more clouds. Seriously.

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The next big leap in both technology and business models around sharing elastic compute resources might be bidding for those resources at auction or acquiring them through a broker, according to a report issued Thursday from Forrester. The report argues that while the technologies aren’t here today, a business built on aggregating clouds from public and private networks and delivering capacity and services in an automated, on-demand fashion to companies will emerge by the end of this year, and standards will start appearing in 2012.

Forrester believes that today we have a simple cloud broker model where companies can buy access to infrastructure as a service on demand, things such as Enomaly’s SpotCloud fit this mold. However, in the future, it expects a”full broker” to emerge that automatically spans all clouds and acts as a “fixer” for companies seeking to deploy new apps or handle busy times of year. The fixers don’t just do this for compute resources, but also will one day do it for people, making the idea of hiring seasonal workers something the full cloud broker could do — providing both the IT resources to support those people but also the people themselves.

Forrester's complex cloud broker model isn't for the faint of heart.

That’s a bit of a stretch for the cloud, seeing it as this universal resource provider, but the report takes us back to the earth’s stratosphere by pointing out that for this full broker model to develop, the tech industry will have to build some tools: namely, those that will make so-called “cloudbursting” a reality. Cloudbursting as a concept refers to moving data and applications instantly from one cloud to another. The number of reasons this doesn’t happen today begins with a lack of interoperability between clouds and ends with issues tied to moving virtual machines from one data center to another.

But once a vendor pulls all this together, it will be on the cutting edge of the next generation of cloud services and reap a “healthy 5-percent margin” in the process. If that doesn’t strike anyone as particularly healthy, consider that Forrester believes cloud computing margins will drop to commodity levels … eventually. From the report:

Although cloud computing is probably still two decades away from being a commoditized utility, the underlying delivery models will follow those of other utility business models. For example, high standardization in electricity grids has moved the entire industry away from flat, volume-based pricing for industrial consumers to the spot pricing of today’s smart grids.

My Take: I respect that Forrester is trying to predict the future here, and aspects of this model are clearly coming. However, it also posits that sophisticated private cloud builders will link their private clouds with public ones and even make their private clouds available. This could allow a broker to “offer a ‘virtual virtual’ machine at an even lower price point than a commoditized IaaS offering.” Forrester notes this would take deep trust, and I think it may not happen at all, especially since many sophisticated CIOs are also in heavily regulated industries.

The idea that sharing human resources as well as IT and linking them together is pretty bold prediction and would create a dichotomy in employment experience between professionals and middle-class call center or service workers that would have implications for society and public policy that boggle my mind. Anyhow, that’s the future as Forrester sees it — the cloud becomes more pervasive and more nebulous.

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