Truth in (round) numbers?

Statistics matter, not only in business, but increasingly also in our social life – well, at least in our social media life. Some of the statistics I noticed this week were round numbers, like 1000. With 1000 representing both the number now showing under “followers” in Twitter and the revenue number for research (that’s excluding events, consulting and other items) we grew to in 2011.

And on my blog I saw – a bit to my surprise – it has been of full 10 weeks since my last post! That’s however more a case of bloggers block than writers block, as I did (co-)author the round number of 10 research notes since joining this summer. To catch up, I am including below a short overview of the topics these research notes covered (Gartner clients only) and that I likely will explore further in the future – both in research and using (social) media.

So what topics did these 10 research notes address? First to mention are the Predicts 2012. I participated in two this year, one called Predicts 2012: Cloud Computing Is Becoming a Reality in which we revisited an earlier prediction on cloud lock-in and explored the idea of a Maslov type hierarchy of needs for cloud computing customers. In this needs hierarchy fear of lock-in will be gaining ground as more basic needs like security are better understood.

In the second Predicts 2012: CSPs Need to Redefine Their Business Scope we focused on the expected penetration of Cloud Service Brokering among leading Communication (and increasingly Cloud) Service Providers or CSPs. Cloud Service Brokerage (CSB) was also the topic of an Emerging Services Analysis note. As discussed during the 2011 symposium keynotes brokerage of individual solutions into more whole, aggregated and integrated solutions is increasingly becoming a necessity in the world full of cloud specialists typically offering one thing at enormous scale and lowest possible price points.

But the emerging cloud computing discipline also has distinct touch points with IT markets and disciplines that have been around for many years, like outsourcing (particularly in Europe) and with the IT operations management (ITOM) discipline. With regard to the first I contributed to work from our colleagues in the outsourcing & IT services team on a Market Map and Compass, aiming to give some guidance on when to choose which approach. Meanwhile in the ITOM area a note was published called Cloud Management Platforms: A Step toward ‘ERP for IT’. I did not participate in this one personally, but given my earlier writings like “Lean, and the art of Cloud Computing Management”, you will understand I welcome this approach whole-heartedly.

A foundational element and quantitative bearing point for all these types of research notes are the industry Forecasts and Forecast Analysis notes, such as the one for Enterprise Network Services (which includes hosting, colocation and cloud IaaS services) that our team publishes in a quarterly cadence. In these we expanded the forecast horizon to 2016, which somehow feels a lot less round that the previous horizon of 2015.

A less broadly known but very interesting part of our research are the Marketing Essentials notes aimed at technology and service providers. I worked on ”Four Strategic Options for CSPs to Explore Cloud Computing Opportunities which came out shortly after this Competitive Landscape on the approaches of two European CSPs (Telecom Italia and Orange Business Services) and the earlier mentioned Emerging Technology Analysis regarding the use of self-service portals and APIs in cloud computing. APIs are becoming an increasingly important part of cloud computing and my latest research on Market Trends explores further how dynamic allocation of network capacity through use of an API (enabled by emerging software defined networking standards such as Openflow) could become the third foundational element of infrastructure as a service (next to compute and storage as a service). In this note we explore how enterprises may want to command a business class of networking services – similar to how enterprises (in the good old days) commanded a business class of airline services – but all using the same underlying infrastructure as consumer offerings.

So what’s next?
First of all lots of the day to day analyst activities I described in my (talking of round numbers) cloud in a hundred days post and more recently by my colleague Lydia Leong in a post called Five reasons you should work here. First upcoming item on the publication calendar in an overview of the research agenda our team will be writing against in 2012 and of course the annual 2012 cool vendor reports for which the nominations now are all in.

With regard to the momentum of cloud computing, I guess it is fair to say that even when one might believe we had seen the top of the hype(cycle), the amount of buzz and excitement around cloud computing continues to grow. In some cases resembling the mad rush of the days of Open Systems (where boards with no particular insight or interest in technology would a mandate a move to “open systems” (what ever that meant), sometimes even despite what business cases and common sense would suggest). And if we wanted, we could fill every week here by attending briefings from provider- and vendor-organizations on their new cloud computing plans and offerings.

But as with any new technology the proof of the pudding lies not in cooking it (or even in writing about it), it lies in eating it. And that is the next step. Moving from specific use cases (such as test-dev, customer facing web applications and high performance computing) to the generic – deploying, more and more parts of enterprise’s vast application portfolio’s using cloud based datacenter services. It’s this crossing of the chasm that has consistently proven to be the most difficult step for both vendors and technologies to take. It’s the numbers (round or not) that will eventually be the judge of how successful the transition will be.
PS. Almost all of the above notes were written in cooperation with other Gartner analysts, for a who’s who see the detailed listing of lead- and co-authors by document here.

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