The growth of cloud computing will give rise to hundreds and even thousands of providers, creating a competitive environment in which some players will fail - perhaps even large providers. That's the view of Gartner Distinguished Analyst Thomas Bittman, who gave the keynote on cloud computing Monday at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas.
"This will be a very Darwinian market," said Bittman. "Over time, we think this competition will cause vendors to fail. This is already starting to happen. There's no reason a larger provider will be immune from this. The key for vendors is agility. Many just won't survive."
Why focus on potential cloud provider failures? Because enterprise customers need to contemplate many "what if" scenarios and risks as they chart a path to the cloud - including failover options if a cloud provider should have a major downtime event or go out of business.
More Subdued About the Cloud
Bittman's warning was consistent with a more tempered approach to cloud computing enthusiasm that characterized this year's Gartner event. Bittman said he hoped to "clear the air" about the potential for cloud computing.
"We've heard all the hype," he said. "We've been hearing that we're all going to move our stuff to a small number of data centers n the sky, and you'll all be out of business. In reality, there is not a black or white, public or private. In all of this, there's shades of grey. There are good sides and bad sides to cloud computing. The key is to focus on the right services and requirements."
A similar tone was struck in Monday's other keynote by Gartner analyst David Cappuccio. "Cloud computing is not going to take over the planet," Cappuccio said. "It won't solve all your issues or get rid of your data center. But it's not going away either."
Bittman sees specialized clouds as a potentially compelling use case. "There will be providers that will go after the security and compliance requirements in specific industries and markets," he said. He also cited the promise of "community clouds" forged around shared challenges or requirements. As an example, he said, a group of pharmaceutical companies could work together to maintain a cloud service optimized for high performance computing (HPC).
He continues to see a potential role for cloud brokers that act as an intermediary between enterprise customers and cloud providers. Bttman estimated that by 2015, about 20 percent of all cloud computing capacity will be handled by brokers. "We need integration between services, and cloud brokers will help with integration and provisioning."
An audience survey found that 66 percent of attendees were focused more on private cloud deployments, while 20 percent were concentrating on public cloud services.
"We think what's important is for you to stratify your requirements," said Bittman. "Every service should have a strategic plan. Some will be hybrd. Some will never move to the cloud. Cloud computing is about a style for every service. The only bad cloud strategy is no cloud strategy."