Cloud computing has gone way past the curiosity phase that had kept it from being explored to its full potential. In fact, 2011 saw cloud computing inexorably marching on through the technology industry as a vital component of computing strategies. Leveraged by IT-independent companies and organizations for its advantages, the innovative technology is being adopted and deployed at skyrocketing rates.

But while 2011 was the year when cloud computing took its place as a legitimate strategy - with industries throughout the world weighing the good and the bad in it - some things remain to be seen. Are new trends and revolutionary tricks - or insurmountable challenges - behind the concept bound to unfold in 2012? (For background reading, check out Cloud Computing: Why the Buzz?)

Going Up to the Cloud

The concept of cloud computing had been around for quite some time; however, it certainly made its mark in the enterprise and organizational landscape in 2011. Many are seeing that innovating with cloud computing has more potential than fiddling with traditional computing models, while promising better operations and the delivery of greater and better IT services.

In the past year, companies have made a more extensive exploration and experimentation of the technology, with a clearer understanding on how it could benefit IT infrastructures and operations - minus the expense and time that would otherwise be incurred in the set-up, configuration and deployment of new systems.

The CSC Cloud Usage Index, a global survey of more than 3,500 cloud computer users, provides some evidence for why so much hype surrounds cloud technology. Of the 3,500 surveyed businesses in eight countries that made the switch to the cloud in 2011, 93% reported improvements to some areas of their IT department.

Owing to cloud adoption, some 64% pointed to significant drop in energy consumption and waste, with others finding an upsurge in the efficiency of their data centers. Such benefits became the main reasons why 65% of companies have subscribed to cloud for at least a year. Over half of the businesses in the CSC report identified that mobility was a key factor in adopting cloud computing.

Cloud Deniers

Much as it is touted as the next big thing in technology, the relevance of cloud computing has been a topic of some debate; as with any new technology, there are complications and risks. The primary concern, as uncovered by IT specialists and cited by decision makers, is security. Confidential information and intellectual property that need to be protected are not entirely secure in the cloud, at least not for now. (Read more about this issue in The Dark Side of the Cloud.)

Data integration issues with respect to applications within the cloud and the actual delivery of services are also giving companies pause when it comes to moving toward cloud computing. There are also vendors who are deeming the cloud model to be cost-effective only on a short-term basis, especially when it comes to acquiring new applications and deploying them quickly.

Cloud Computing in 2012: What the Experts Say

Evidently, trends are leaning toward a continued upsurge in the popularity of cloud computing as it gains widespread attention and massive acceptance and adoption. But whether the operational concerns cloud computing has raised are really an issue remains to be seen. Research authorities and market intelligence leaders think so too.

International Data Corporation (IDC), a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for IT, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets, is predicting that in 2012, cloud computing will continue to march on as an emerging computing model for IT development, deployment and delivery. If the use of cloud-related solutions, products and services are factored in, cloud technology is expected to approach $42 billion in 2012. IDC also predicts that by the end of the year, 80% of newly introduced commercial enterprise apps will be on cloud platforms.

With cloud services on the rise, the number of developers and vendors has increased to meet perceived demand. Leading the pack are Amazon Web Services and Google, which, according to IDC, will exceed $1 billion in cloud services in 2012 and mid-2014, respectively. (Learn more about AWS in What Do Amazon Web Services Bring to the Cloud?)

Gartner, another IT research and advisory company, is underscoring a rise in the cloud information made available to companies and organizations. Such data will require them to fully understand and ensure consistency and effectiveness in cloud deployment to avoid overlooking strategic decisions and missing out on crucial opportunities. According to Gartner analysts, IT organizations and enterprises aimed at accelerating business in 2012 should have a well-founded, coordinated distribution of activities and ensure that robust relationship management and a sound workforce strategy are in place.

Reinforcing the Gartner findings, James Staten of Forrester Research predicts cloud computing will begin to challenge the predictability of IT in the coming months. As the computing model is promising yet another market transition, 2012 will be marked by the need to engage IT leaders and developers in getting ready for the escalating cloud exploration.

The Cloud: 2012 and Beyond

The many aspects of cloud computing are swinging across the hybrid enterprise. Needless to say, the call for a balanced approach in optimizing the IT infrastructure and strategizing toward a purposeful deployment of cloud technology has never been so significant.