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Cloud Gaining Traction

Market confidence in cloud soars, especially among service providers, says North Bridge survey

A new survey about cloud computing explores the business growth opportunities for buyers and consumers of cloud services alike, with surprising findings about confidence and a high degree of ongoing experimentation.

The multi-year annual survey on the cloud market provides a springboard for examining some of the implications for where the growth opportunities are and where the inhibitors for the growth may be.

To learn more about where the cloud business has been and where it’s going, BriefingsDirect sat down with Michael Skok, Partner at North Bridge Venture Partners. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Before joining North Bridge in 2002, Skok had himself been an entrepreneur and CEO in the software business for 21 years.

Hear the results of this multi-year annual survey on the cloud market.

He founded, led, and attracted more than $100 million in venture backing to his investments in multiple successful software companies. As a venture capitalist himself, Skok has invested in many entrepreneurs who have together built more than a $1 billion of value, focusing on large market-changing technologies and disruptive business models such as software as a service (SaaS), cloud computing, open source, and mobile.

Current representative investments include Acquia, Akiban, Apperian, Demandware (NYSE:DWRE), and Unidesk, as well as Actifio and Revolution Analytics.

Skok's passion for innovation and entrepreneurship is also fueling his work mentoring and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs. For example, he is currently developing and leading workshops such as the "Startup Secrets" series with the Harvard i Lab. You can follow him at www.mjskok.com and @mjskok.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Gardner: Is there anything to indicate from your survey and your experience lately that there is a waning interest or enthusiasm for cloud?

Skok: Obviously there's an increasing interest in understanding cloud, but as cloud has captured so much attention, there is also a significant interest in understanding what the real applications and potential for it are. People are trying to get beyond the hype, at this stage, to understand the practical applications and opportunities.

Gardner: Is it fair to say that confidence is up because the perceived risks are down, or are we still working through how confident people are and whether there are significant risks here?

Skok: Maybe the best way to answer that is to give you some specific data from the survey, and rather than have my commentary, it will give you the market’s viewpoint on this. That’s one of the key reasons we run the survey -- to try to understand what vendors and customers believe are some of the key issues, both driving and inhibiting the cloud.

So I'll jump in and give you some of the inhibitors first to answer your question on risk, for example, and then perhaps we can talk about some of the drivers.

On the inhibitors, one of the things that’s interesting this year is that, if you look back to 2011, 10 percent of the survey respondents would have said that the cloud is just too risky, and they gave many reasons last year. This year, we're down to 3 percent. So that’s a significant drop.

Michael Skok

Now, I'd argue that 3 percent says that you're at a point where people are beginning to understand cloud better, because the issues that they are raising are things like data sovereignty and the Patriot Act. Those are very real issues that are unlikely to just disappear, and they are beyond just cloud. They have to do with the reality of how people have to run their businesses.

The good news is that 12 percent feel that the cloud still needs to mature. That's not so significant number, but it’s down from 26 percent in 2011. So again, people are starting to feel that the cloud is obviously meeting more of their needs.

When you look at the issues behind those 12 percent who are looking for greater maturity, there are things that again you would expect to see in an early-stage market -- things like security and compliance, and that’s very typical.

If you looked at any major trend that comes into the marketplace, if you looked at the initial early days of the web and eCommerce, people said things like, "We'll never put our credit cards on the web." Now, not only do we put our credit cards on the web, but we allow people to do Internet banking and take photos of the checks as a means to make deposits from their cellphones.

So things have come a long way, and that’s just the time-scale that it takes. It’s typically several years before things mature and get people confident in these kinds of applications.

Encouraged by results

So I'm encouraged by those results. The next obvious thing that comes out of the survey is how many people are still experimenting. About a third are experimenting, 34 percent to be precise, with concepts in the cloud, driving applications, and using the cloud in some innovative ways.

For example, you see companies like Bank of America, who do trials using the cloud, and if they are successful, they use the cloud’s elasticity to quickly expand their trials. If they're not, they just throw them away. That’s a great example of how the cloud is specifically enabling people to do trials and get to market faster and be more effective.

And the other side of the coin, the great news this year is the rapid growth in confidence overall in the marketplace. If you had asked how many people had complete confidence in 2011, you would have gotten an answer about 13 percent, and this year it was fully 50 percent.

So we're not quite at a tipping point, because you have to double-click on that 50 percent. You have to understand the split between vendors and customers, and vendors were over half. In fact, 56 percent of them have complete confidence in the cloud. So you're seeing net new development in cloud from independent software vendors (ISVs), absolutely the tipping point. You see very few companies starting up today that aren’t building in a cloud.

If you look at the customers, they're not quite at that same level of confidence.

But if you look at the customers, they're not quite at that same level of confidence. Just over a third, 37 percent in fact, have complete confidence. More of them are experimenting and waiting for it to mature, as we were just talking about, and some of them still feel it’s too risky.

So it’s a long answer to your question. I hope it gives you some substance backed up by the survey to get a sense of this, and I am happy to answer any questions behind that.

Gardner: It’s interesting that those who are in the cloud ecosystem themselves are very confident, and you'd think that they would have the most to lose. They're making their investments, but the longer tail toward the consumer side is still catching up to that.

It certainly seems optimistic for the market in general that those in the know -- those that are using these to build business -- that they themselves will be providing cloud services and are so confident.

Skok: It turns out that there’s an interesting representation of players in the survey here, in that we have got both vendors and users responding. There were over 785 in total, mostly C-suite, but more than a third of it are customers.

Of the vendors that are represented, we're covering everything from Amazon to Citrix, to some of the mid-tier players like Rackspace, Red Hat, and others, and also up-and-coming and emerging players, for example, Eucalyptus and Acquia.

Bridge the gap

So it’s a very good breadth of players to drill one level beneath this, and we did that. We tried to understand what’s going to bridge the gap between vendor’s confidence and user’s confidence and we heard five specific things.

Number one, people want more complete value propositions. A lot of what’s being sold at the moment is technology and what people really want is the second key thing, which is clear business benefits. And they want that in the form of case studies, which is the third thing that would help people.

The fourth thing is more proof of specific opportunities that are being addressed in their industry, the vertical specific applications if you will. The bottom line, the fifth thing, is that people want greater return-on-investment (ROI) case studies to be presented to them so that they can put that forward as they champion this on an economic basis.

So to answer your question in summary, Dana, what we'll see is this gap between the confidence in the cloud the vendors are seeing and what users are seeing it is going to get bridged, as we become more able to deliver on the benefits with specific examples that drop right to the bottom line.

The beauty of the survey is that it represents a broad swath, about 40 of the key vendors.

By the way, the full results of the survey are available on our site at mjskok.com. Just look under the "Industry for Cloud," and you'll see "Future Cloud."

This year’s survey is an opportunity to get a level set as to what’s going on in the industry, where are we, and to understand what’s going on in the key drivers and inhibitors, because everybody in the ecosystem is trying to understand how to better address the tsunami that’s rolling over the industry in cloud computing. The results were gathered in the summer of 2012, and they're continuously updated.

So the beauty of the survey is that it represents a broad swath, about 40 of the key vendors, both driving and enabling cloud, and also key buyers and C-suite members who are trying to evaluate and deploy cloud.

The idea behind the survey obviously is to enable both sides to get a better understanding of how to take actionable steps toward implementing what might be the next generation of IT. Pretty much everybody recognizes cloud as the platform on which not just applications and solutions are going to get built, but IT is going to transform to the next generation of providing itself as a service in an effective form.

Independent survey

For example, we're in constant conversations with these vendors and also with the CIOs to continue to keep them fresh. But while we sponsor it, 40 collaborators are driving it. Again, the details of that are on the web, but the point is that it’s an independent survey so that no one vendor is driving it, it’s a collaboration of the industry as a whole to ensure that it's an independent survey.

Gardner: One of the things that jumped out at me, as you were trying to define what we could start to call loosely "killer applications of the cloud," where this is going to get traction, clearly one of the areas was platform as a service (PaaS). So let’s address that. Then, there's also big data -- fast data, analytics in the cloud. How prominent were they in the survey in terms of the priorities or the endgame for these two types of uses?

Skok: That’s a great question. You only skipped one, so I'll cover it briefly. The most surprising thing is just how much SaaS has gained in the survey since last year.
We also worked with Goldman Sachs, to give credit to them, and some of the information is also pulled from the industry as a whole. We found that 67 percent of the survey respondents are already deploying SaaS applications, and the value that people are seeing is in the application solving real business problems.

Respondents were saying that 75 percent of them thought that they would be building software with PaaS in the next five years, which is a big jump.

Of course, SaaS is built on PaaS and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) too. The important thing that you are pointing out is that there was a significant jump of interest in PaaS this year. In fact, looking forward to the future, the respondents were saying that 75 percent of them thought that they would be building software with PaaS in the next five years, which is a big jump.

We have a viewpoint on that, and I'll come back at it in a second, but what’s interesting here is that people recognize that they're going to be building applications. Why would they build them in anything other than in a cloud-based manner? That’s what’s so interesting here.

Now, I'll come back to that, because there’s some interesting controversy around how PaaS will play out and that came out of the survey too. But to talk a little bit about what you were describing as key application areas, big data was certainly one of them. It was top of the list on what people thought would be changed by cloud. As far as which application categories would be disrupted most, big data was at the top of the list.

Beneath that, were others that wouldn't surprise you, for example, customer relationship management (CRM). With Salesforce having led that charge, it’s not surprising that people see that continue to be a key area.

What was exciting to me was that number three was eCommerce. In our own portfolio, for example, we saw one of my investments, Demandware, go public this year and that was real evidence to me that you're going to be able to build confidence in mission-critical applications.

eCommerce applications, like Demandware, are the front door representing major vendors and brands, and people can track the nature of their business literally second by second and measure how much revenue would be lost if eCommerce applications were down.

Mature and strong

So the fact that major retailers and brands now bet billion of dollars on eCommerce as a service gives you a sense that people feel like the technology is in place and mature, strong, and reliable enough for them to back it with their brand and have it at their front door. That was very interesting.

Gardner: Just to expand on that a bit, in addition to retail and consumer side eCommerce, we saw SAP acquire Ariba. So there is obviously some interest in the B2B side as well.

Skok: Exactly. The B2B side is very early, and there is tremendous potential there too. We think that’s relatively untapped and that there's great white space there. You're quite right.

Gardner: So continuing down your list.

Skok: The list obviously is long, but what we did was to look forward and try to understand some of the key areas that are driving cloud and some of the opportunities. I'll cover what we talked about as the future cloud formations and the potential opportunities for applications.

They fall into what we call five cloud formations, and we're specific in talking about formations, as opposed to cloud-washed opportunities. What we mean by that is that you've seen a lot of vendors try to bring out just another level of their application and host it in some shape or form and deliver it via the cloud. That’s really not what we're talking about here.

We think the future is in applications that have been built specifically for the cloud.

Those kinds of things that aren’t true multi-tenant applications that are born in the cloud, and we think they're not the real future here. We think the future is in applications that have been built specifically for the cloud and enable you to do things that you wouldn’t find possible should you not have had the cloud available to you.

The formations we talk about first are media and entertainment. People have gotten used to that with iTunes and their music and Netflix to get their movies online. That was a major revolution and it started initially with web ordering where Netflix was delivering physical DVDs. As the pipes got fatter, we could just physically deliver over the web, and you're seeing more and more of those opportunities.

 

If you look at gaming, it has also all gone online, and people are taking it for granted. That’s actually a lot of what drove the cloud initially. This media and entertainment formation is very real, here to stay, and we think has tremendous opportunity, especially as the mobile platform expands too.

The second key area is what we call social and collaboration. The social and collaborative cloud is very much understood by people who use Facebook in the consumer world. What's interesting is that it has moved into the enterprise with applications important to supply chain management that are enabling things like tighter inventory control.

Also, there's collaboration all the way down to the customer, so that people can get better service and support, and in many instances self-service, which has a great cost savings and ROI payback.

Easier to collaborate

You're seeing that now start to play out. People are getting used to the fact that it's so much easier to collaborate in the cloud than it is to try to send people on-premise applications to work with, when you want to collaborate with them. We'll see a great expansion of that going forward, too.

The third key area, which I would describe as almost a platform shift, is identified as mobile and that includes location data, too. Mobile, if you think about it, is not possible without the cloud. Again, it goes to a real, true cloud application.

These devices that we carry with us, smart as they are, are nothing without the connections back to the cloud, to be able to do everything from synchronizing our contacts, calendars, and email, to much more important and significant things, such as to connect back to business processes and provide such key information as price lists and contracts for the people in the field to be able to do their job in situ.

That’s a really important shift, and the incredible rise, it's unparalleled, of new devices like the iPad, which has been the fastest growing device ever, in both consumer and enterprise, are giving rise to new demands and new services.

eCommerce has really become something that people take for granted that they can do over the web.

What's perhaps obvious when you think about it, but less obvious in this context, is how much location data is being generated from that. We'll talk about that in terms of the big data formation in a second, but location data is providing new opportunities for new applications. That links nicely to the fourth key cloud formation that we think about. That's commerce and that includes payments.

eCommerce, as we were just talking about, has really become something that people take for granted that they can do over the web. It's not just Amazon anymore, as you said, it's even B2B commerce, for example, that companies are taking a lot of the supply chain, collapsing it, and taking out cost.

That’s being enabled by the cloud. As mobile payments and the payment system in general become more accessible by the cloud, which is more of a political challenge than it is a technical one, that will become a very interesting opportunity for new applications that will be spawned and connected back to the cloud.

All of those applications, as I started to hint at with location data, are generating a huge amount of data, and that’s giving rise to the big data cloud. Big data is interesting on two fronts. It's interesting because with every click and step we take we're creating information that is being collected in the cloud, in a form that you can consider part of the big-data opportunity.

What's interesting on the second side of the coin is that the cloud itself provides the kind of scale, indeed economy of scale, for crunching that data, analyzing it, and providing insight from it.

The fact that you can spin out an analysis of anything from the human genome to a click stream in the cloud, and then provide insight, in some cases in real time, to drive applications wherever they may be and reach them with things like your mobile devices, is really changing the game.

 

Cloud formations

So these five cloud formations: media and entertainment, social collaboration, mobile and location, eCommerce and payments, big data and analytics, are where we think cloud is dramatically changing the scope of the landscape.

When you look at them, what's really exciting here is what's happening at the intersection. I'd be happy to give you an example of that, if it's useful to you.

Gardner: What's very fascinating to me, Michael, is not just these impressive arenas that you have described on their own, but how they intersect and in many ways multiply each other -- being mobile, having the big data to crunch, relating that data into a commerce activity, and bringing that back out through collaboration or social activities. It's really the whole greater than the sum of the parts here. Please explain a bit where you think that is going or where the survey tells you it's going?

Skok: You said it very well. The sum is greater than the parts here, and you've obviously picked right up on it. We could give you many examples, but I'll take one that’s simple, so that everybody can relate to it.

It used to be that if you thought about going to see a movie, you would have to go and check your local listings, but obviously people are way beyond that today. We can go right online and if it's not available to you at Netflix, you can quickly check to see where it is available on your local cinema from your cellphone geo tag where you are and it can quickly tell you that the closest place to go to see the movie.

Of course, you can use commerce in the cloud to buy it on something like Fandango. Then what's interesting is that you can choose at that time to check out what your friends think of the movie, see the collaboration that’s been going on of reviews from people that you know, and decide whether it's that movie or something else you should see.

At the application level, the big game changer is going to be what I call social commerce.

So you're using all of the things we are just talking about, media and entertainment, social collaboration, mobile and location, commerce and payment, to do all of that.

What gets to be exciting is all that data that’s being generated, if you go and see the movie, or if you rate it yourself, it gets fed back to you in things like recommendations for the next movie you might want to see, or if you take your kids, the kind of merchandizing that follows up with offers to you, and payments that can drive you to make further additional purchases.

And that’s just a simple example. There are many others I can think of that are, exactly as you say, the whole being much greater than the sum of these individual client formations. It's really quite game changing.

Gardner: So who are the beneficiaries? Clearly there is a business to be had providing cloud services and in integrating process benefits across some of these domains. You can sell hardware and software. You can build new business models by either giving consumers things they couldn't get before or making what they had done before far more efficient and productive. But where is the margin?

This gets to the business of cloud. We see Amazon being very aggressive on price, maybe racing to the bottom on some of the commodity services for IaaS for example. And we certainly expect a lot of competition between the likes of Google and Microsoft for cloud and PaaS types of services. Salesforce of course is in there.

But where is the point in all of this where you could say, "Here is another Apple with the iPad. Here is the margin. Here is the place where the business is as revolutionary as the productive benefits of cloud activities?"

Three examples

Skok: Very good question. I'm going to give you three examples at the different levels: so one at the application level, one at the PaaS level, and then one at the infrastructure level. I hope that will be helpful.

At the application level, the big game changer is going to be what I call social commerce. It's the intersection of two of those cloud formations, if not three of them, which is social connections and recommendations, connected with eCommerce, and potentially mobile within there too.

You're going to see there is tremendous opportunity, because what people most rely on when they are actually buying things is their friends and trusted recommendations, and we're very early in that. Surely, people have begun to recognize the power of the like button, but we haven’t yet seen that translate into commerce. We're early in Facebook trying to realize that.

The other extreme, the eCommerce companies, are taking off doing what we call omni-channel commerce, connecting everything from bricks and mortar, and are also recognizing the power of being able to do that as people are out and about with the mobile devices and gaining data on, for example, local offers and so forth.

The next great opportunity is going to come in the combination between social and commerce, and it might involve mobile and local as well. We haven’t seen the next great company emerge from that, but we're certainly seeing many opportunities. At the application level, that’s probably a good example.

People are looking for more analytics, and more of the capabilities that are going to be specifically taking advantage of cloud scale.

To deliver on all of that, one of the things we're taking for granted is that the infrastructure is going to be in place to do all that. A part of the survey that we always take time to ensure we cover is to understand the things that people are actually spending money on right now.

If we look at the intersection between vendors and users, and in the survey it's a slide called "Rainmakers," at the bottom of the infrastructure stack there's still a tremendous amount to do to enable the kinds of applications that you and I are talking about here.

Some things are very basic, the things like single sign-on on authentication to enable this collaboration across the supply chain. More specifically, in mission-critical businesses, it's things like backup, archiving, and business continuity to ensure that all this information is being stored and managed on a significantly scalable basis.

When we looked at all that, the thing that stood out, which is not going to surprise you probably, given that we talked about big data, is that people expect one of their greatest areas of spend to be analytics.

So at the infrastructure level, I think we are going to see some of the things that I talked about that are basic, like next generation of single sign-on. But the big thing that came out was that people are looking for more analytics, and more of the capabilities that are going to be specifically taking advantage of cloud scale.

Insights in real time

Whether that’s using things like Hadoop or next generation NoSQL or NewSQL, our capability is to get those kind of insights in real-time. In the end, the more data that’s being generated, the more we're going to have to step up the scale of analytics to provide insight in an effective time scale.

Those two would exemplify the application opportunities and the infrastructure opportunities. In the middle, as we talked about earlier, there’s a great deal of interest in PaaS, and it's less clear to me what the opportunity is for a specific breakout.

I'll say both what the survey revealed and what it didn’t reveal, which is interesting. We talked about how it revealed that there is a strong interest in PaaS, but when we dig in with vendors, what we see is that the vendors are actually at the bottom of the stack. The IaaS vendors, people like Amazon, VMware, and others, are actually trying to add more capabilities to their IaaS platform, to enable them to feel more like a PaaS.

If you look at Amazon, they've added numerous new services to make themselves more platform like, and they have become the de facto standard there. So they are moving from the bottom upward.

But you also see the SaaS vendors, exemplified by Salesforce.com, introducing their PaaS, like Force.com, to extend the use of their infrastructure or their applications to be more platform like too. There's a pretty big squeeze from the top and the bottom that’s making it difficult to see what will be the white space for a PaaS vendor.

People have historically very rarely made money out of tools. I don't think it will be any different in the cloud.

The honest truth is that I can describe the first two, what the opportunities for the SaaS and IaaS are, but it's not clear to me where the white space is in PaaS, and it feels like it's getting squeezed, if that makes sense.

Gardner: So to sum up, perhaps there is a significant business to be had up and down the spectrum, infrastructure, hardware-software, facilities, management, building out the applications, but perhaps one of the larger two opportunities that's yet to be solidified or clear is in the analytics and in PaaS.

Now, in the past, development was often a tricky market to make money in -- tools, frameworks, IDEs, but in many cases there was a deferment involved. You might break even or even lose money on some of those areas in order to capitalize on the deployment side or even gain lock-in for those applications on a platform, and that's where you would have a very good business.

I think what we're seeing with cloud is something a bit different. When it comes to lock-in, and you have had experience of course in open source software, what are some of the good things and some of the more risky things when it comes to this desire, as we've seen in the past, to lock people in to either a platform, a service, a standard, or even a toolset?

Skok: You're on the money on a number of different fronts. First of all, as you say, people have historically very rarely made money out of tools. I don't think it will be any different in the cloud. The interesting piece in the cloud is you have the runtime potential to make money, but even then, it's an economy of scale game, so it's not a place that's easy for startups to play.

Platform lock-in

The second key point you're making is that people traditionally have looked at it as a means to get lock-in to a platform, and that is the exact thing that people are worried about in this cloud revolution too. The third biggest item of what's inhibiting cloud adoption in the survey is lock-in, and the fourth was interoperability. They were both very high on the ranking.

What people are worried about there is very simple. If we double-click on it, they're looking for three things to avoid lock-in. They want to avoid data lock-in, they want to avoid programmatic lock-in with application programming interfaces (APIs), and they want to avoid being locked into proprietary services or features that can't be transparently supported on other platforms.

That's a real challenge for the PaaS players at this point, because the giant here is Amazon, and they've got a series of de-facto standards. There are some companies like Eucalyptus who have been very smart and are reverse engineering or making sure they are compatible with those standards.

But those that are trying to compete on new grounds are certainly going to have to struggle with gaining critical mass and then answer the question about how they'll provide that interoperability on those three layers we just talked about, to get over that inhibitor of an adoption that people are worried about around lock-in.

People will have open access to the source to modify, adopt, and even change to create their own abstraction layers.

Gardner: So perhaps there's a de-facto standard around Amazon, but being challenged by OpenStack and CloudStack as well. Is there any inference in the survey as to whether the OpenStack and CloudStack approaches would mitigate a de-facto standard evolving rapidly, and how do you view that?

Skok: I'm going to slightly branch outside of the survey and mention that for several years, we've run an equivalent industry survey on open source. It's very widely adopted now, but when we started several years ago, it was early.

We've seen that cloud has very much become a part of open source, not just because a lot of cloud is built on open source, but because, as you say, people are looking at open source as a means to answer this lock-in. It answers one of the key areas, which is certainly programmatic, an API type lock-in.

People will have open access to the source to modify, adopt, and even change to create their own abstraction layers, but that will potentially enable this kind of interoperability.

Things like OpenStack, CloudStack, OpenShift, and other platforms are potentially an answer to that. The challenge there is that they're relatively young and early in their adoption. While they've got significant backing, you have yet to see broad deployment of them yet.

I'm hopeful that open source will provide some of the answer to vendor lock-in. It's certainly being proposed that way and it's being supported that way. If you talk to a certain segment of the user population, they would tell you that it's exactly what they're relying on, but in reality, we're too early to call that one.

Making good money

Gardner: One observation from me would be that the folks that are in a position to make good money on infrastructure, hardware or software facilities, and management, seem to be a natural affinity environment with the OpenStack, CloudStack approach, but those higher up the food chain in cloud that have more of a pure-services business model might be interested in having the de facto standard land in their particular data center. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

Tell us once again, Michael, how people can get more information on your survey. Where could they go to get the nitty-gritty?

Skok: They can just go to mjskok.com under Industry, Future of Cloud Computing, and the full survey is available from that site on a slideshow for people to click through. Also, it's being covered in many different places by many of the vendors who have supported it. There's a lot of information being disseminated by the collaborators. You have full access to it.

Just to answer your question, because it's too good a question, who has what interest to go where? It's best exemplified by Oracle. Oracle took a long time to enter the cloud market. Of course, they have benefit all the way from hardware out to the applications because of the acquisition of Sun.

That's how they're pushing their cloud approach as a series of applications that are totally integrated from hardware, all the way through to software. That's certainly going to suit some class of buyers.

If you look at major waves like this, it's always a while before people can afford to have best of breed at various different layers.

But if you look at major waves like this, it's always a while before people can afford to have best of breed at various different layers. If you started building application, as we did in some of our investments like Demandware eight or nine years ago, there was no IaaS, there was no real depth of Amazon and no service-level agreements (SLAs) that you could have built a mission-critical eCommerce application on.

That is evolving, and the more stable and capable the IaaS and PaaS players become, new applications will be to take advantage of those, and new vendors will potentially be able to take advantage of best of breed. That's what's interesting about the surveys, but it's all about verifying and tagging the state of the industry to see where we are and benchmark how the future is going to play out.

Gardner: Perhaps what we're seeing is a flip from best of breed being a technology to best of breed being a service or ecosystem approach. And if you can perhaps sweeten the offer of moving your best of breed mentality in that direction by not locking people in, or at least giving them an option to have interoperability, or mobility of their services, then that might be an irresistible offer that the market can't refuse. We just don't know who is going to make it, right?

Skok: That's exactly right. That's perfectly said. A good example to highlight how this is still playing out is Zynga, who reverse burst to their own zCloud because the economies of scale made it worth their while to do that.

If you look forward, people are even talking about cloud brokerages. I think it's too early to do that. Forrester had some thoughts about that and was talking about cloud brokers like travel agents. I think we are a ways off from that.

But in the ultimate scenario, exactly as you were talking about it, you might see a place where you have best of breed, cloud services, and all kinds of cloud formations that we were talking about.

Best of breed

Applications will effectively be an amalgamation of the best-of-breed cloud services and cloud formations that will enable new classes of applications that have interoperability, or at the bare minimum of things like data that's passed up and down supply chains or along applications streams. The consumer is the ultimate benefactor, because they're getting those, not only at best of breed, but hopefully at the lowest cost and at highest value.

Gardner: Then, perhaps it would be embedded services across those best of breed processes that would include widespread analytics, mobility, and location services, so those become more sweeteners to the offer. There would be a race to who can put together the best banquets of services under the best interoperability terms and licensing terms. So again, it could be a very interesting next five years.

I assume that over the next several years, you're going to be continuing to do this survey each summer and therefore get the gravitas that we have seen with your open-source survey.

Skok: Indeed. There's been unbelievable response to it. In fact, just to give you a sense of it, the open-source survey took a number of years to gain the kind of momentum that it's now enjoying in its seventh year here.

This survey gained such incredible popularity that within the first couple of years, it already has as much support from the industry as the entire open-source survey does.

This survey gained such incredible popularity that within the first couple of years, it already has as much support from the industry as the entire open-source survey does. And we have got tremendous demand to continue doing it, from both vendors and customers alike.

We're continuing to use it to keep dialogue between vendors and customers and enhance the industry’s ability to respond to what they see as the future. So  with your support, we will continue to do it.

By the way, the full results of the survey are available on our site at mjskok.com. Just look under the "Industry for Cloud," and you'll see "Future Cloud."

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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