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Forecast: Cloudy but Clearing

Clouds seem to come in all shapes and flavours whilst still remaining largely technologically-led. But based on feedback from clients and analysts, other hot technology topics from 2011 are now directly contributing to cloud developments and evolution. Many of the most interesting development projects are now sitting just below the cloud. The main challenge for business is how to incorporate and integrate customer behaviour and feedback to shape adoption and evolution in a dynamic environment where demand is uncertain.

For example, in 2011, many more people completed their festive shopping online, attracted by the benefits of shopping from home, and the ability to easily compare the value and price of goods and services before purchase. The attractions of online shopping have reduced retail point of sale transaction volumes and shifted the load onto business systems that support online transactions and data storage. The emphasis has now moved towards forecasting and managing the peak in capacity to support these increased online activities.

Last year, we also found that we can test, develop, evolve and modify new initiatives far more effectively within cloud environments. The ability to leverage “cloud” capacity to smooth out demand peaks is also gathering considerable momentum, particularly in retail, product and service development areas in the commercial environment. This provides a real differentiator to any business seeking to make the most of their capital, and ensuring that there is sufficient capacity to support potential peak demand or to enable testing of a try-and-buy platform.

Looking back, we survived the rise of words prefixed by “e” and “i”, and have wholeheartedly embraced open source, observed the continued rise of Google and Apple, used smarter devices and welcomed clouds.

The pervasion of cloud has moved beyond a technological fashion and taken a central role in businesses because it makes aspects of our lives and jobs easier and “just works”. The initial security concerns are still there but adoption rates are increasing our overall confidence in the technology. It can take time to build trust in new technologies, particularly when we can no longer see systems, touch servers and know how our data is actually managed. But adjusting to the physical loss of equipment has become easier for our customers as they begin to realise the cost savings within their businesses.

Returning to the forecast for 2012, economic challenges are predicted to have a major impact on IT investments. It is estimated that at least 29% of IT managers and CIOs anticipate smaller budgets and a further 68% are now prioritising cost reductions. Given these initiatives, the trend towards consolidating to hybrid cloud solutions is expected to increase in 2012. The most significant area of growth is forecast in business intelligence and analytics as companies seek to adapt, exploit and understand how best to invest and respond rapidly to market changes.

Interestingly, in 2011, significantly more CIOs were appointed internally than through external recruitment, and the average percentage of time focused on operational matters exceeded 20%. To achieve 2012 objectives, these trends will undoubtedly continue and open up many new opportunities and challenges.

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