We entered 2009 with a vibe that the cloud was cool—but we enter 2010 with growing, mainstream acceptance that the cloud is both viable and necessary. The result will be a dramatic shift from conversation to action.

What’s accelerating cloud timetables from indefinite to immediate?
As early
as May of this year now ending, we could see that economic recovery would be rapid—except for pesky details of rising unemployment and flat (or even shrinking) IT budgets. During March and April, the S&P 500 rose by more than 30 per cent, but the U.S. unemployment rate concurrently rose from 8.5% in March to 9.4% in May—on its way toward a peak of 10.2% in October.

November’s employment upturn, a paltry 0.2%, took place in the
shadow of Gartner’s October forecast that global IT spending would fall by 5.2% during
the full year of 2009; worse, that those budgets would not return to their 2008 levels until 2012. Half of CIOs will see no growth or negative growth in budgets for 2010, Gartner predicted.

Not only will IT in 2010 be done without new capital, it will also be done with a skeleton staff: “IT hiring will not pick up noticeably until late next year, and more likely 2011,” predicts CEO and chief research officer David Foote of Foote Partners LLC.
“Expect the length of the tail on this staffing lag to be much longer
than previous recoveries, with volatility punctuating IT pay levels and
specialty skills demand,” he warned in his December outlook for the
year to come.

In this environment, every event that I attended this past year that
used the label of “cloud computing” saw standing-room-only crowds.
We saw more than 500 at Cloudforce Eindhoven in the Netherlands in June; more than 1,000 at Cloudforce Singapore in July; more than 3,800 (registration closed early due to space  limitations) at Cloudforce Japan in September; and 19,000 at Dreamforce in San Francisco in November. People came to find out more about the lower capital commitment, faster return on effort, and more efficient use of scarce IT talent that the cloud has been proven to provide.

Every leading analyst firm is putting cloud computing on its list of
major trends for 2010—and so is every IT vendor and service provider
that wants to be relevant in the decade to come. “Cloud computing will
continue on a very steep growth curve driven by the potential for
massive scalability, cost savings, cost predictability and
reliability,” says Brett Roberts, who holds the position of Innovation Director
at…Microsoft. That can’t be easy to say, when your company has just
unveiled what may well be remembered as the last of the fat-client

In fact, it’s startling to realize that Windows 7’s major
achievement is that people are merely willing to tolerate it as a
low-priority replacement for an operating system that shipped eight
years ago—with market pressure forcing Microsoft to acknowledge that “Another compelling reason to encourage customers to move to Windows 7 is the ability to downgrade to
Windows XP.” That’s got to be the oddest use of “compelling” that I’ve
ever seen. Further, even those who strive for a sense of urgency can’t
make the end of Windows XP sound like it’s coming soon: “Plan to be Off Windows XP by
Year-End 2012,” admonished Gartner in a bulletin this October. 2012? When XP will be into its second decade?

Meanwhile, the dominoes are falling
in the direction of cloud applications and platforms. While fat-client
evolution slows to a glacial pace, cloud applications are seizing the future
in places like Los Angeles. While tools and practices for client-server
development seem to struggle for incremental progress, top-tier software providers
like CA and BMC are adopting Force.com.

It’s going to be quite a year.

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