2012 was a pivotal year for cloud computing as products matured and real customer success stories demonstrated the fundamental business value of the cloud.

We expect that momentum to continue into 2013 and want to close this year with our “12 days of Cloud” predictions. Each day for the next 12 days, we’ll add a new, sometimes controversial, 2013 cloud prediction to this blog post.

Agree with our predictions? Think we’re drinking too much eggnog? We want to hear where you think the cloud market is heading and what you’re looking for in the upcoming year. Write a blog post in response, enter our Cloud Prediction contest, send us a tweet, or leave a comment below!

On with the predictions.

Cloud Prediction #1:  2013 is the year of cloud management software. Cloud providers have matured to a point where cross-platform management layers will thrive and become mainstream. While widely-accepted IaaS standards are a ways off, organizations will look for solutions that let them manage their diverse cloud portfolio from a single interface.

Cloud Prediction #2: **While the largest cloud providers duke it out on price and scale, smaller cloud providers see that enterprise adoption really depends on tight integration with existing tools and processes**. Rather than competing with Amazon, Google or Microsoft on price, some providers will focus on value: helping enterprises use their existing people, processes and technology to extend their data centers into the cloud. Forward-thinking cloud providers will increase native integration with popular on-premises tools and offer services that complement the existing technology standards of their customers.

Cloud Prediction #3: **Enterprises move from pilots to projects, and architecture takes a front seat.** Less evangelism, more execution. Companies now understand the value proposition and risks of cloud. Architecture expertise will be in demand as companies look to effectively design their network and storage landscape to take advantage of distributed cloud services.   Job title that will start to be more prevalent during period as I T anoints designated change agents:  Cloud Strategist, Cloud Architect, Cloud SWOT Leader.

Cloud Prediction #4: Enterprises start to embrace NoSQL databases like Cassandra and Riak, and JavaScript becomes a legitimate part of some enterprise applications. Cloud architects will begin to bring some of the most popular and modern cloud-friendly technologies into the enterprise.  Relational databases will remain a critical part of the enterprise portfolio, but cloud architects will begin to pilot and deploy the distributed systems used by the most forward-thinking web properties today. Developers will continue to depend on .NET and Java, but the momentum behind JavaScript and Node.js will begin to seep into enterprise IT departments and become part of lightweight web services and single page applications (SPAs).

Cloud Prediction #5: Standalone, public PaaS offerings will be slow to gain enterprise adoption. PaaS may certainly be the future of the cloud, but today, enterprises need the control and flexibility of IaaS to migrate existing applications while customizing new ones.  Innovative providers will bring IaaS and PaaS together and give customers the choice of where to run each workload.

Cloud Prediction #6: Public goes private. It will be a long time (if ever) before the Fortune 500 really goes all in on the public cloud. Smart cloud providers recognize this and try to commercialize their public solutions to bring it behind the corporate firewall. 

Cloud Prediction #7: Cloud providers embrace alternate costing models. Today, free-tiers and pay-for-capacity are the dominant cloud pricing models. Look for cloud companies to start differentiating by offering actual pay-per-consumption pricing as billing and metering becomes more sophisticated.

Cloud Prediction #8: While portability will increase at the application and hypervisor layer, middleware and environment metadata will remain more proprietary. We’re seeing that enterprises want choice in the hypervisor that runs their cloud, and many providers are embracing a mix of OpenStack, vSphere, CloudStack and more. Similarly, initiatives like Cloud Foundry Core demonstrate real interest in ensuring that applications can move seamlessly between providers. Conversely, few cloud providers offer a way to migrate network/firewall/application delivery settings from one provider to the next. Likewise, while most cloud companies offer open-source (or commercial) messaging and database services, we also see that large providers are betting on databases and higher-level services that are unique to the given provider. Over time, as IaaS API standards emerge, we expect to see a rise in portability for environment metadata.

Cloud Prediction #9: **Global expansion takes center stage.** An enterprise cloud needs an enterprise footprint. Cloud providers with US-only or token Europe/Asia support will struggle to become the primary provider of enterprise cloud services.

Cloud Prediction #10: IaaS providers who don’t court developers get left behind. Clouds have to be developer friendly. This includes integration with source control repositories like Git, IDE support for deployment and debugging, guidance for continuous integration and deployment, and more. It won’t matter if your CIO chooses a particular cloud - if the developers can’t embrace it, then it will only serve as a destination for migrated, legacy apps.

Cloud Prediction #11: Clouds that cannot be remotely managed through an API will fall behind. As cloud management suites rise to prominence, and enterprises look to integrate cloud services into their existing management tools, having a well-documented, expansive API will be critical.

Cloud Prediction #12: Usability and self-service become table stakes for cloud providers. Customers demand more and more self-service capabilities and won’t widely accept cloud services that require human intervention to provision or modify. Usability takes a front seat as companies expand their use of provider-specific administration tools and don’t want to invest heavily in employee training.

Thanks for sticking with us through all twelve days. These are our opinions. What’s yours? Let us know!

Share your thoughts and enter to win a little holiday joy in the form of a $100 gift card!  Tell us your 2013 Cloud Prediction!