Edwards_Paul_027_4x5_informal_3_55940232.jpgSo, what ARE cloud services, anyway? Ask a handful of partners that question (or, just ask people in your own company) and you get a lot of different answers, not to mention some blank stares. Now imagine your clients, most of whom know little about this cloud stuff, looking to you for clarity. Wouldn’t it be sweet (and professionally advantageous) if everyone at your organization had a clear, concise, and consistent answer? Well, that’s why you’re reading this – so I can provide you with that elusive cloud services definition. And, hey, if you’re thinking that cloud isn’t an opportunity for your company, keep reading and I’ll give you the market numbers that might make you think twice.
Let’s first agree that cloud services are not easy to pin down in the face of all the white noise being generated out there. But stand back far enough from the din and cloud services really become much clearer, emerging as a set of defined attributes, deployment models, and functionality. I’m not going to bog down this blog with some fully detailed definition – we’ve saved that for the IDC Cloud Transition series of white papers created specifically for partners. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that cloud services goes well beyond other online delivery models, enabling easier, cheaper, and in many cases more powerful offerings for your customers.
This also means opportunity for partners – all types of partners, whether you’re a VAR, services firm, or ISV. And before you think I have my head in the sand (or somewhere else), I understand that cloud services are also a disruptive trend for some of you. Either way, you’ll need to seriously look at how your business is positioned to take advantage of the emerging cloud economy. But let me first take a high-level approach to defining cloud services, and then I want to give you the skinny on the opportunity.
You can think about cloud services in three layers:
  1. The attributes that distinguish cloud services from other computing architectures, such as having consumption-based metering to support pay-as-you-go pricing models;
  2. The deployment models—and you have three choices: public, private, or hybrid (here’s a fun little chart to put more meat on this one);image_thumb_55940232.png
  3. The functional description of the service; there are many to choose from here, but they all fit into three tidy buckets: platform-as-a-service, application-as-a-service, and infrastructure-as-a-service. There’s another functional description called software-as-a-service, but this is really a term used to describe all cloud services functionality outside storage and server capacity on demand.
So I think even my grandmother can follow that definition without falling asleep too quickly. But just in case some of you are starting to glaze over, let me show you the money. Cloud services globally are growing about five times faster than the rest of the IT industry. That’s a fact that should catch your attention. Let’s put it in nice concrete numbers. In 2009 the market for cloud services was $16 billion – in 2014 we expect it to reach $55 billion. That’s a growth spurt of 27% compounded annually. Now it’s also true that cloud services revenue is being generated mostly in the U.S. at about 63% of the market, but this is expected to change over the next number of years as Western Europe and Asia Pacific start to contribute expanded share.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest partners, like you, need to get onside with this moving train because it’s going slow enough to jump on, but it won’t be long before it’s screaming down the tracks. A good next step would be to understand how moving to cloud computing will affect your own business. To find out, review the IDC Cloud Transition Series, created specifically for partners.​