Cloud keys an era of new IT responsiveness and efficiency

James Staten and I wrote this vision of the future of cloud computing. The full report is available to Forrester clients at this link. The research is part of Forrester’s playbook to advise CIOs on productive use of cloud computing and is...


James Staten and I wrote this vision of the future of cloud computing. The full report is available to Forrester clients at this link. The research is part of Forrester’s playbook to advise CIOs on productive use of cloud computing and is relevant to application development and delivery leaders as well.  

This research charts the shifts taking place in the market as indicated by the most advanced cloud developers and consumers. In the future, look for the popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) models to become much more flexible by allowing greater customisation and integration. 

Look for more pragmatic cloud development platforms that cross the traditional cloud service boundaries of SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and IaaS. And look for good private and public cloud options — and simpler ways of integrating private-public hybrids.

The key takeaways from this research are:

    • IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS boundaries will fall. In the future, no cloud will be an island. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS will remain distinct but expand to anchor cloud platform ecosystems that weave together application, development platform, and infrastructure services. Business services built in these ecosystems will be easier to develop, better performing, more secure, and more cost-efficient.

    • Service catalogs will help unify enterprise-cloud consumption. As developers and business leaders adopt multiple cloud services, CIOs will implement unified consumption systems. The key need: A service catalog that bolts new services into your portfolio to simplify consumption, operational management, and financial control. Single sign-on solutions are required.

    • Enterprise clouds will balance code-free tools with developer control. Developers will continue to demand both highly productive tools and transparency and control over the application servers, databases, and other platform layers when needed. The services that succeed for enterprises will strike the right balance between abstraction and control.

A key finding of our research is emergence of a new model for cloud platforms. We call this model IaaS-Plus and cite Amazon Web Services as the primary example. There are now two major kinds of cloud platforms: IaaS-Plus and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).  

In the IaaS-Plus model, developers have greater operating system, middleware, and database choice than they do with PaaS, greater ability to configure IaaS resources, as well as OS, middleware, and database than they have with PaaS, as well as access to mix-and-match application services. 

Amazon Web Services is by far the most popular cloud platform, and we expect high adoption of other IaaS-Plus offerings as other vendors join the category. Microsoft and Google, for example, recently added IaaS-Plus options to their cloud platforms, which previously were PaaS only. Will PaaS die? No, but neither will the PaaS model dominate. 

The table below briefly compares IaaS-Plus and PaaS.



Cloud Platform Model




Platform services

VMs, native services

Containers, native services

Access to IaaS layer



Access to middleware config



Access to database config



Choice of operating system



Provides development tools


Usually yes

Provides a complete platform

Usually no

Usually yes

Other key findings:

    • Cloud will become an option for most enterprise scenarios. Few if any enterprise application scenarios will be off limits for cloud platforms — even public cloud platforms. Developers are already expanding the envelope in their use of cloud platforms.

      The conventional wisdom that most enterprises are merely experimenting with cloud platforms and not building serious applications is overstated and, in some cases, dead wrong. Growing confidence presages a future for cloud in the enterprise virtually without limits.

    • Hybrids and service diversity will become the norm. Get ready to manage your IT portfolio very differently in an environment where you don't have eternally dedicated hosting environments. Instead you will have your data centre  several outsourcing partners, and cloud service providers.

      Your portfolio of cloud services will complement your internal environments, and your developers will compose business services across those choices, intermixing in-house resources and data with externally hosted resources and data. New applications will centre on the new cloud services and view in-house as legacy.

What it means: It is time for CIOs to assemble their plans to consume, manage, offer, and secure cloud services and platforms - with the emphasis on public services. This means creating new career paths for your key IT leaders, getting them the experience and training they need to make this transition successfully, and embracing the services that will be the foundation for this new, more diverse portfolio now.

Our research incorporates findings from Forrester’s Q3 2012 Global Cloud Developer Online Survey. Find a summary of that survey’s findings here.

Posted by John R. Rymer

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