Which applications are heading for the cloud this year?

Cloud-bound or stuck to the ground? Which applications are heading for the cloud this year and which are hitting delays? Lets scan the departures boards…

1. Email

Much has been made of cloud-hosted email’s economies of scale and flexibility, but it has seen a wobble or two, such as the high-profile outages over at Gmail. Pushing inbound mail filtering up into the cloud can free up network bandwidth, though, and protect the network from external nasties.

“Email is a particularly interesting area in which both Microsoft and Google have effective enterprise offerings and we’re seeing more and more companies interested in adopting their cloud-based services, rather than refreshing internal email hardware and software”, note The Corporate IT Forum.

And yet, even as cloud-mail begins to gain serious traction, could email itself even be under threat as cloud-driven project management and collaboration undermine is raison d’etre? Don’t rule it out…

Cloud-bound? Minor delays but now taking off at speed

2. Collaboration

The likes of the calendar and the organiser have been flying high in the cloud for some time, but 2011 could see things move up a gear as cloud-based project, document, and collaboration management take flight; not least with an upgrade to Microsoft’s 2007 cloud-version of SharePoint scheduled.

“Without doubt collaboration will be big in the cloud in 2011”, says Mac Scott, of tech consultancy Xantus. “More and more ventures are joint undertakings with multiple parties working to a common goal. Traditionally large organisations have struggled with opening up internal systems to partners and suppliers. Cloud providers can supply a common solution that all parties can agree to use for sharing data, collaboration and managing projects.”

Cloud-bound? Climbing fast to cruising altitude

3. CRM

With Salesforce and one or two notable others having been comfortably (and profitably) ensconced in the cloud for some years now, enterprise confidence in cloud-based CRM has been on the up for a while. And with Microsoft entering the fray (its Dynamics 2011 platform is in beta) momentum looks certain to increase further.

Recent Zeus Technology / Vanson Bourne research found – perhaps surprisingly – that larger businesses were the more likely to push their CRM applications into the cloud; 80% of organizations with 1,000 – 3,000 employees running CRM and marketing apps on-premise, against 64% of those with 3,000 employees plus. 36% of the latter are already using private clouds.

Cloud-bound? Flying high and still climbing

4. Mobile apps

Retailers and consumer-facing enterprises are driving mobile cloud services, but mobile enterprise applications are likely to be the next to go into the cloud amid the increasing clamour for smartphones. Juniper Research expects the total market for cloud-based mobile apps to grow by 88% between 2009 and 2014, with about 75% of the market comprising enterprise users.

“You can now manage Android, iPhone, Nokia and Windows Mobile devices right from the browser and at no additional cost”, notes Robert Whiteside, regional head for Google Enterprise in the UK, Ireland and Benelux. “So employees can access corporate data with their personal devices and admins can set security standards and wipe devices if someone leaves the company.”

Cloud-bound? On the runway and accelerating to take-off speed fast

5. Ecommerce

Ecommerce might sound like the perfect storm for the cloud, but most ecommerce applications and platforms are in fact still run from the ground. Zeus Technology’s survey found 53% of firms running ecommerce applications on-premise, with just over a third running them in private clouds and only 10% in the public cloud.

Cloud-bound? Engines still warming up but looking good for the long haul

6. Storage & DR (Disaster Recovery)

The cloud is increasingly seen as a natural fit for storage, back-up, recovery, archiving, and disaster recovery (DR) applications – particularly with sophisticated tools for managing cloud-based data beginning to emerge en masse. Significantly, this is being driving predominantly by the SME sector as many larger enterprises hold back – at least in the short term – amid security concerns.

Alan Arnold, CTO at Vision Solutions comments: “The cloud has been a great platform for (DR) in 2010… and in 2011, more emphasis will go on the recovery element. Going forward, the fact that the cloud can not only host data, but also provide a platform for running workloads in the event of a disaster, will provide greater opportunities for reducing downtime.”

Cloud-bound? Engines still warming up but looking good for the long haul

7. Business Intelligence & Analytics

Some of the major BI and ERP vendors are now building and pushing cloud offerings in the hope that they’ll fly with businesses that need complex data slicing and dicing tools on the move. But there are issues. Data residing in multiple customised sources is unlikely to be heading skywards any time soon for example, while the complexity of integration with other key business apps could put the kibosh on cloud-based BI in the short term.

Cloud-bound? Still on the runway but beginning to taxi

8. Financial

When solutions provider Access surveyed 100 finance professionals at the back end of 2010, nearly half (49%) weren’t “at all familiar” with the notion of cloud computing, with two thirds claiming that their organisations don’t use it, 41% that they weren’t looking to implement it and a quarter unsure. There are pockets of uptake – 8% of respondents using cloud solutions for accounting software and 6% for payroll – but they’re limited and narrow.

Cloud-bound? Still on the runway with technical problems

9. Testing & Development

Billed by many as ideal cloud applications. Security and availability issues are less critical than for full-blown business applications, while the cloud provides a useful sandbox in which developers can play safely. IBM, for one, has set up a cloud-based testing and development environment, which will allow customers to rent virtual systems on which to test software they have developed.

Cloud-bound? Nosing skywards… though destination may have limited appeal

10. Unified Comms

Unified comms really only began looking skywards late in 2010. Microsoft’s Lync Online offers voice, video, and virtual meetings using software powered from the cloud, latterly becoming part of Office 365, which brings Lync together in the cloud with elements like Exchange, SharePoint, and Office. Late 2010 also saw BroadSoft announcing its BroadCloud offering, which enables service providers to bring to market UC services including unified messaging, presence, and videoconferencing.

Cloud-bound? Still on the runway but another good bet for the long haul

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Matthew Stibbe is writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. He is also an avid blogger, closet geek and HP fanatic.