By Don Willmott  

If you're a frequent reader of the Dice News blog then you know the topic of cloud computing pops up in posts all the time. Why? Because that's what all the tech pundits and market analysts have been incessantly pondering and pontificating about for more than a year. Allow me to join them.

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We all want to be where the money is, and cloud computing is where a lot of it is flowing. According to Gartner, cloud computing services revenue was on track to total $56.3 billion for 2009, representing a 21.3 percent increase compared to 2008. The market is expected to explode to $150.1 billion in 2013. That's serious money, and it's easy to believe those predictions if you use the broadest definition of what cloud computing is: e-mail, CRM, data backup and security, virtualization, Software as a Service, and anything else that shifts data, processing power, and storage space off the desktop and out of the data center and into "the cloud" of the Internet. The Software as a Service component (a.k.a "SaaS") will surge from $7.5 billion in 2009 to $14 billion in 2013. According to Gartner, 83 percent of the SaaS market is in online ad engines, e-commerce, HR, and payroll processing.

Let's remind ourselves why cloud computing is such a compelling concept. It promises the opportunity to control or cut technology costs, the ability to respond to changing market conditions almost instantly, short provisioning times, predictable pricing, and ease in deploying and maintaining applications. The pundits believe 2010's biggest cloud computing trend will likely be the use of leased server space, a subset sometimes referred to as "Infrastructure as a Service" (IaaS). It comes in many flavors, but one prominent example that's easy to understand and worth reading about is Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

"Data processing overloads, bogged-down networks, and lack of manpower remain key drivers in enterprises' reliance on the cloud and SaaS for applications," Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, told recently. "As a result, the biggest trend in 2010 will likely be an increasing shift to use leased servers on the cloud."

So what are the problems - or should I say opportunities - when it comes to cloud computing? One survey of 200 IT pros found that only 37 percent felt their organizations would experience cost savings in the first year of a cloud-based security solution. That means some people just don't get it and could use some hard-hitting and spot-on consultation.

And another showstopper: 43 percent said they think cloud computing is less secure than on-premise approaches. Ah, yes, security. It's easy to understand why a CIO might balk at "putting my entire company on the Internet." My conclusion is that while it may be cool to be a "cloud computing expert" over the next five years, it's going to be supercool to be a "cloud computing security expert." There's also going to be a market for gurus who can guarantee that SaaS apps are true cloud implementations, which means they are truly Web-based and require no installation.

In December, Jim Baan, the CEO of Saas provider Cordys, declared at that "the age of command and control in business technology is over." In other words, forget about silos, bunkers, walled gardens, and data centers. In the future, our workspaces won't be locked down. Dare I say it? They'll be floating.