8 Key Competitive Battlefields in Cloud Computing in 2010

by: Jeffrey M. Kaplan

As the new year and decade get underway, here are a few of the areas of the cloud computing market which I think will be important competitive battlefields for established and emerging players:

  1. Collaboration Wars: Collaboration is the ‘killer app’ in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) segment of the cloud computing market. The rapid adoption of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Apps has demonstrated the latent demand for these web-based solutions. Now, IBM (NYSE:IBM) is promoting the enterprise-class qualities of its LotusLive offering to win a share of the market. Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) is also intensifying its efforts to promote its collaboration solutions built around WebEx and Telepresence. I also think Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will accept a greater level of cannibalization of its Office products to win a bigger share of the collaboration market with OfficeLive.
  2. Business-Oriented Social Networks: These are closely linked to collaboration and have gained a tremendous amount of attention because of the explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter. Although many corporate executives are still uncertain about how to harness social networks, Salesforce.com’s (NYSE:CRM) introduction of Chatter at Dreamforce clearly shows that offering an enterprise-class solution can create a competitive advantage.
  3. Platforms-as-a-Service Wars: Salesforce.com will continue to push its Force.com PaaS capabilities hard. And, Google App Engine will continue to be a popular development environment with start-ups and tech heads. But, I think Microsoft Azure will experience surprising success in 2010 because the company has a better understanding of how to work with third-party developers and is less likely to create channel conflicts because it would prefer not to develop and deliver its own SaaS solutions. There are also plenty of niche PaaS vendors who will be acquisition candidates in 2010.
  4. Cloud Governance: HP (NYSE:HPQ), IBM and an assortment of niche players are capitalizing on the lack of unified management systems for cloud computing services. While price competition threatens to commoditize raw Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings, management vendors that can help the IaaS providers and their customers monitor and control their cloud resources will gain a competitive advantage. HP and IBM are realigning their legacy management portfolios to address these needs. A proliferation of niche players are also seeking to win a share of the market, especially focused on single sign-on and access control.
  5. IT and Service Management: IT professionals are learning about how SaaS-based management solutions can help them do their day-to-day jobs more cost-effectively. In response, a plethora of new web-based players are emerging and established players, such as BMC (NASDAQ:BMC) and CA (NASDAQ:CA), are shifting their attention toward SaaS-based solutions. Salesforce.com has also helped to bring greater attention to the ’service cloud’, where other SaaS companies like RightNow and Service-now.com are experiencing rising demand.
  6. Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS): HP and Cisco Systems are on a collision course to compete for unified communications enablement opportunities among service providers and end-user organizations, large and small. Unified communications has been an ideal for over a decade, and now cost-effective, web-based solutions are becoming a reality. CaaS can also be a key enabler of end-to-end enterprise collaboration solutions.
  7. eHealth and Energy Management: With the Obama administration promising to plow billions of dollars into modernizing healthcare systems and everyone trying to reduce the cost of their ‘carbon footprint’, these segments of the market are ripe for SaaSification. Brand-name corporations, as well as a new generation of web-based ventures, will ratchet up their efforts to win mindshare as well as marketshare offering cloud-oriented services to address these important issues.
  8. Millennials and Generation Z: Companies positioning themselves for the longhaul are already trying to win the hearts and minds of our children. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has converted years of cultivation work within the classroom into a new generation of corporate workers who prefer Macs over PCs. Google is attempting to do the same by encouraging public school systems and universities to use its Apps. Although many kids use Microsoft’s Xbox, few have any allegiance to Microsoft Office and are adopting Google Apps. Other vendors will try to follow Apple and Google’s lead into the classroom.

Escalating cloud computing battles in these areas will also fuel additional acquisitions by established players seeking to accelerate the rollout of new services and penetration of new markets. Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Cisco have been active acquirers for years. Salesforce.com will likely make additional acquisitions and continue to be a target of acquisition speculation as well.

I also think SAP will make a substantive SaaS/cloud acquisition in 2010, in an attempt to overcome some of the internal obstacles which have prevented it from successfully rolling out its BusinessByDesign solution. An acquisition could also offset the growing success NetSuite has had nimbling away at the SAP customer base.

Let me know if there are other important competitive battlefields I missed.