December 24, 2012, 1:06 PM — When we started talking about cloud computing five years ago, it meant one thing: Services such as Amazon or Salesforce that customers could self-provision over the Internet and pay as they go.
That's what we call the "public cloud" today, as opposed to the "private cloud," which refers to the application of public cloud technologies and practices to one's own data center. And guess what? The public cloud was where the action was in 2012 -- and it's where much of the action is going to be in 2013. According to IDC, businesses will spend $40 billion on the public cloud this year, rising to nearly $100 billion in 2016.
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Despite that rapid growth, public cloud dollars still represent a small fraction of the trillions of dollars devoted to IT globally every year. The data center isn't going anywhere -- but it needs the greater efficiency and agility the private cloud offers. The question of the day is whether the private cloud will evolve quickly enough to stop an accelerated exodus to public cloud services.
The rush to infrastructure in the cloud In 2012, the biggest thing to happen to the cloud was the arrival of three major new IaaS (infrastructure as a service) players: Google Compute Engine, HP Cloud, and Microsoft Windows Azure. All three entrants face an uphill battle competing against the incumbent leader Amazon Web Services -- and even against Rackspace, long the distant No. 2 IaaS provider.