The clear direction of computing architecture over the past few decades has been in the direction of networked computing using public network facilities, with obvious ramifications for service providers in terms of broadband access and transport revenues.

With no exceptions, the next big development–cloud based computing–should push users even more firmly in the direction of computing using public networks. In fact, argues Gartner, by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the center of users’ digital lives.

The other big trend is the increasing number of devices used by any single consumer to access and use computing resources.

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“Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices,” says Steve Kleynhans, Gartner VP. “Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life.”

To be sure, there also are ramifications for enterprise users as well as consumers. And that explains the huge interest in cloud computing, on the part of service and application providers.

Still, most of the revenue upside appears likely to accrue to hardware and software suppliers, according to a Morgan Stanley analysis. In the telecom space, the analysts expect key winners to include Rackspace, Equinix and competitive local exchange carriers and metro bandwidth suppliers.

Also, pubic cloud computing is likely to reduce traditional telco enterprise service revenues. Morgan Stanley further suggests that among IT decision makers, the large telcos remain behind Amazon and others in terms of “cloud mindshare.”

How much overlap there is between hosting and cloud computing services is an important issue for service providers. At one level, hosting is about server real estate and amenities. But cloud computing is about some other things, namely rental of computing cycles and storage, rental of operating systems and platforms, and rental of actual business apps.

Though service providers have embraced the hosting business and content delivery networks as “valued added parts of the transport and business,” it remains unclear how far they might ultimately go in the core cloud computing business.

The increasing number of devices used by any single consumer to access and use cloud computing resources means more access revenue, to be sure.

Gartner predicts that, by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the center of users’ digital lives. That implies heavy and growing need for broadband access.

What also is clear is that service providers now see content delivery networks and cloud computing as new business opportunities, with ramifications for enterprise users as well as consumers. And that explains the huge interest in cloud computing, on the part of service and application providers.

Still, most of the revenue upside appears likely to accrue to hardware and software suppliers, according to a Morgan Stanley analysis, even as enterprises start to shift workloads to cloud approaches.

According to the Morgan Stanley survey, 79 percent of information technology workloads are running at on-premise data centers today, but over the next few years, respondents expect that only 64 percent of workloads will run at in-house data centers.

What’s more, 51% of respondents are running their entire infrastructure on premises today, but in three years some 70 percent of companies will have moved at least some workloads to managed hosting or public cloud environments, including infrastructure as a service, (IaaS), platform as a service, (Paas) or software as a service (SaaS).

That does not mean each of those ways of “doing cloud computing” represents the same amount of potential revenue for suppliers of the services. In the relatively near term, software as a service probably will represent most of the actual revenue for suppliers of cloud computing apps and services.

In fact, one might ask whether, on a global basis, cloud computing will be a significant revenue driver for anything but software as a service. According to Forrester Research, for example, by 2020 SaaS might represent $133 billion in annual revenue, while the other forms of cloud computing will register only in single-digit billions or low double digits.



In a similar way, some will argue that hosting and CDN services are more of a “value add” for connectivity services, rather than big new revenue drivers for service providers, in their own right.

The issue is which cloud computing suppliers or even data centers will benefit, particularly since cloud computing services today are more logically provided by Amazon and other suppliers, not “data center” suppliers.

On the other hand, AT&T hopes to capitalize on its position as a “one-stop shop” for IT and connectivity needs. The company has said that it is already number two in hosting globally, with more than 2.5 million square feet of data center space (38 data centers, with 15 outside the US, primarily in Europe and Asia).

Verizon’s purchase of Terremark likewise is expected to boost Verizon’s connectivity sales, not simply “hosting” revenue, especially with small and mid-sized businesses. Verizon operates 220 data centers in 23 countries, as well.

Metro fiber providers and independent hosting firms also will benefit, it is reasonable to conclude. What isn’t so clear at the moment is how much share telcos might gain in the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS business segments, which are less “real estate” plays and more “computing services” offers.

Cloud computing gets lots of attention these days in the service provider business. But it might be helpful to keep in mind that the actual amount of new revenue data center hosting or cloud computing actually will generate is likely to be modest, from a service provider perspective.

The more important angle is the “value add” for the other core connectivity solutions. Essentially, data center hosting services and content delivery networks “make the bits more valuable.” And value is the antidote to commodity pricing.

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