Today I’d like to share my thoughts on major themes for 2012 in the Cloud Market. Throughout next year, I believe the following five themes will dominate the cloud industry and guide new developments.

1. Hybrid is the new black

And we’re not talking cars. The amorphous cloud has certainly laid its claim to our hearts and minds, but enterprises aren’t going to just jump ship. Like the hybrid car strategy of marrying the known with the new, enterprises will adopt hybrid clouds that maintain the benefits of traditional servers with the accessibility of public cloud.

2. Tablet meet the other Jobs

2012 is going to be all about how those slick devices we already use to read the news and watch movies will shift to become real business tools. And guess what, it’s going to be executives, who by the way love them, who will drive their use in the workplace. When the person in charge sees how useful something can be, they’ll make sure it gets accepted.

3. Offshoring is out, on-shoring is in

Because the right people to do the job are often in the United States. With cloud commuting on the rise, employers are going to realize they can on-shore jobs in Iowa or Idaho instead of looking to India or Ireland. Pay an engineer the local wage, leave them at home, give them access to the tools of a cloud commuter and it’s just like they’re working from the corporate office.

4. Freemium isn’t really free

While the end user might not pay, there are enormous costs for businesses who have to support the patchwork of mediocre products designed only to solve one person’s problem, not solve an organizational problem. Not to mention the fact that it isn’t a sustainable business model — designed only to pump up the numbers and give the appearance of size. Didn’t we learn from the first dot com bubble?

5. Today’s office doesn’t have to be 4 walls and a water cooler

In fact, the cloud let’s you sit in meetings, take calls, and read endless email strings you’ve been cc’d on just like you’re in your cube. Between cheaper tablets / mobile devices, better productivity apps, easy internet access and acceptance of the cloud as a part of the corporate infrastructure, employers and employees can save corporations time, money and resources, with the added bonus of saving the world by staying off the roads.

Cloud acceptance is driving a push to mature the technologies and companies involved. From creating real business models that don’t push free products to developing the way companies use the cloud to enable better and smarter ways to work, 2012 will be a banner year for showing how technology can improve the workplace.

These predictions are based not only on personal observation, but also on data collected from a variety of sources. A recent TNS study of 3,500 IT professionals found that 33 percent of survey respondents cited accessibility to information through multiple devices as the most important reason for their decision to adopt cloud computing. This pull through effect of mobile combined with more mature cloud offerings marks the beginning of widespread acceptance of Cloud Commuting.

IDC, the prominent analyst group, in it’s recent 2012 predictions announcement noted that “80% of new enterprise apps will be deployed in the cloud” and further “The number of intelligent, communicating devices on the network will outnumber “traditional computing” devices by almost 2 to 1 within next 24 months.”

We are entering a new era of the borderless worker, bound only to his home, and tethered only by his ability to connect to the Internet. We call them cloud commuters.

While it’s a forgone conclusion at this point that the cloud is here to stay, it’s yet unclear how the cloud will manifest itself in businesses IT infrastructure. In fact, in Gartner Research’s recent release of their “Top 10 strategic technologies for 2012”, they made a point of noting that “Hybrid cloud computing which brings together external public cloud services and internal private cloud services, as well as the capabilities to secure, manage and govern the entire cloud spectrum will be a major focus for 2012”

Enterprises are not always the most adaptable of environments, and though they are living organisms that mutate when necessary, they move cautiously and attempt to create the most sustainable ecosystems possible. To that end, it’s very rare to see them make swift and extreme changes, they’re more likely to move in steps, and adapt new technologies to existing ones in order to create a path towards change.

Because of this organizational behavior pattern, and general aversion to major risk, I believe you’ll see enterprises shift to a hybrid cloud model, where they keep the stability, speed and security blanket of having some of their infrastructure behind the firewall, and marry that to the cloud. This way they gain the benefits of a cloud environment, but retain the control and intellectual property that provides them with competitive advantages and peace of mind.