With Apple recently emerging onto the cloud landscape, we now have a wide range of players offering cloud services, with which we can do just about anything. The array of virtualisation technology required to deliver cloud computing has resulted in a complex mix of platforms serving different business requirements in what can now be called a ‘cloud universe’.

As vendors, providers and systems integrators attempt to stake their claim in this space, customers are likely to be left confused in their search for a partner capable of bridging platforms and providing hybrid private and public environments.

But why is the complexity within the cloud universe an important factor? Organisations find different implementations of cloud appeals to certain business needs. As complex as the business is, the cloud infrastructure may reflect this. For example, compliance requirements may vary for different pieces of data and in different countries so the cloud infrastructure must be flexible and scalable to meet these demands.

Some will argue that there is no ‘cloud universe’; that there are only a handful of components to the platform and that you can probably count the key modules on two hands. Let’s consider the process of building a house from different coloured Lego bricks. Now consider how many different ways you could build that house, this is the same challenge with cloud computing. The focus should be not only on the ability to build interoperable interfaces between the different platforms but on driving singular standards of cloud computing.

It is this complexity in process, choice and type of business that is driving the development of cloud compute platforms to meet specific requirements. The developments and innovations occurring in the cloud computing space are very exciting, with new services being launched and partnerships being forged at a rapid pace.

But cloud providers must think about the interfaces they are building and remain focused on solving the customer’s requirements from end to end, as opposed to driving customers to link up their array of cloud based systems and processes from different vendors.

Similar to the BetaMax versus VHS video tape war, in which the choice of movie was limited by the format your system could run, and with the added complexity of different systems needing to work with one another, with cloud computing there are more than a 1,000 variations of ‘format’. Given that predicting the winner of this format war is impossible, a universal ‘video player’ or in this case a universal cloud compute framework needs to be developed.

In terms of what we can expect over the coming year, enterprises are likely to become more comfortable with the concept of cloud computing – both for private cloud and hybrid environments that offer businesses the ability to ‘burst’ into the cloud and draw on additional compute resources as and when needed. This comfort factor will largely be driven by businesses recognising that moving towards cloud computing does not mean handing over control, but instead, creating test environments in which they can experience the benefits of cloud computing for themselves.

We’ll also see the creation and consolidation of ‘community of interest’ clouds – bands of organisations that club together around a particular industry vertical or solution area on a shared but secure and cost-effective infrastructure. These ‘community of interest’ clouds will represent a first step towards business process based architectures resulting in an IT architecture that supports the core business.

Last but not least, although cloud services are not revolutionary in nature, they require businesses to re-shape their infrastructure to be one that’s network-centric in order to reap the full benefits of cloud services.

Complexity in the cloud universe doesn’t need to be a barrier to businesses gleaning benefits from it; an industry-wide drive towards standardisation and an understanding of the cloud must reflect the complexities of business. Ultimately the key is ensuring where business and cloud can meet in the middle and the requirements to ensure it offers the greater productivity and efficiency measures it promises.