With the Mayan doomsday a big washout, there's no doubt that the cloud has been the biggest thing in 2012, and there's also little doubt that it will continue to be the biggest IT trend moving into 2013. While not a lot of businesses have jumped onto the cloud so far, just about every business is looking at the different cloud offerings and seeing how they might be able to take advantage of them.

Cloud Services Evolving Rapidly

The cloud and the services offered by the different cloud vendors are also evolving rapidly. The cloud initially was defined as services that were supplied by a hosting company, like Microsoft's hosted Exchange Server, and then later became an extension of your IT infrastructure, as typified by Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, concerns about security and ownership of data kept a lot of companies from adopting these service offerings. This led to the inception of the private cloud and the hybrid cloud.

The private cloud offers many of the same advantages of the public cloud infrastructure, but instead of being shared, the private cloud is dedicated to sole use of the company. The private cloud is typically built using the organization's own infrastructure, enabling rapid deployment of applications, and it often provides end user self-service capabilities. Moving toward the private cloud infrastructure is one of the fastest growing trends in IT in 2013.

Hybrid Cloud Addresses Security & Scalability

That said, the private cloud lacks the high-end scalability offered by cloud vendors like Amazon or Microsoft's Windows Azure, where the hosting company has far more infrastructure than even large organizations. The hybrid cloud has evolved as the combination of the public cloud and the private cloud and it addresses the scalability limitation of the private cloud by coupling your organization private cloud infrastructure with a hosting provider's public cloud infrastructure. This way, the hybrid cloud can provide extremely high levels of scalability while at the same time enabling you to remain in complete control and possession of your data.

One common implementation of the hybrid cloud is where you have your organization's database servers running in an on-premises private cloud, while your application's front-end web servers are running in the public cloud. All of the concerns about data security and the location of the data are all under the domain of your company, which addresses the primary concerns about using the public cloud. Yet at the same time, the application can utilize the cloud's infrastructure to provide massive scalability for the application.

Desktop Apps To Cloud & Datacenters Into Private/Hybrid Clouds

Cloud technology has been continually evolving to better meet the needs of the organization, and it's sure to continue to be the most important trend in IT in 2013. One of the events in 2012 that really underlines the growing importance of the cloud was Microsoft's shift from a software provider to a "devices and services" company. Products like Office 2013, and its online counterpart Office 365, will begin to shift desktop applications toward the cloud, while other products, like Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) or VMware's vCloud Suite, will enable organization to transform their datacenters into private and hybrid clouds. 2013 certainly looks like it's shaping up to be the year of the cloud.