Is 2011 the year of the cloud?

Businesses will, he predicts, marry cloud computing resources with in-house servers and data centres, as well as contracted outsourcing arrangements. Some businesses will use cloud computing for "bursts" of demand, using it to add additional capacity; others will use the virtualisation and cost allocation technologies used by cloud providers to build their own private clouds, possibly as a step towards moving more applications and business processes to public cloud providers.

"The difference between private clouds and massive virtualisation is largely a moot point," says PA Consulting's Chapman. "The public cloud is a sensible option for businesses that cannot find a suitable public cloud, or overcome the barriers to using one. We are also seeing organisations setting up private clouds and bursting out' to public clouds it is a sensible, pragmatic approach to say let's dip a toe in the water."

Sensible and pragmatic, or over hyped and set for a fall? The next 12 months will tell whether the cloud is the next wave of computing, or another of those technologies that showed much potential, but never quite lived up to expectations.

For more on cloud computing, see IT PRO's cloud computing channel .