The last year I wrote quite a few posts on the business models around SaaS and cloud computing including SaaS 2.0, disruptive early stage cloud computing start-ups, and branding on the cloud. This year people have started asking me – well, we have seen PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS but what do you think are some of the emergent cloud computing business models that are likely to go mainstream in coming years. I spent some time thinking about it and here they are:
Computing arbitrage: I have seen quite a few impressive business models around broadband bandwidth arbitrage where companies such as broadband.com buys bandwidth at Costco-style wholesale rate and resells it to the companies to meet their specific needs. PeekFon solved the problem of expensive roaming for the consumers in Eurpoe by buying data bandwidth in bulk and slice-it-and-dice-it to sell it to the customers. They could negotiate with the operators to buy data bandwidth in bulk because they made a conscious decision not to step on the operators' toes by staying away from the voice plans. They further used heavy compression on their devices to optimize the bandwidth.
As much as elastic computing is integral to cloud computing not all the companies who want to leverage the cloud necessarily care for it. These companies, however, do have unique varying computing needs. These needs typically include fixed long-term computing that grows at relatively fixed low rate and seasonal peaks. This is a great opportunity for the intermediaries to jump in and solve this problem. There will be fewer and fewer cloud providers since it requires significantly hi cap-ex. However being a "cloud VAR" could be a great value proposition for the vendors that currently have a portfolio of cloud management tools or are "cloud SI". This is kind a like CDO (‘Cloud Debt Obligations’ :-)) – just that we will do a better job this time around!
Gaming-as-a-service: It was a while back when I first saw the OTOY demo. Otoy is scheduled to launch in Q2 2010. I believe that there is significant potential in cloud-based rendering for the games. Having access to an online collection of games that can be rented and played on devices with a varying degree of form factors is a huge business opportunity. The cloud also makes it a great platform and a perfect fit for the massive multi-player collaboration. Gaming-as-a-service could leverage everything that SaaS today does - frequent updates, developer ecosystem, pay-as-you-go etc. This business model also improves the current monetization options such as in-game ad placements that could be far more relevant and targeted.
App-driven and content-driven clouds: Now that we are hopefully getting over the fight between private and public cloud let’s talk about a vertical cloud. Computing is not computing is not computing. The needs to compute depend on what is being computed - it depends on the applications' specific needs to compute, the nature and volume of data that is being computed, and the kind of the content that is being delivered. Today in the SaaS world the vendors are optimizing the cloud to match their application and content needs. I would expect a few companies to step up and help ISVs by delivering app-centric and content-centric clouds. Being an avid advocate of net neutrality I believe that the current cloud-neutrality that is application-agnostic is a good thing. However we can certainly use some innovation on top of raw clouds. The developers do need fine knobs for CPU computes, I/O computes, main-memory computing, and many other varying needs of their applications. By far the extensions are specific to a programming stack such as Heroku for Ruby. I see opportunities to provide custom vertical extensions for an existing cloud or build a cloud that is purpose-built for a specific class of applications and has a range of stack options underneath that makes it easy for the developers to natively leverage the cloud.