Cloud, cloud, cloud – it seems to be all we heard about in 2009. Now we’ve entered a new year and the next step is for businesses to stop talking and start doing. There are many motivators pushing us toward cloud computing. It has already had a significant impact in the form of web content management, website outsourcing, marketing services and collaboration services. The confluence of economic and social motivators, evolving business needs and new technology investments has created a perfect storm that is propelling cloud development and making cloud computing a reality. From the channel perspective, there is an enormous opportunity lying ahead for those businesses that provide cloud-based offerings. Economic and social motivatorsEconomic and social issues are the biggest motivators driving cloud adoption. IT managers with fixed budgets are realising that the flexibility of the cloud means money can be saved. The pressure to become more agile, combined with the requirement to invest in fixed, long-term technology solutions, makes the freedom of the cloud very attractive. There’s also an ever-increasing sense of social responsibility. Data centres have become huge and inefficient consumers of electricity and other resources. It makes sense to outsource significant parts of the data centre to cloud providers with large-scale, highly efficient data centres that use best-of-breed technology, located in places where sufficient power is available at a reasonable price. The Millennials generation (people who have grown up with the internet) is now entering the workforce. This is driving the consumerisation of the internet as the consumption habits of this generation drive the technologies available to the enterprise. For example, solid-state Flash storage came to maturity through mobile phones, mp3 players and other consumer electronics. This is the first – but probably not the last – time this has happened. Similarly, Millennials’ comfort with internet-based services, combined with their expectations of very short time-to-value, will drive IT cloud services as more and more of them enter the workforce.Business needsBeyond economic factors, many changes in the business environment are driving the need for greater speed and agility, which favours the use of cloud services. Product lifecycle times are reducing. The time to innovate is shrinking, while the cost to innovate is under pressure. These factors have an impact on how a business behaves in the marketplace. Many businesses already operate in an environment where various aspects of their processes are outsourced, such as manufacturing, quality assurance, test and development. Once organisations are comfortable working with several business-to-business connections, the risk of adding outsourced cloud services may not be as great. There’s also core versus context. Companies are making decisions today based on core business requirements and anything that’s not ‘core’ is ‘context ’. Context needs to be provided in a new, cheaper, more agile form to enable focus on core competencies while adequately addressing other business demands. This is clearly another avenue for cloud services. Technology investmentsThe final element driving the cloud is the massive investments by market leaders to drive technology innovation, such as Yahoo, Google and Amazon. Meanwhile, long-established IT players such as Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have also been making significant investments in cloud technology.In addition, many other players are developing cloud services or cloud-related products, adding to the diversity of available technology. The reality of cloud computing is in front of us and the opportunities for the channel are far-reaching. The economic and social motivation for the cloud is high. The business need for speed and agility is stronger than ever before, and technology has reached a level where prudent investments in cloud services are fast and easy.