As the end of 2012 approaches there is one clear takeaway about the cloud computing market — enterprise use has arrived. Cloud use is no longer solely hiding in the shadows, IT departments are no longer denying it’s happening in their company, and legitimate budgeting around cloud is now taking place. According to the latest Forrsights surveys nearly half of all enterprises in North America and Europe will set aside budget for private cloud investments in 2013 and nearly as many software development managers are planning to deploy applications to the cloud.

So what does that mean for the coming year? In short, cloud use in 2013 will get real. We can stop speculating, hopefully stop cloudwashing, and get down to the real business of incorporating cloud services and platforms into our formal IT portfolios. As we get real about cloud, we will institute some substantial changes in our cultures and approaches to cloud investments. We asked all the contributors to the Forrester cloud playbook to weigh in with their cloud predictions for the coming year, then voted for the top ten. Here is what we expect to happen when enterprise gets real about cloud in 2013:

1.     We’ll finally stop saying that everything is going cloud. And get real about what fits and what doesn’t. We now have enough understanding about what makes cloud platforms different from traditional virtual infrastructures and traditional hosting environments to make architecturally sound decisions about which applications to move to the cloud. Forrester’s strategic rightsourcing method can help you facilitate these discussions inside your company. Be sure to involve your developers who have actual hands-on experience with these platforms — they should be your guide.

2.     Cloud and mobile will become one. What’s the value of a mobile app that doesn’t call out through the Internet to back-end services? Not much. And where will these back-end services live? Probably not in your datacenter — unless you plan to poke a big hole in your firewall to accommodate an unpredictable flood of traffic. More often than not, we are finding mobile applications connected to cloud-based back-end services (increasingly to commercial mobile-back-ends-as-a-service) that can elastically respond to mobile client engagements and shield your data center from this traffic. Nearly every software-as-a-service (SaaS) application has a mobile client now, which is proof of the model as well. As Forrester analyst Glenn O’Donnell puts it, cloud plus mobile is a classic “more than the sum of its parts” combination.

3.     We’ll stop stressing about cloud SLAs. And recognize that apps have to protect themselves. The best practice for cloud application design and configuration is to build resiliency into the application rather than expect it from the cloud platform. This way you can achieve any service-level agreement regardless of the base SLA provided by the cloud platform. Getting the performance you need is an application-specific goal anyway. What’s the value of having your sourcing and vendor management team negotiate a high and tight SLA from the cloud vendor when only 10% of the applications deployed there need that level of protection?

4.     We’ll get real about cost modeling. For two years now, Forrester has been preaching that the cloud isn’t always cheaper, but most likelycheaper with the right use model. Do the math, understand the economics, and monitor and optimize as your use evolves. If you want to get the best ROI out of your use of cloud services and platforms, you need to actively model the cost profile of your applications, monitor their resource use, and adjust accordingly. We’re not saying cost should solely drive your cloud deployment decisions, but cost can no longer be ignored or assumed. With cloud cost-monitoring tools like Cloudyn, CloudCruiser, Cloudability, Newvem, and Rightscale, plus the cost-reporting tools that come directly from the leading cloud vendors, you no longer have an excuse for not managing your costs. Good cost management should also drive your hybrid deployment, service selection, and discount schedule negotiations. In 2013 your CFO will wise up to this cost management opportunity, so be prepared for him or her to demand you take this responsibility.

5.     I&O will free the development teams to build apps in the cloud. The developers don’t really need I&O’s permission, and our surveys and client inquiries show the business-unit-aligned developers certainly aren’t waiting for it. In 2013 the I&O team will get comfortable with the fact that development on public clouds is going to happen whether they like it or not and it’s easier for them to engage developers and be part of the conversation about how to do it safely, securely, and with appropriate oversight. It also gives I&O, working with application development and delivery (AD&D) and enterprise architecture (EA), the ability to set guardrails through a formal cloud policy that shows what type of development is acceptable and engage in a dialogue about what may not be such a good idea . . . at least not yet.

6.     We’ll get real about using the cloud for backup and disaster recovery. Instead of enterprises buying resources in case of a disaster, cloud computing and its pay-per-use pricing model lets you pay for long-term data storage while only paying for servers when testing or declaring a disaster. It probably won’t replace your existing BC/DR resources completely, but the cloud is turning the cost of storage upside down faster every month, and what was cheaper to back up to traditional DR storage last year will be cheaper and easier to put in the cloud is short order — and faster to recover. Pretty soon we’ll wonder why we ever maintained our own long-term cold storage.

7.     We’ll stop equating cloud with commodity. Cloud services are highly standardized and automated, but standardization does not have to mean commodity. We’re already seeing cloud services backed by high-end hardware, offering GPUs, SSDs, and other clearly non-commodity infrastructure options. In 2013 expect to see the proliferation of these types of choices as cloud providers leverage them to meet specific market demands and to differentiate competitively. But don’t think we’re saying all non-commodity infrastructure has a future in cloud. Today’s “commodity” server or storage is easier to enhance to be tomorrow’s premier offering than to try to accommodate yesterday’s technology. Look for the cloud to disrupt more and more technology sectors thought to be safely “high margin.”

8.     We’ll stop equating cloud with AWS. While Amazon Web Services has opened up a substantial lead in the cloud platforms market — arguably as large as 70% market share — in 2013 we’ll see that market position give way to a cadre of strengthening competitors and new entrants. Microsoft and Google have made significant improvements to their platforms, and by the end of 2013 we fully expect to see at least three substantial OpenStack-based clouds building strong positions. Look for a Forrester Wave™ of public cloud platforms in mid-2013.

9.     We’ll acknowledge that advanced virtualization is a good thing, and no, it’s not a cloud. The cloudwashing award for 2012 definitely goes to enterprise I&O departments who relabeled last year’s VMware environment a private cloud so they could “get to yes” in the eyes of their CIO. Very few of these environments offered self-service to the developer, fully-automated provisioning, standardized services, or cost transparency. In 2013, let’s get real about these environments. A mostly static virtual environment that successfully drives workload consolidation, operational efficiencies and fast recovery is a good thing — a very good thing. It’s just not a cloud and nor should it be. Enterprise I&O teams should be happily bipolar: Your optimized and dynamic virtual environment and your on-demand private cloud both have a place in the datacenter. They solve different problems and meet different demands. Don’t waste energy trying to make one into the other when they’re both delivering value.

10.Developers will awaken to: Development isn’t all that different in the cloud. There are no cloud-specific or cloud-best languages. Our cloud developer survey shows that the majority of languages, frameworks, and development methodologies we use in the enterprise are also in use in the cloud. What’s different isn’t the coding but the services orientation and the need to configure the application to provide its own availability and performance. And frankly this isn’t all that new either. We’ve had to worry about these aspects with our websites since 2000. While some of the best practices and cloud services may be new, there are few excuses for a well-trained developer to not be productive in the cloud. So what are you waiting for?

My thanks to the many contributors to this post, including Dave Bartoletti, Michael Gualtieri, Lauren Nelson, Rachel Dines, Michael Facemire, Andre Kindness, Glenn O’Donnell, Liz Herbert, and Chris Voce.