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When future IT historians (or research analysts, as they’re commonly called) look back at 2010, they’re likely to consider it as the year that cloud computing went mainstream. With businesses still looking for ways to cut costs during a horrendous recession, the dramatic increase in the number of vendor supporting cloud computing subscription models has made for a great fit with market demands. New platforms, new government policies and new competition made 2010 a great year for cloud computing, and that trend is certain to continue in the New Year as well. Here’s a quick look back at the top cloud computing news stories of 2010 – the building blocks that will shape this major transformation of the IT industry in 2011 and beyond..

Cloud enters the mainstream
The Washington Post noted in a recent article that one sign that cloud computing has entered the mainstream is that it’s being advertised on television. Additionally, the newspaper also reported that the Obama administration’s “cloud first” policy is pushing federal agencies to identify three services they plan to move to the cloud within the next three months.

Microsoft introduces Windows Azure Appliance
Microsoft introduced at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July its Windows Azure Appliance, which enables partners and customers to host and control private and semi-private cloud environments within their data centers. As Channel Insider reported, Azure is a key differentiator for Microsoft in its battle against existing cloud vendors in the market.

VMware launches vCloud Director
A month later, VMware launched its long-awaited vCloud Director within its vSphere platform. With vCloud Director, VMware offered customers the ability to build their own secure private clouds that they could deliver as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

Symantec calls for more attention on cloud security
Security remains a concern within the cloud, particularly in public cloud environments. In April, security vendor Symantec warned that many businesses were not doing the proper due diligence around security when it came to rolling out cloud initiatives. According to a survey conducted by Symantec and the Ponemon Institute, fewer than 10 percent of businesses surveyed said they had done any product vetting or employee training to ensure their cloud computing choices met security requirements before deployment. The study revealed a “disturbing lack of concern for the security of sensitive corporate and personal information as companies rush to join in on the trend,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, in a statement. Justin Somaini, Symantec’s chief information security officer, said that enterprises are flying blind  in regard to security in the cloud.

CA and NetApp extend collaboration to the cloud
CA and NetApp took their existing partnership and moved it into the cloud collaboration space in February. Through the extended partnership, CA’s virtualization, automation and service assurance technologies were integrated with NetApp’s storage management products, which the companies said would help customers improve productivity and service quality while reducing risks and lowering costs.

Cloud disrupts software licensing and pricing
As businesses shift from traditional software models to subscription-based cloud models, a disruption in licensing and pricing is expected, stated IDC in October. According to IDC, most enterprises believe they are under-utilizing or are out of compliance with vendor software licenses, and they are demanding from vendors usage-based software models. Even for vendors and channel partners, a usage-based model means customers are kept in software licensing compliance and are getting the best bang for their bucks.

Google and Microsoft battle over cloud productivity apps market

Both Google and Microsoft focused on their cloud strategies in 2010, and the “do no evil” company made inroads against the biggest office productivity software producer in the world. Although Google was first to the cloud, Microsoft announced a major commitment to the cloud in the spring and has a leadership position in the productivity software market. It’s a tug of war for customers in the cloud, and it’s a battle that will continue into 2011.

Google partners with VMware
Google and VMware signed a partnership deal in May that would make it easier for application developers to deploy apps on each other’s platforms, putting more focus on cloud application development and portability.