Recently, I’ve read some interesting perspectives on the battle for domination in public cloud computing. While many compelling arguments are made , I think perhaps the evolving cloud landscape is more complex than a one-on-one battle royale for mindshare between two non-traditional competitors.

My view is that when it comes to cloud, the needs of businesses are sophisticated, and it’s not simply a contest based on who has the best infrastructure as a service. Granted, both of the providers mentioned in the articles above have significant infrastructure investments which are critical if you want to be a large player in the market. However over time this isn’t going to be an infrastructure competition. Infrastructure will become the commodity portion of cloud, and while it’s necessary to have a robust service and feature set, in the long run this is only a portion of the cloud battle. (One caveat – if you happen to be a supplier of hardware/software infrastructure in addition to being a cloud service provider, then infrastructure success means a lot more to you in the battle, as the crown jewels of your business may be at risk in this new world of cloud.)

What will be the future cloud battleground? Like many things that preceded cloud, I believe customers ultimately need solutions, and solutions in many cases will involve using the right cloud for the right job. I envision a hybrid world where businesses adopt cloud infrastructure, applications and solutions that meet a business need, and integrate them to solve problems. That may entail using a SaaS-based CRM and HR system, coupled with public cloud based dev/test for applications that may ultimately run in its private cloud, as well as offloading compute-intensive jobs to a best-of-breed provider, and using big data services from still others. That’s the challenge I see in the cloud battle of the future – and it feels very much like a cloud platform and integration challenge to me. How many cloud infrastructure providers are willing to embrace architecture that’s that open, where its infrastructure is not always the right cloud for the job?

One thing I am certain about is that there will be multiple winners of this cloud battle of the future, and they will all have one thing in common: the ability to provide enterprise-class reliability. Businesses need to know that they can entrust their chosen partners with “bet your job” decisions, and that fundamentally they have a service-based model that centers on their customer solutions. That includes operational excellence across the cloud platform, the enterprise network, the security layers, end to end mobile access and of course the managed services they offer to make it all hum.

So while perhaps not as cut and dry of a battlefield as others see it, I believe the cloud wars will be fought on multiple levels, and those that can solve the solution and service problems that customers need will be the long term winners. What do you think?