2011 should not be called “The Year of the Cloud.” It’s too hokey, too obvious. It would be such an easy label to place on the year. And besides, didn’t we already say that Amazon’s Web Services had won the battle for Cloud 1.0 back in 2010? Should we simply revise that old editorial, add a bit about Amazon’s nasty spring outage, and re-label it the winner of Cloud 2.0?

And this is exactly what 2011 was about for cloud users. It was about asking questions. About moving old applications onto new platforms. It was about failing gloriously, and pulling things back inside. It was about raucous successes with greenfield projects, entirely composed of APIs and copied code. It was the year platform-as-a-service became a bigger buzzword than service oriented architecture.

What was learned from all of this cloudy discussion? Mostly, everyone is learning that developers are gods here. You’d better cater to their specific needs and problems, or they’ll find someone else who will. Thus, the early horses to bet on in the PaaS market are the ones that have done one thing, and done it very well. Heroku proved the market was for real when Salesforce.com paid US$250 million for the Ruby PaaS startup.

With the stakes raised, it’s been the developers who are winning. This is why CloudBees is based on simplifying build and deploy. And why OpenStack and Rackspace are seeing successes with ObjectStorage. It’s why everyone and their mother is pushing a newfangled NoSQL data store. It’s why Sauce Labs offers cloudy Selenium testing environments to replace in-house labs. The cloud is what you make of it.

2010 was about the cloud helping businesses. 2011 was about the cloud helping developers.