We’ve come a long way from floppy disks. We have laptops, smartphones and iPads in our hands, and we want to access the same data across all three platforms. More importantly, we don’t want to have to waste time transferring data across platforms.
Enter the cloud – an ineffable server farm in the sky that safely stashes away our data, backs it up and spits it back at us on demand. It’s the next evolution in computing, and it promises to make a lot of companies from start-ups to Dow components a whole lot of cash in the years to come.
Research firm Forrester estimates the cloud computing market will balloon from $41 billion this year to $241 billion in 2020 (per the Wall Street Journal). Clearly, there will be some big winners in the space. Here’s our guess at the Top 11 best cloud computing stocks of 2011 and 2012 in no particular order:
1) Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS).
YTD Performance: +12.8 percent
Citrix surged to a new 52-week high on Monday. With a market cap of $14 billion, it’s one of the largest (nearly) pure-play cloud computing stocks on the market. The company also peddles some of the white collar world’s most well-known cloud software in GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC.
2) Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).
YTD Performance: +1.2 percent
Amazon, which counts Reddit, Foursquare and Quora among its clients, got into the cloud game early, and the company appears committed to maintaining a leadership position in the space – even at the expense of short-term profits. Just last month, Amazon launched its so-called “Cloud Drive.” Targeted at everyday consumers, the online storage space gives users a place to stash MP3s for access anywhere they’ve got a Web connection.
3) Acme Packet, Inc. (NASDAQ:APKT).
YTD Performance: +44.6 percent
Q1 was good for Acme Packet. The company reported record revenue north of $59 million and raised its guidance for the rest of the year. Acme delivers voice, video and multimedia for enterprise-level clients including big dogs like Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
4) ChinaCache International Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ:CCIH).
YTD Performance: -15.7 percent
A fairly new cloud computing offering out of China, ChinaCache hasn’t gotten much love from the street since its debut on the NASDAQ in October. Shares have fallen 35 percent since then. If a rising tide lifts all boats, though, ChinaCache should do well. IDC predicts China’s cloud computing industry will clock a compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent through 2014.
5) International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM).
YTD Performance: +14.8 percent
IBM has listed cloud computing among it’s top four revenue-growth initiatives (alongside analytics, emerging markets and digitizing infrastructure). The company’s putting its money where its mouth is, too. CEO Sam Palmisano said he plans to use about $20 billion on acquisitions through 2015 with a big chunk of that change allocated specifically to cloud computing (per WRALtechwire). If IBM can’t convince an enterprise-level company to adopt the cloud, no one can.
6) SAVVIS, Inc. (NASDAQ:SVVS).
YTD Performance: +41.2 percent
Word on the street is Savvis might be ripe for the plucking – especially after investors watched Verizon gobble up competitor Terremark Worldwide for $1.4 billion earlier this year. Savvis focuses exclusively on IT solutions for businesses and government agencies.
7) Aruba Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARUN).
YTD Performance: +67.1 percent
Aruba’s emphasis on mobile networks makes its growth prospects particularly attractive. Goldman Sachs reiterated its Buy rating on the stock last month with a price target of $39 – a 14 percent premium over market value.
8) Rackspace Hosting, Inc. (NYSE:RAX).
YTD Performance: +39.8 percent
Looking a multi-year RAX chart is like looking at a ramp that’s pointing at the sky. Shares are up more than 124 percent over the past 12 months. A P/E of 126 might not be justified, but the company appears to be consolidating power as the go-to cloud hosting company in the U.S., and now Rackspace is ready to sink its jaws into Asia (per SeekingAlpha).
9) 21Vianet Group Inc (NASDAQ:VNET).
YTD Performance: -15 percent
The latest cloud computing offering from China to IPO in the U.S., 21Vianet started trading late last week. The company counts some of China’s biggest tech companies among its clients including Tencent, Youku and Taobao. After three days of trading, VNET’s shares have fluctuated between $17.50 and $21. Check out my post Cloud computing in China: Is the 21Vianet IPO a buy? (VNET) for more.
10) VMware, Inc. (NYSE:VMW).
YTD Performance: +7.1 percent
VMware gives companies the ability to build and deploy “virtual” computers for software testing, script automation and data storage. The company recently got a thumbs up from Susquehanna, which raised its price target on the stock to $120 per share on rapid international growth (per SeekingAlpha). That’s about 25 percent higher than VMW’s current share price of $95.
11) Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)
YTD Performance: -10.3 percent
As everyday consumers grow more accustomed to storing and accessing data from the cloud, Google could lead the way. The company’s popular Docs application lets users edit, share and store documents and spreadsheets online. Google’s mobile operating system, Android, will likely strengthen consumers’ ties with their Google accounts. Before we know it, we might be storing everything on Google’s servers with the heaviest users footing the bill for the rest of us.
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