When I first started my career in the IT field in the early 90’s, I worked with established players in enterprise IT with massive computer systems, which all revolved around a “computer room”. This was the old-school cloud, centralized computing, often using mainframes. It’s exciting to see how, in my career, solutions have come full circle: mainframe… client server… ASP (Application Service Provider)… SaaS (Software as a Service)… cloud (centralized). Even mobile applications are now moving from the traditional client-server-like model to more dynamic and responsive cloud-based solutions. Fast forward to 2015: Computing technology has become much, much more powerful and democratic. Computers today are approximately 10,000 times more powerful than they were in 1996. Your current smartphone alone has far more computing power than most corporate systems from the 90’s.
Believe it or not, it’s been less than 10 years since cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born. Cloud technology moves much faster than we can keep up with, and while there is much more innovation to come, the “hype cycle” is coming to an end. 2015 will be the year the cloud starts to become a reality for more than just early adopters and large tech corporations.
According to industry experts, more than a quarter of all applications (around 48 million) will be available via cloud by 2020. There will be over 8.2 billion active mobile devices by 2020, each generating 2.7 gigabytes of traffic per month, with more and more applications migrating to the cloud.
All Things Streaming
Why do we love Netflix? It offers a vast selection of high-quality, on-demand, video content at a very affordable price, accessible anytime, anywhere. Gone are the days of set-top boxes, unsightly wires and VHS rewinders. Netflix was also an early adopter of cloud technology, taking advantage of the ability to quickly scale its services and deploy thousands of servers using AWS interfaces and architectures.
In your current life, chances are, cloud technology hasn’t stopped at your (connected) living room. You might even be proudly living in an automated home with cloud computing-powered intelligent appliances and security devices.
With the cloud becoming more and more ubiquitous, you can also expect the “Internet of Things” to take over personal computers faster than you imagined. No more beefy compute resources at home: Let the cloud keep the compute, while we enjoy the output. If you don’t think it’s coming your way, just consider how, with Lambda, Amazon is planning on completely abstracting the infrastructure layer, making it possible to write code and have all infrastructure managed for you — in other words, the ultimate Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution (although, per a recent report by GigaOm Research, the opportunity for pure-PaaS plays such as Heroku, Cloud Foundry and OpenShift, may be smaller than originally anticipated).
In 10 years, if not sooner, the vast majority of personal computers will be like the Chromebook, with their brains in the cloud. With desktop software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop (notoriously known as resource hogs) already available in the cloud, we are just about to turn the corner on mass cloud adoption. It was way back in 1997, when I was at Oracle and Larry Ellison was pitching the “networked computer” — he was definitely a visionary, but the 90’s weren’t ready for his vision.
The Gift of the Cloud Goes Mainstream in 2015
The cloud marketplace has reached a new level of maturity and definition that makes it possible for cloud computing capabilities to start being turned into mainstream technologies. After freeing IT teams in large enterprises from the constrictions of legacy software and hardware licensing data center models, the cloud will go mass market in 2015. Between now and 2020, consumers can expect the cloud-based world to disrupt their day-to-day technology in a major way, with the emergence of some relatively cheap and easy-to-use products and services. Additionally, with simple access, open ecosystems and easy customization, it won’t take long until consumers begin to appreciate the tremendous features and endless benefits the cloud has to offer.
It is no coincidence that companies of all sizes are increasingly moving from cloud exploration to adoption. With access to Fortune 50-level infrastructure, they are able to fully extract the potential of the cloud operating model — from pay-as-you-go billing to incredible flexibility (although often overwhelming) without the overhead.
The democratization of cloud technology also affords emerging countries the opportunity to access hugely powerful infrastructure from dated, legacy devices. Following in the footsteps of cell phone technology, the cloud will drop the barriers to entry to the rest of the world and help shrink the “digital divide”.
A New Kind of Blackout
Cloud computing opportunities are not without risks, however, which grow with increased adoption and dependency. Forget electrical blackouts: With the cloud, we might be setting ourselves up for a whole new world of hurt. As hyper consolidation of cloud providers continues, we could end up putting all our eggs in one basket. That basket might be very well protected, but even the best protected systems can fail over time. Furthermore, end-user organizations utilizing third-party Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services will likely lack minimum security training. As analyst firm Forrester Research put it, “cloud hacks are unavoidable”.
Cloud is like the new power station, just providing productivity instead of electricity. And with the Internet of Things and our connected homes hooked up to the cloud, the impact of a future cloud outage could be beyond catastrophic.
Too Big to Fail?
With the cloud powering so many businesses, are they too big to fail? We can be glad Amazon, Microsoft and Google are not the only big cloud service providers out there, but because of the investment required to build and manage infrastructure, barriers to entry are very high.
There is a strong possibility that, 10 years from now, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google may be a solid oligopoly. Although narrowing choices can offer greater efficiency, the question is: If that scenario comes to pass, will all customers be ready to entrust their IT infrastructure to a single provider? The silver lining is knowing that most large cloud providers are building redundant solutions with global data centers to help decrease risk and increase speed.
High Demand, Low Expertise
Cloud computing is still relatively young. According to Evans Data Corporation, only 25% of today’s 18 million software developers worldwide are developing for the cloud. Conversely, per analyst firm IDC, 85% of the new software being built today is for the cloud.
With companies lacking the required in-house technical skills and opting to outsource the management of their cloud whenever possible, Developers, SysAdmins and DevOps professionals have a bright future ahead, with great opportunities to mint some serious money by leveraging their expertise.
The cloud is here to stay. 2015 is set to be a key jumping-off point and the coming years will see a massive shift toward cloud computing and mainstream adoption. If you’re already leveraging the power of the cloud, expect it to become an ever-bigger part of your business. If not, you’re already behind the curve…