It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 13 years since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. It’s been 18 years since all the Y2K madness. Based on the business I’m in, one other thing hit me recently: depending on how you measure it, the cloud is about 10 years old.
AWS first started offering IT infrastructure services in 2006 – as web services, of course. Other giants soon followed; Google launched App Engine in 2008, and Microsoft Azure was commercially available in early 2010. Global Knowledge offers another vantage point: its annual “IT Skills and Salary Report” first mentioned the cloud in 2010, with more than 90 percent of mentions coming since 2015.
However you look at it, the cloud has had a stunning rise. As it enters its second decade of life, this seemed like a great point to look back at some of what the cloud promised when it was a brand new technology, and to look forward to where it’s headed in the near future.
Looking back: Buy infrastructure? No thanks.
The big idea the cloud promised, and has largely delivered on, is providing an alternative to procuring and managing infrastructure for data and backup. Back before the cloud, maybe you’d buy colocation space for your racks of gear, then replicate it somewhere else for backup and disaster recovery situations. Then as your data load grew, you’d procure more hardware, colocation space and other necessities.
Now, you can go to Microsoft, or Amazon, or Google, or any one of the other providers, and they do it for you. When you need more space or compute, you simply order it up. If you need less, you cancel some.
Looking back: More jobs, not fewer
The greatest fear when any new technology is introduced is usually, “Is it going to take my job?” The cloud was no different.
In the case of the cloud, however, this fear has largely been unfounded. Organizations have so much going on that the cloud has freed IT to tackle other important projects – whether it’s security, the explosion of data, or just using IT for more business-critical projects – rather than leading to fewer jobs. Also, with the rise of hybrid- and multi-cloud, managing the different options still requires many different skillsets.
It’s fun to look back, but how this information informs what will happen in the future is really what’s important. Where is the cloud going in the next few years?
Looking forward: Cloud = hybrid cloud and multi-cloud
A certain segment reading this is probably thinking, “hybrid- and multi-cloud are already here.” It is true that there are many offerings that help companies move workloads to the cloud, and to the specific cloud that works best for each app.
It’s important to note, though, that according to RightScale’s “State of the Cloud” report from 2017, just 28 percent of enterprise respondents indicated they used the cloud heavily. That means there’s still market education to be done and plenty of opportunity for enterprises to benefit from hybrid and multi-cloud options.
What are those benefits? Our CEO Ellen Rubin lays them out in her blog post about going multi-cloud. She cites the cloud’s high level of security and the ability to match apps with the cloud that fits them best as two drivers as multi-cloud takes off. Sure, there are cost savings to be had, but the other benefits are what really stand out.
“Certainly using a multi-cloud model can help avoid vendor lock-in and keep your organization flexible if one provider increases prices,” Ellen explains. “Still, cost is not necessarily a driver for new multi-cloud adoption; be wary if you’re counting on cost savings to drive your move to the cloud.
Managing different cloud solutions can be challenging. For example, Salesforce admin is a career. Oracle DBA is a career – whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud. People who manage VMware will likely still have that niche for five or 10 more years. You still need an IT team that has all those skills. On the development side, perhaps there’s a group that has to write Lambda functions in AWS, which has nothing to do with VMware. The person in charge of it all has to understand that these are about 15 different skill sets and require multiple people.
Solutions like as-a-service offerings can help minimize these potential management headaches while also delivering cost savings, but cost savings alone won’t be – and shouldn’t be – the only thing driving cloud adoption. Likewise, it points to a future where traditional backup will end up like mainframe has: as time moves on, a smaller percentage of people will actually deal with the technology.
Looking forward: A move to the edge
There are many drivers that will move companies to the edge. With the IoT and other technology requiring constant, instant communication and generating copious amounts of data, low latency and bandwidth issues are two of the main ones.
These devices also need to interact with each other, and make decisions themselves, which brings autonomy into play – transporting data off to the cloud to perform analytics is often not an option. Hovering over all these requirements is, of course, security. With no downtime acceptable, the security, backup and disaster recovery features edge providers can deliver are critical in this connected world.
Large players in the market are recognizing this. For example, Amazon’s Greengrass software brings AWS to devices, so they can act locally on the data they generate, then use the cloud for durable storage, analytics and management. Connected devices can run Lamdba functions and keep device data synced, while securely communicating with other devices, even when they aren’t connected to the internet.
When the cloud was first brought to market, things like the IoT were just a twinkle in technologists’ eyes. Now they’re a reality. As these technologies advance, and the amount of data organizations generate continues to explode, the cloud will continue to adapt. We’re already seeing a move to the edge and the popularization of hybrid- and multi-cloud models. The next 10 years promises more advancement in these areas, and in some that we haven’t even thought of yet. I’m already looking forward to the 20th anniversary blog.
What does it mean to be hybrid and multi-cloud in 2018? Check out our webinar on the era of multi-cloud.