Today, few people haven’t heard of cloud computing at all. Just a few years ago, it was a novelty. Now, it has become an indispensable part of many companies’ strategies. Interestingly, it has undergone a very intriguing evolution on its way to this place. It is no longer just an interesting technical solution understood by a narrow group of IT specialists. With its virtually limitless capabilities, the public cloud helps face business challenges. It supports boards of directors in making key decisions, and puts them on the path to dynamic growth. This is the status quo, but how did it come to this? And in what direction is the cloud heading?
From my article, you will be able to learn about the evolution of cloud computing. Why companies are increasingly choosing to migrate to it – and why it’s not always a good idea! Additionally, you will learn about the advantages of the public cloud from different points of view and how its use can affect the future of us all.
Why do companies use the cloud?
As I mentioned at the beginning, more and more organizations include the practical use of cloud capabilities in their technology and business strategies. Flexera’s State of Cloud report indicates that as many as 63% of respondents are using the cloud to a significant degree. By comparison, the 2021 survey showed heavy use at 59%, and the 2020 result was 53%.
What caused such an upward trend? Is it just a matter of the impact of the pandemic (according to McKinsey, as many as 90% of companies in Poland admitted that they are using more cloud services than they had planned before 2020) and the associated acceleration in the use of new technologies? Or have the customers been tempted by the vision of cheaper infrastructure in a “pay as you go” model? Or sometimes they think that using a hybrid cloud, private cloud or multi-cloud seems the best choice. As usual, there is no single answer and the reasons are more complex than we could expect. In fact, they have changed over the years as demand for cloud services has steadily and significantly increased.
Let’s start with the basics
First, please remember that the cloud cannot be associated only with hardware – disks, servers – but should be identified primarily with the services it can provide for us. Their number is constantly growing, successively increasing the possibilities available to us. For example, when AWS launched its cloud business in 2006, it offered only SQS (service for queuing queries), S3 (cloud storage) and EC2 (virtual servers). As of today, there are more than 200 services available on AWS, and they offer us, among others, quantum computing solutions, IoT, AR, image processing, AI and many, many more.
While it may seem controversial or incomprehensible at first glance, the cloud is not really about the cloud itself. It’s about what it can do for you or your business. And trust me, it can do a lot. For example:
- Supports you or your team in developing new products (called Greenfield),
- Allows the use of new innovative technologies,
- Points out new revenue sources or business models,
- Redefines approaches to known problems and suggest new solutions,
- Enables the hosting of applications and provides the necessary cloud infrastructure.
The cloud is, first and foremost, a technological base and a trigger for the changes it enables.
The main reasons for migrating to the cloud
We already know that the cloud is all about services, the skillful combination of which can be used to achieve one’s goals. The result (which depends, among other things, on our needs and the team’s skills) allows us to remove the barriers faced by many companies and their IT departments. More than once, they have been faced with the dilemma of whether they want to maintain an expensive infrastructure, write own solutions from scratch (thus reinventing the wheel), or use something that is already partially or completely ready. Sooner or later, it’s worth deciding whether to consider a different approach.
Looking from the technological point of view, some of the most common reasons for migrating to the cloud include:
- A sharp increase (or decrease) in demand for infrastructure for the applications or websites,
- Ensuring business continuity,
- End of the contract with the current hosting provider,
- Cash flow challenges (turning capital investments into lower and fixed operating costs),
- Cybersecurity threats,
- Financial constraints. Easy resignation from server infrastructure when it is no longer required.
Importantly, deciding to create a cloud adoption strategy, or doing a PoC (Proof of Concept) of the solution, does not necessarily mean that we choose to go to the cloud. If the initial analysis shows that migration will not bring the expected benefits, or the decisions made earlier make it unviable for us at this stage – we should not do it at all costs.
To choose the right approach, we should carefully analyze the current solution and make a decision based on the information obtained. A credible “business case” is essential.
Public cloud evolution
Is the cloud for my business? How should I use it?
We will only be able to give a reliable answer to these questions with a proper understanding of what it really is. And this is more complex than it might seem at first glance.
The origins of the public cloud are mainly infrastructure solutions. Servers, databases, storage. And all of it is virtually unlimited, faster and billed for actual consumption. In addition, global infrastructure with a network of data allowed to reduce the response server response time (speeding up applications, website, etc.) without significant investments. On top of that, there was no need to purchase and maintain physical servers, which increased their availability and made it possible to resign from them when they were no longer needed.
Automation and Serverless
The next step in the evolution of cloud computing is using the potential of automation. It enabled a configuration that allowed the automatic addition of resources, transfer of workload from one server to another, and even the creation of infrastructure templates that could be launched (and removed ) with a few clicks or lines of code (so-called Infrastructure as a code).
What if we don’t have to think about infrastructure at all? The cloud provider would be responsible for everything, and they would bill us for running specific commands or functions. Such a cloud model has become very popular in recent years and is called Serverless. When we use it, we are mainly interested in the end effect (downloading an image, running a script, etc.) and that’s what we pay for. We no longer think about hardware resources running in the background or security.
What we see today is a focus primarily on delivering business value. People rarely decide to migrate simply because they see the cloud as a purely technical solution. Technology is still just a tool. The main reason for this decision is to solve a specific challenge or problem (business or technical) that the organization faces. And these challenges vary in different industries. For this reason, public cloud providers have created service packages or proposals for ready-made architectures dedicated to the problems of a specific industry or market sector. These are called Industry Clouds and set the most current trend in public cloud development.
What does this look like? For example, Microsoft has divided its cloud solutions into the following categories:
You can find more information about them here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/industry
Another of the big vendors, AWS has categorized its solutions even more finely, calling them “AWS for Industry.”
You can find more information here : https://aws.amazon.com/industries/
Each of the abovementioned industries has its own needs, and only addressing these needs properly will bring real business value.
Technology that permeates the company thoroughly
Vendors know that cloud expectations vary by a company’s industry. The perception of the importance of cloud technology in an organization will be different depending on the role or position of decision-makers and key people in the company. When discussing cloud adoption in an organization, there are many voices to consider in the discussion because there is really no single beneficiary of the cloud. It permeates the company methodically.
Until now, it was considered that the cloud should be of interest mainly to IT departments, whose work becomes faster and more efficient. Now we know that it is about more than just technical people. Interestingly, such a change is not always wanted by them. Firstly, they often defend against it for fear that some positions, like administrators, will become redundant. Secondly, the benefits of the cloud apply to virtually every company department.
For top management, it could be making decisions based on historical data and helping them analyze it. For finance, reducing costs. A stable and fast website, or analysis of data from multiple sources and automation of some tasks for marketing. For sales, a centralized CRM accessible from anywhere in the world. For OT teams, predicting potential failures or scheduling equipment maintenance work. For the purchasing department to help estimate parts requirements. This enumeration could go on indefinitely. And as you’ll probably notice, when discussing cloud benefits, we’re talking primarily in the language of business – with a background in tech.
Successful organizational adoption
Combining all these interests takes work and never happens immediately. The process of transitioning an organization to the cloud often takes many years and requires many people’s involvement. The change often starts with a single step (a small project or PoC). And once tangible benefits are achieved, it sparks a broader interest within the organization. An example of an adoption path is to start with archiving files in the cloud, then using databases due to the lack of available disk storage. Then visualize that data and use it to make decisions. In the next step, supporting ourselves with artificial intelligence in this regard. Step by step – we first address the organization’s real problems or challenges, and then draw on increasingly advanced or innovative functionality.
What will the future of the public cloud look like?
Forecasting is not easy, yet I will try to be tempted to predict what the future will bring. Available analyses of historical data, compilations and statements by leaders of major companies about what we can expect can be helpful.
First of all, according to Lee Sustar, Principal Analyst at Forrester, the cloud market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2026! How will they accomplish this?
“As the competition among the four biggest public cloud providers intensifies (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba – author’s note), they are compelled to make massive investments in analytics, AI/ML [artificial intelligence and machine learning] and other differentiated premium services to stay in the top tier…”
– says Suster.
He further predicts that companies will look to public cloud service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google to deliver data-driven business results. This is an important trend that comes up in many expert statements. And while we’re hearing about massive layoffs, for now every provider is reporting revenue increases.
For his part, Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO), announcing financial results for the last quarter, said:
“The next major wave of computing is being born as we turn the world’s most advanced AI models into a new computing platform (…) We‘re going to lead in the AI era knowing that maximum enterprise value gets created during platform shifts (…).”
Nadella promised the audience that Microsoft’s internal spending in AI and investment in ChatGPT developer OpenAI will pay off because soon “every application will be an AI application.”
ChatGPT – an improved generation of AI chatbots?
This is where I will stop for a moment. It is a chatbot with artificial intelligence for those who haven’t yet come into contact with ChatGPT. But not just any kind. The ones we knew so far relied on predefined answers and simple keyword matching. It may have limited their ability to have smooth, human-like conversations.
Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses an advanced deep-learning algorithm to generate contextually relevant and highly accurate responses. This allows for more fluid, human-like conversations, making it a valuable tool for a variety of tasks. And not just any task. In recent days, it came to public attention that Chat GPT was able to pass a preliminary medical exam.
If you are interested in this thread, you can find a fascinating article on this topic here.
Another example of AI investment is the creation of Microsoft Designer. An application that uses AI to create drawings (e.g., for Social Media) from scratch.
6 key public cloud trends to watch out
Analyzing reports, for example, consulting firm Deloitte in its Tech Trends 2023 lists 6 key trends to watch out for:
- Immersive Internet for the enterprise – VR (from Virtual Reality) and AR ( from Augmented Reality) will cease to be just a toy and become real tools used by enterprises.
- Learning to trust our AI colleagues – here, looking at Microsoft CEO Satya Nadeli’s statement quoted earlier, I don’t think anything more needs to be explained.
- Taming the chaos of “Multicloud” – creating a kind of abstraction to simplify the management of “Multicloud”.
- Reimaging the tech workforce – with ever-changing technology, instead of hiring new employees, there will be the use of existing resources and adaptation to current realities.
- Decentralized architectures and ecosystems – it’s no surprise that it’s all about “blockchain.”
- Mainframe modernization hits its stride – looking for solutions that will not rewrite old systems, expanding their capabilities by connecting them with new technologies.
The only constant is the change
These are just some of the predictions (as you can see, not just for the cloud) that we can expect in 2023 and beyond. In summary, cloud computing is constantly changing and evolving. What we see today is different from what it was yesterday and not the same as it will be tomorrow. The only constant is change. Today, conversations about change are not only with IT departments but also, before all, with the business, including marketing, HR, or finance departments. Each has different needs, which can be addressed by the cloud.
Today’s use of cloud technologies does not provide a technological advantage. Instead, it is a necessity that allows one to not fall behind the competition. Change is happening before our eyes. We can only guess what the future will bring. However, when I look at all the signs in heaven and earth – I don’t know how about you, but I am looking forward to it.