How will disruptive tech and business models change cloud computing?
Cloud computing is possibly the fastest growing segment of the IT industry. Most of us use cloud computing without even realising it. Every time you sign into your email account online, you’re using cloud technology. Rather than existing as a program on your computer or device, the software and storage is managed remotely in a distributed computer network. Anything from simple word processing to custom computer programs can be run via the cloud. Thanks to the adoption of disruptive technology and corporate considerations, the quantity and quality of applications is only expected to grow.
The concept of cloud computing was born in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that ‘cloud’ came to refer to distributed computer networks. Over the next decade, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all released cloud based platforms.
Cloud technology is closely linked to decentralisation and the as a service model. By using a cloud provider, organisations can outsource computing power instead of relying on central servers. The benefits of this are obvious: users don’t have to provide the computing power themselves, eliminating installation and maintenance costs. They can access their data and applications from anywhere in the world, at any time, provided they have an internet connection. Other advantages include avoiding the need for IT support, internal software development, and cutting down on physical space. In cloud based data warehouses, massive parallel processing (MPP) combines the processing power of separate computers to tackle complex calculations. What’s more, the fewer physical servers that a company uses, the smaller their carbon footprint.
The reign of cloud computing
In 2014, 37 per cent of small businesses in the US were fully adapted to cloud computing. By next year, this percentage will more than double. Looking at the various benefits of cloud computing, this comes as no surprise.
A number of disruptive trends have enabled the further adoption of cloud computing. The Internet of Things, for example, has brought cloud functionality to the mass market through connected devices. AI has helped the cloud to get smarter, and deal with a higher volume of users. The open data movement, which promotes data sharing between traditionally closed companies, has increased enthusiasm for cloud technology by encouraging platforms for data exchange.
Looking ahead, blockchain could encourage trust by delivering a transparent, trustworthy infrastructure for cloud based data sharing. Cloud networks include a vast number of organisations. If all data was logged on a blockchain system, or represented by tokens of some kind, there would be far more accountability and security.
Quantum computing is particularly promising because it improves computer performance. Cloud applications rely on processing power to carry out calculations, so the more capable the network, the quicker these calculations will happen. Better computers also means fewer computers, reducing energy consumption.
What’s allowed in the cloud?
When it comes to laws and regulations, cloud computing hasn’t received the attention it perhaps should have. Cloud users are essentially handing over their information to an external company, with the potential for other external companies to access it too. While there is an onus on cloud providers to deliver an efficient service that doesn’t compromise on privacy or security, clients also need to be aware of the potential issues that can arise from cloud based data processes. For example, data regulations depend on the jurisdiction in which the data is held. If a company uses a cloud provider with servers in a different country, then they must meet the requirements of both home and remote locations.
In 2009, a group of cloud service providers including Cisco, IBM, and SAP released an Open Cloud Manifesto that called for better cloud security and monitoring. The manifesto was a valiant attempt to place industry-driven standards on cloud technology, but was met with criticism. Other cloud providers, namely Microsoft, stated that the Open Cloud Manifesto had been developed with an ironic lack of openness. Data regulations have gone some way to cleaning up the cloud, but the lack of specific laws targeting cloud services is interesting to say the least.
Confidence in cloud
Despite the lack of coherent regulations, clients can use the cloud with confidence provided they know where their data is kept, which data protection laws apply, and whether the provider meets internal security policy. The cloud is multi tenancy by design – in other words, it brings lots of clients and third parties into the same network. Knowing which other organisations exist within the network, and how much data they will be able to access, is also a good move for service users.
Cloud computing is changing: it’s smarter, faster, more powerful, and more popular than ever before. As technologies and industries converge, cloud applications will increase. However, the maturity of cloud computing has not been matched by regulations. Users are often uncertain about cloud compliance, and therefore less willing to rely on cloud based systems. Legal bodies and corporations need to come up with a prescriptive regulatory framework to enable the cloud to rise to its full potential.
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