Julian Critchlow, ANZ General Manager, Extreme Networks, predicts the future of cloud computing in the decade ahead.
Since first appearing on the radar screens of CIOs and IT managers in the early 2000s, cloud computing has undergone a rapid evolution.
Initially sold as a convenient and scalable place to store data, cloud computing has evolved into an effective and efficient way to deliver services. These include everything from communication and collaboration platforms to applications and compute resources delivered ‘as-a-service’.
The global pandemic has also helped to propel the evolution of cloud into a critical business resource. With workforces suddenly required to operate from home, organizations quickly found that cloud-based resources provided an effective way to keep them connected and productive.
Now, as restrictions ease and hybrid working patterns become more widespread, the role of the cloud is shifting once again. It’s now foundational to enabling people to work the same way when in the office as they do when working at home.
Defining cloud computing
While it’s clear that the cloud is here to stay, there is still some conjecture about exactly what form it will take. Some in the industry believe it will become the primary platform for the delivery of all IT resources and services, while others think a mix of on-premise and cloud will remain the standard approach.
When considering the future of cloud, it’s important to be clear on exactly what cloud computing is. While it certainly relies on racks of servers in multiple large data centers, it also represents a business model.
It frees organizations from the task of purchasing and managing the hardware and software needed to support business processes. Rather than relying on on-premise resources, they are instead sourced from a cloud provider via an ‘on-demand’ model.
The amount of compute and storage resources can therefore be dialled up and down as the organization’s reqirements change. This means money is not wasted on resources that are not required.
This is also important at a time when global supply chains are under enormous pressure. Delays in securing components can result in slow delivery of everything from servers to network switches which can, in turn, hinder business growth.
Rather than being reliant on purchased equipment and services, organizations can simply source the resources they need from a cloud provider. This removes the likelihood that day-to-day operations could be negatively impacted by a supply-chain bottleneck.
Cloud solutions are also a good fit for businesses that are now much more dispersed and need to service their customers in new ways. New resources and applications can be spun up very quickly to ensure opportunities for growth can be readily captured.
The future of cloud
Just as virtualization changed the rules of the game for the way on-premise servers operated, now container-driven environments are doing the same for cloud platforms. Rather than having to go through complex configuration steps on their own hardware, IT teams can simply load new containers on to a cloud platform and be up and running very quickly.
As these types of strategies become more widely adopted, the benefits of cloud usage will increase even further. Businesses will be able to reduce operational costs, further increase their agility, and be better placed to respond to new opportunities.
For cloud providers, it’s important to recognize the need for increased attention on security. As more companies shift larger portions of their IT infrastructures to the cloud, they will become even more enticing targets for cybercriminals.
Cloud users will need to work closely with their chosen cloud platform to ensure sufficient security measures are in place and properly managed. Any successful attack on cloud-based resources can be just as debilitating as an on-premise incident.
The future of cloud is also inexorably linked to ubiquitous access. As more data and applications are shifted to cloud platforms, being able to reach them at any time and from any place will become increasingly powerful – and users will expect it.
Here, it will be technologies like 5G cellular and satellite networks working together with Wi-Fi networks that change the game. When it’s possible to enjoy the same level of performance in a plane or taxi as in the office, the benefits delivered by cloud platforms will increase even further.
Just as it’s done during the past 20 years, the cloud will continue to reshape business computing. No longer regarded as a peripheral resource used to fill capacity gaps, it will continue to become a central and fundamental part of every IT infrastructure.
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