What will replace “cloud computing” in the future?

Cloud Computing” in the Future: Since I first posed this query in 2016, many people have so far responded in some way.There’s really not a consensus among the experts on what cloud will replace, which makes it seem like there isn’t much more to it than just saying you’ll find out all at once (and then having to wait 3+ years to get any answers). So today let me give my thinking on where that is at right now!

In general terms, Cloud computing has four major components, namely Platforms, Services, Drivers, and Backend Infrastructure. Each one can be described as its own class of objects, but they are all interdependent with each other. For example, when you buy an Apple PC, you get access to all four types of servers and services. When you use Google Search, you also do get access to their entire infrastructure. But let’s focus entirely on “platform” for this post because I believe that it will still play a pivotal role.

The term server is used to describe an individual server in your computer or computer network, which can host multiple applications and servers. Those are called hosts and they are very similar to computers that come pre-installed with a Windows OS or Linux. Server instances are typically called VMs or Virtual Machines, though they may also be called physical machines or bare metal servers. The main difference between traditional physical hardware and virtual machines is that while physical hardware is physically located on a single computer, virtual machines are stored within multiple servers around the world. This means that you have no physical evidence that says that you are using “physical hardware”.

The word ‘platform’ refers to software as code, in contrast to hardware which is primarily physical. We can think of a server’s memory as the underlying framework and application on top of that, whereas a platform is a list of tools that make writing applications easier. You should think of the following four different platforms in the diagram below:

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Public cloud: A public company providing resources like storage space, computing power, bandwidth, etc. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one popular provider of these. On the other hand, Microsoft Azure is another popular cloud provider in western Europe. Private cloud: Providing private resources (such as for development) and data storage. Alibaba, Tencent, and Digital Ocean are well-known players who provide those facilities. One key advantage of private clouds: They’re cheap. At the same time, if something goes wrong, you don’t have to worry about finding money to upgrade your machine because you pay only for usage. Public cloud vs. private cloud: Both types offer a wide range of opportunities regarding technical support. Some are more expensive than others, especially for long-term contracts.

Services

Services are basically the software that provides the underlying capabilities for what the service provides. That allows businesses to get the most out of their technology investments without spending as much upfront money. Examples are provided by Google Analytics, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Uber, Dropbox, Slack, and even Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Yahoo Drive. Many companies want to start offering services themselves, whether through third parties or on open source projects.

There are numerous advantages of being able to sell and use those particular offerings directly, such as:

The ability to charge higher prices

More flexible business model (as opposed to being tied to a vendor)

More choice (for users or developers)

It makes sense that service providers go the extra mile to build great products and services because they know most of their customers have many needs. Also, if they have strong brand recognition through existing customers, they have much less competition.

Services are important because they allow you to concentrate on core competencies such as improving their email features or adding new applications. Because of that, if services can improve core capabilities without sacrificing innovation, then it allows them to develop better solutions. The downside of this is that if anything starts getting too complex, then you need to spend more money on supporting services and infrastructure.

The reason why the majority of companies prefer to go direct with their SaaS offerings are two things:

Services are easy to build and configure. As mentioned above, the majority of tech projects tend to end up written and hosted in Python. Most of those things can be done by someone else rather quickly, but the learning curve for building from scratch is significantly lower.

Services also tend to make it easier to move their projects around between hosting providers. This is because services don’t necessarily require as much control over the infrastructure, which gives both vendors and individuals more flexibility in how they choose where to store their data.

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Service models can easily become a point-to-point competition. If a user wants to try his project before moving to Amazon Web Services, he would start looking for other options. He could look for a web hosting provider that offers free testing environments. Or, he could build a project on Github using their starter kits. Another option for larger projects: is Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), an open-source database solution.

While going towards a subscription system tends to be slower, it still enables a higher level of control. It lets you scale as you grow. And it also eliminates confusion that comes from trying to figure out which provider to choose. There’s always available technical help to ensure no bumps in the road, and you can monitor every part of their ecosystem.

Services are also cheaper to set up and operate than proprietary systems.

This is why many large corporations will decide to go with this strategy. Their employees are accustomed to working in a “pro” environment where everything is centralized and they often feel undervalued in comparison to independent contractors. Furthermore, if they need something specific just in case, they won’t see that as an issue.

The problem here is that you need that centralization so that it looks like everything is in one place. But what happens when you have dozens of servers running your site and you have hundreds of apps installed? Sure, if you manage it, then you have no issues. However, with multiple sites, that doesn’t work. With thousands of users and millions of visits per day, managing everything manually becomes more annoying than managing small domains and apps. Furthermore, your server infrastructure also acts like it’s owned by anyone you happen to be, which causes you to lose trust and respect in the company. It feels unsafe.

Services will eventually become commoditized. To compete with big companies like Uber and Lyft, you need enough data to identify passengers and determine when they might seek an additional ride. Eventually, they will want to become self-driving cars, because they will save time. Just like how Uber started off with a few drivers, they will soon hire thousands of workers.

Some companies want complete autonomy, allowing their engineers to write their own custom libraries and code. Of course, this requires paying additional fees and taking ownership of their infrastructure and services. Other companies are willing to take on full responsibility for their infrastructure and even pay an initial fee to ensure the maintenance goes smoothly.

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On the downside, the freedom to add whatever functionality you want leads to more complexity, and therefore the price has to increase. These systems also mean you end up needing more servers to keep up so they can handle all of the traffic and applications. More cost means greater opportunity, which means bigger revenue for the company.

For a short while, we saw some organizations adopt the idea of becoming “digital natives”, i.e. the opposite of natives. By doing so, they were hoping to remain competitive by adapting to the new technology and enabling their users to do more at once. Unfortunately:

They forgot the first thing in life; it’s that simple.

They tried to accomplish everything with Excel. Then came along SQL. Only 3 to 5 years of experience and knowledge were required to learn so that when their competitors did things, they’d copy them. Yet, it wasn’t scalable.

They wanted to run experiments before deploying, not deploying before experimenting. Instead, they went down a rabbit hole where they ended up creating a terrible product. People didn’t care, the website took forever to load, and not even people that actually made the website cared either. Once again they were doomed.

Now, they are realizing how slow things are getting and how they need to rethink their whole approach. How valuable flexibility is. Is it worth it to take a step back and accept that everything has changed, but the only way to stay competitive is to understand the current state and adjust your approach and skills?

All of those things lead to what’s called digital transformation. It involves changing the culture, making sure people know what you can do, and being ready for change. Therefore, we see a clear shift away from traditional business processes as more and more companies are embracing a hybrid cloud approach.

The next 4-5 years

Everything seems clear after the last article, but my gut tells me something slightly different. In order to prepare for this shift in the market, I believe that in 2020 we will have finally reached the convergence of distributed systems. Everything will converge into the cloud, giving us a huge boost to compute, reliability, and efficiency. Companies will have gained some control over their infrastructure, but still, need to adapt and evolve. Thus, cloud computing will play a crucial role. All the old infrastructure will exist, but we will have to accommodate that demand, and that’s gonna be good for everyone… no matter where they are.

I hope for the best, but I’m sure this transition is coming, so this post isn’t going to be a final decision… until 2021. Until then, see you next year!

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