We hear cloud in connection with technology all the time: cloud servers, cloud computing, cloud gaming… It is safe to say that cloud has penetrated almost every sphere of our activity. But what does it actually rain on us (yes, big pun intended)? Will it be a harbinger of a big storm or a productive life?
Judging from what we’re already witnessing, it’s almost inevitable that the cloud will be a huge driving force in the futurization of towns, workplaces, institutions, and people because it will provide the digital infrastructure of tomorrow’s smart cities (where an estimated 68% of the world’s population will live by 2050).
Our cities are becoming smarter, but each new connected device creates data that has to be stored and analyzed. It will only be possible to support connected technology at this scale, with a combination of edge technology and cloud computing. With this digital infrastructure in place, smart elevators and parking lots, driverless cars and drone taxis, trains and subways, farms and power plants will all be part of the functioning fabric of everyday life.
The cloud will also support emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and help them to adapt to new platforms such as mobile. For example, while AI has already found its way onto mobile phones, these devices contain lots of unstructured data such as emails, text messages, and photos. Analyzing unstructured data takes time and processing power that most smartphones don’t have locally. Having a powerful cloud power computing, we can expect our phones to become even smarter.
But there’s more: the emergence of the 5G technology is virtually boosting the spread of cloud in every direction. For the same smartphone use, lightning-fast 5G network with around 10 gigabits per second and the cloud computing, our iPhones and Android devices won’t be needing extensive memory to store apps and games. We’ll be able to access them in real-time via the cloud and lose no functionality or performance whatsoever. Streaming apps? How crazy is that?
Cloud has become indispensable for businesses. One of the key reasons for this is how it has impacted innovation. Without the need for physical infrastructure and the operational and labor costs that come with it, cloud technology removes the typical financial barriers to innovation and digital transformation. Smaller businesses who would traditionally struggle to come up with the upfront investment required for on-premise implementations can access new technology through cloud delivery models.
Meanwhile, the cloud has also reduced the risks associated with the investment. Expensive, rigid contracts can be a barrier for many smaller companies. The scalability of cloud computing means offerings can grow or shrink back depending on the needs of the company, helping to manage costs and financial risk. These flexible, cloud-based models will continue to grow in popularity, with predictions stating that by the end of 2020, all new companies and 80% of historical vendors will offer subscription-based business models.
Speaking of contracts, employers will have the opportunity to automatize employer-employee relationships with the help of smart contracts. The new type of work agreement makes it easy for companies to quickly sort through tons of incoming assignments that would otherwise take ages and extensive human work.
Cloud computing also encourages innovation because its speed makes it easy to experiment with new ideas, as feedback can be gathered quickly. If a strategy isn’t working it can be corrected quickly, rather than waiting until it has failed to take stock and learnings. This allows businesses to innovate more freely.
Meanwhile, if businesses spot opportunities within the market, a cloud infrastructure allows them to respond and harness these opportunities more rapidly. With so much opportunity in the cloud, businesses will continue to transition, with the worldwide public cloud services market projected to grow 13% in 2021 alone, with no sign of halting.
At the heart of every business is information. How we access it, harness it, and share it is closely tied to how successful any organization can be. That’s where cloud and remote technology comes with a huge impact. Thanks to the cloud, business workers are no longer tied to the office and can access information and collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world, in real-time. This has revolutionized business models.
For example, European company OpenDesk uploads furniture designs to the cloud and lets customers download the designs and commission a local manufacturer to build it in their region. This lowers shipping and inventory costs while reducing the company’s carbon footprint.
Cloud-based platforms have also enabled businesses to be more efficient. As organizations grow they tend to become ever more siloed, with teams evolving idiosyncratic ways of working and ways of sharing information. Cloud helps companies bridge the gap, allowing all workers to access one place for everything they need. With the help of the cloud, it’s also easier to create cross-company workflows, whereas before workers might have doubled up or lost sight of documents as they progressed.
In Summer 2019, Google revealed its first attempt to influence the gaming world. Its cloud gaming platform called Stadia was the first global-scale entry in this new line of gaming.
Here’s the deal: a gamer doesn’t need to own a super-expensive gaming rig; they just need to have a steady and moderately fast internet connection and a basic laptop or an Android smartphone. With this minimalistic setup, they can access Google’s data centers that are located in various locations and borrow their computing power to play the AAA titles in 4K 60FPS just like that. It’s often compared to the way we stream YouTube and Netflix and there’s no other comparison more accurate than that.
But the real deal is that this technology has already been introduced by other companies quite a while ago. For example, Nvidia’s Geforce Now - the same cloud gaming platform - was introduced back in 2015 as a beta, and it’s been running very well so far (I’m one of its active users).
So, the point of all this is that cloud gaming already has very deep roots and they’re only going to spread even further in the future. Granted, Sony and Microsoft are releasing their all-new PS5 and Xbox Series X very soon, whereas there’s a whole new and more powerful PC gaming world, but cloud gaming has already penetrated the industry and making its stance as one of the legit ways to play video games.
An irony of all of this is that the more we use cloud solutions, the more we need them. The so-called ‘data deluge’ can be attributed to how much we access cloud-based services in our daily lives.
Using online systems, social networking, sharing videos, capturing traffic flow, collaborating with colleagues – these all add up to vast quantities of data each person and each business generates for themselves and it doesn’t even touch on the data created by healthcare, education, science, and the military. All this information needs computing power to manage, store and analyze it – for which we need the cloud.
This is why talking about the future of the cloud is so erroneous – what we really need to be talking about is the future of society and the future of business. The future of our cities, our workplaces and institutions are heavily dependent on cloud technology and this will only become truer, as more services go serverless and digital infrastructures become more advanced.
It is not enough to say that the future of the cloud is heading in a certain direction. Rather, it would be more correct to make predictions about the future of humanity, society, and business and how cloud technology will rise to meet those challenges.