Each year at Cloud Connect, we try to look ahead to what the next twelve months hold. To many of us, the future was really the removal of the word “cloud.” Just as “web applications” are now just “applications”, so technologies like “cloud storage” are just “storage.” Similarly, cloud computing will soon just be “computing.”
Does that mean the future of something like Cloud Connect is simply “connect”? Sort of. New technologies are seldom interesting in their own right. Rather, they’re interesting for what they make possible.
Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham describes a startup as an organization designed for rapid growth—and he means rapid. He wants to see a 5-10% increase in users or revenues every week for companies within his accelerator. While he says that startups aren’t necessarily technology, it’s very likely that they are. That’s because technology does two things:
- It disrupts a market. There’s not much new about Uber driving people around. We’ve had taxis for centuries. But the ubiquity of mobile applications with location awareness is new, and that’s disrupting a big market quickly. So technology can trigger a rapid change in an existing market. Growth.
- It makes a new market. The online search industry didn’t exist twenty years ago. Today, it’s worth billions. Technology creates entirely new businesses even as it leaves old ones crumbling. 3D printing might usher in an era of manufacturing at the edge, even as it destroys traditional just-in-time logistics.
And this is why clouds are interesting. Not in their own right—they’re rapidly becoming another tool in the IT toolbox, albeit an extremely flexible one. Clouds are interesting because they make computing frictionless. They allow organizations of any size to achieve the kinds of scale and growth Graham demands of the companies he helps launch.
A couple of years ago, we joked that “big data gives clouds something to do.” There’s a lot of truth to this. Big Data itself isn’t new—and it isn’t mounting the peak of a hype curve, despite what Gartner says. Big Data has been around for ages, as anyone from a company like Teradata, IBM, Oracle, or Microsoft will tell you. What’s new about big data is the democratization of analysis. Anyone who runs a Facebook Graph Search today has more power, and more access, than any three-letter-agency in Washington dared dream of a decade ago.
And powerful, democratized analysis is a game-changer for society. It’ll alter how we work and play; how we learn and love; and how we make decisions. All because of cloud computing, which provides the elastic, on-demand undercarriage for vast analysis.
In the Futures and Disruptions track at Cloud Connect this spring, Cascade Insights’ Sean Campbell will lay out four possible futures for cloud computing in the next few years, encouraging IT professionals to hedge their bets. Allan Leinwand, whose career spans executive technology roles at Cisco, Digital Island, Zynga, and Servicenow, predicts where cloud platforms are headed. And serial entrepreneur Margaret Dawson joins Savvis’ Ed Saipetch to speculate on the future of data—and whether it’s headed for anarchy or trust.
It promises to be a fascinating look at where technology is headed, even as clouds themselves quietly blend into the fabric of everyday computing.