An aerial view of a city with a large white fluffy cloud above it on the right-hand side.

Cloud future? Cloud is now

Do you ever think that future-gazing is all everyone seems to do these days? There are endless speculations, expert predictions and thousands of column inches dedicated to technology foresights. But it seems almost absurd to include cloud computing in the conversation, given that it’s already ubiquitous across both the business and consumer sphere. In contrast, it’s actually worth taking the time to consider just what ‘cloud now’ really means for everyone. 

For society

We are already accustomed to the idea of storing our personal data in the cloud, whether it’s backing up via iCloud, sharing files on Dropbox or even uploading photos to Facebook. Plus, we can already see the profound impact of cloud as our towns and cities become smarter. For some places, it is the digital infrastructure that already underpins its traffic management, in others, it’s used for intelligent power management. As this increases exponentially, each new connected device or sensor creates data that must be stored and analysed, and this is where cloud – and edge – computing comes into its own, working at the scale and speed necessary to monitor, store, analyse and action the daily functions of our shared places.

Of course, we couldn’t talk about cloud without mentioning Artificial Intelligence. It will be the key to effectively and efficiently bringing AI to a wider platform base, such as mobile. AI has already found its way onto mobile phones, but the mass of unstructured data within (emails, text messages, photos, to name just three) takes time and processing power to analyse. Most smartphones simply don’t have this capability but with the power of cloud computing behind them, the potential for the future of our smartphones is truly exciting.

The reflection of man and woman stood in front of a computer screen, reading the results of a graph.
Cloud can be held largely responsible for the new waves of swift business innovation and transformation.

For business innovation

There’s absolutely no doubting the impact that cloud has had on business, and a lot of this is through innovation. By removing the necessity for physical infrastructure (and their associated operational and labour costs) the barriers come down to innovation projects and digital transformation. This is particularly beneficial to smaller companies who don’t have the means to commit to expensive, rigid contracts, as cloud offers a flexible and scalable alternative that can mitigate financial risk. It’s a popular model that’s predicted to see widespread adoption as new companies and around 80% of existing vendors are predicted to offer subscription-based business models.

Cloud also offers innovators a means to quickly experiment with new ideas, as feedback can be gathered at speed – if a strategy isn’t working, then it’s easier to course-correct. Whereas a traditional model would require waiting until you have an absolute fail on your hands in order to take stock and make learnings. Similarly, if businesses spot an opportunity in the market, a cloud infrastructure can allow them to respond more rapidly. Overall, the projected growth in the worldwide public cloud services market is truly freeing for innovation in business.

For information sharing

At the heart of every businesses is information. How we access it, harness it and share it is closely tied to organisational success. Thanks to cloud, business workers are no longer tied to the office, but retain access to information and the ability to collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world, in real-time. This has revolutionised business models. UK-based OpenDesk has built a truly innovative global business by uploading furniture designs to the cloud, so that customers can download the item of their choice and commission a local manufacturer to build it. This lowers shipping and inventory costs, while also reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

Cloud-based platforms are also recognised as drivers of organisational efficiency. Where business growth can cause information silos, resulting in teams using ever more inventive (and often idiosyncratic!) ways to navigate information sharing and working, cloud can help bridge the gap. It gives workers one place of access for everything they need and facilitates more straightforward cross-company workflows, where they may previously have doubled up or lost sight of documents as they progressed.

The projected growth in the worldwide public cloud services market is truly freeing for innovation in business

 For keeping up with ‘data deluge’

There’s a certain irony in that the more we use cloud solutions, the more we need them. Online systems, social networking, sharing videos, capturing traffic flow, collaborating with colleagues – these all add up to vast quantities of data that doesn’t even touch on the effect created by healthcare, education, science and the military. All this information needs computing power to manage, store and analyse it, for which we need cloud. And so, the circle completes.  

This is why talking about the future of cloud is misdirected. The conversation should really centre around the future of society and business. Our cities, workplaces and institutions will be heavily dependent on cloud technology and this will only become truer as more services go serverless and digital infrastructures become more advanced. Indeed, we should be focusing our attention not on the evolution of cloud, but how business and society will meet the challenges of the future.

Written by Micaela Longo & Deepa Parbhoo

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