Cloud Computing & Birth of the Sharing Economy

What are the dominating trends?

The world has come a long way from owning and controlling resources, to let go a few, ease out a bit, and share things. These days, relinquishing the control and possession of heavy maintenance resources is considered as “Smart”.

Examples are many, and they all point to the same paradigm shift towards a “Sharing Economy”. Believe it or not, this shift is the exact reason why “Cloud” came into existence. If we study this transition more, we get to understand the future it holds for us more clearly. Businesses and public in general, are fast gearing up for “on-demand” and “pay-as-you-go” culture. This is as true for “Cloud”, as for everything else around us. It is un-folding gradually unto our very eyes in all walks of our lives.

Just a few years back, most people wanted to own luxury cars, while today, quite a few are leaning in favor of riding “on-demand” cabs, instead of owning a costly car. Businesses too, for example, used to strictly have their call centers within their premises in old days, while in the last decade or so, it is given out to external service providers that provide call center as a shared service, to multiple businesses. Similarly, multiple other costly to maintain processes are getting outsourced to shared services providers, increasingly.

Smart businesses understand very well that true efficiency does not come by possessing and maintaining costly resources and processes. Instead it lies in possessing flexibility and swiftness while doing business. Being able to adapt to the ever changing market requirements, and that too swiftly, is the key to success.

Maneuvering around the markets without cutting the heavy cost load of owning and maintaining depreciating assets & resources, and cost heavy business units, is extremely difficult. Rather than spending millions and billions on maintaining your own data center hardware, software and people team; it is much more agile to just pay-for-use to a provider that offers this as a service (IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service). Immediately a lot of associated cost and mental burden eases out and makes business heads focus more upon competing in the market, paying more attention to new set of product features that are required to cut competition, rather than upon how to provision new capacity to handle those changes.

However, it doesn’t stop at just the infrastructure, as we shall see. Instead of asking a provider for provisioning on-demand infrastructure, X number of virtual machines with Y amounts of memory units and Z amounts of storage units; it is much easier to request in terms of automatically scalable run-time environments for the business software. This abstracts away underlying infrastructure sufficiently well and lets businesses think in terms of architecture platforms that their software needs to run upon. It doesn’t matter anymore, how many virtual machines with how much memory is needed, because those bits of infrastructure will be automatically added under the platform, if the software needs to scale, and that too in real-time. The abstraction that supports thinking in terms of platform, is offered by providers as another set of higher services, called PaaS – Platform as a Service.

The buck still doesn’t stop here. Until now, we assumed that the software needed to support a business is getting written by the business itself. In this new “sharing economy”, businesses would share software products and customize it to their own needs, on-demand. Some of these common bits of functionality are offered by “Cloud” providers and their partners as multi-tenant software products that are available to businesses in pay-as-you-go model. The set of services that make multi-tenant software available to businesses is called “SaaS – Software as a Service”

Thus, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, all combined, saves a lot of maintenance and development cost for businesses, around the world, and it helps making them flexible and swift.

Even after all the benefits that businesses can muster out of Cloud providers, there are a few caveats as well. All businesses, across all verticals, store sensitive data related to their customers, competitors, partners, etc. This data, if gets into the dirty hands can make or break a business. A few verticals are more sensitive to this than others. This is the reason why businesses, even today are not in favor of moving their sensitive data over to the Cloud, even if it can be stored encrypted. The Cloud provider team has back-door entry to the storage location of this data, and even a slightest mistake in programming, on part of software development team, can reveal the encryption key location, or the key itself, to this back-door team. In addition to data, even program code itself, executing on Cloud, can be a secret recipe for a business and hence could be desired to be kept as a secret. However, there could be a possible solution to this data and code security issue, in future, that can sufficiently prevent making it vulnerable to the Cloud provider team.

Before we look at it, let’s take a moment to understand a few more trends feeding in to growth of Cloud. These can be “So-Lo-Mo” apps (Social, Location Oriented, Mobility supporting), Apps supporting block-chain driven use cases, machine learning driven/AI supported applications, streaming, etc. There is such enormous user population around these use cases that it requires enormous amounts of scalability and resilience to support the software run-time platform. And, this kind of scalability and resilience is usually available with Cloud providers only. It is difficult to obtain it within fully owned data centers.

Let’s look at some of the investment and demand figures

Cloud computing is projected to rise 19% CAGR from $60B in 2015 to $160B in 2020. The industry as a whole is set to see increased demands as prices go down. Some of the largest companies in cloud computing will have to reduce prices to allow a greater set of consumers into their platform. This will lead to a rapid adoption of cloud technologies, leading to a greater usage of the platform.

Currently, there are multiple platforms online that leverage cloud as its primary architecture. However, mass adoption is still to be expected in the years to come. For now, we have a massive rise in the PaaS (Platform as a service) adoption, which is set to be the fastest growing sector of cloud. Research from KPMG predicts that it’s going to go from 30% in 2017 to 56% in 2020. This rise in adoption is attributed in part to the power and flexibility of cloud computing. As it becomes more ubiquitous, it becomes more attractive to test out.

Complete mobile domination

As predicted by some of the top researchers in the field, mobile is going to take centre stage when it comes to cloud computing. There will be a mass migration of all data, tech and content towards the cloud, with mobile leading the pack in terms of device and usage.

Everything is going mobile as we get closer to the end of the decade. With AI empowered apps and devices controlling things in our phone, we need to leverage the cloud that much more. Mobile content consumption, data management and application-as-a-service platforms will emerge across the board. Cloud computing will be taking care of everything from content management, database systems, process optimization and server maintenance.

Mobile is the next variable that will enhance our outlook towards cloud. More apps, more demand, and more content is expected from cloud technologies in the near future. We’re moving towards a distributed system where everything is based off of mobile consumption and development.

Block-chain and Cryptocurrencies

Barring any speculation on cryptocurrencies, the technology behind it is rock solid. Block-chain has been a revolutionary application based on the cloud’s infrastructure. With distributed ledgers running on dispersed networks, coders can have a better approach to innovating in this space.

We still don’t know the impact of these two tech paradigms, but they’re focused on enhancing the way that we see cloud. There have been numerous companies launching global ICOs for Ethereum and Bitcoin, and many other coins being started locally. All of this because of cloud.

Cloud will be taking these coins to the next level, as the technology becomes that much more efficient. We will see a rapid rise in the usage and trust that we place in these currencies because of the stability that cloud provides these systems. Since they run on servers that are located across various parts of the world, server load is key for them.

Cryptocurrencies are also relying on stable applications being built on block-chain technologies. Everything from local voting to medical applications are being built on the cloud. These tech innovations are leveraging the power of block-chain which is being empowered by the cloud. There is huge scope for further growth in the cloud computing market as block-chain promises strong returns in innovation and consumer demand.

Algorithmic Development

Since a lot of what’s behind AI and machine learning depends on algorithms, we’re seeing a sharp increase in how algorithms are processes. Essentially, we’re moving towards faster decision making, data insight generation and resource management. This means that eventually AI and ML will have deeper proliferation in our everyday lives.

Everything from cars to computers will have AI infused in them owing to the stability of cloud computing. With algorithms getting that much free server space, they can learn from their mistakes much quicker. This ensures that they get smarter and have more access to information across a distributed network. The cloud will be setting the platform for a shift in the way AI evolves. Algorithms can get that much faster and efficient, as cloud computing powers the backbone of this new movement.

Impervious Cloud will make it all-encompassing!

As said before, in order for the world to fully embrace cloud, it needs to address data security issue sufficiently well. In my opinion, one of the ways it could be dealt with in future, is by designing PVMs (Personalized Virtual Machines). PVMs are envisioned as secure extensions of usual virtual machines. They personalize the byte code for each individually deployed software. It will be impossible to crack into by simple de-compiling of code because no de-compiler would be able to understand the personalized byte code and will keep it impervious to runtime attacks as well, due to the same reason. It will be extremely difficult to get access to data encryption keys in the PVM on-boarded software, at rest or run times.

Here is wishing a very happy “cloud” ahead, to all readers.

About Author

With core expertise in Product Management and Engineering, Anusheel has worked on defining & creating industry leading products, frameworks and standards that fetched more than 10 million USD worth of business to previous companies.

He has expertise in DevOps, Cloud and Enterprise Mobility, preferring hands-on approach to things. Some of the clients that Anusheel has worked with in the past are Siemens Nixdorf, NHS UK, Sprint, Cisco, Thailand Government, HSBC and ICICI Bank. He has also been an Entrepreneur in the past.

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