Why the Cloud Revolution Is Just Getting Started
In the last 15 years, cloud computing has come a long way. But it is just the beginning of the real revolution. Here's a look at the most important trends.
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When cloud computing burst onto the scene in 2006 with the launch of AWS, it would have been hard to imagine how big of a thing it would eventually become. But more than 15 years later, cloud computing has come a long way. And yet, in my view, it is only just getting started towards realizing its true potential.
Why do I think this way?
Recently, I came across this Gartner study that contained a couple of mind-boggling facts:
- More than 85% of organizations will embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025.
- Over 95% of new digital workloads in 2025 will be deployed on cloud-native platforms, up from 30% in 2021.
Of course, numbers can be spurious. But when you talk about 85% of organizations and 95% of all new digital workloads, it is definitely a lot. Even if the figures are off the mark by some points, they are still huge.
My curiosity about the matter was piqued and I started digging more into the potential trends that might fuel this anticipated growth. Naturally, as a software developer, I’m always interested in knowing where the industry is headed because that’s how we can prepare and hope to keep ourselves relevant.
After doing some reading, I have formed an initial idea of the broad trends that are driving cloud computing and will continue to do so in the coming years. However, before I share them with you, I wanted to make some points about cloud computing that can help us understand the trends in a much better way.
You may or may not agree with the points I make. Either way, I’d love it if you share your views in the comments section below.
What Made the Cloud So Popular?
I believe that the seeds of the future are laid in the past. This must hold true for cloud computing as well.
But what made the cloud so popular?
In my view, cloud computing democratized the ability to build applications with world-class infrastructure. No longer do you need to be a multi-billion dollar organization with an army of engineers to create applications used by millions of people. Even a startup working out of a garage can do it.
So, what was stopping the same thing from happening in the pre-cloud era?
For starters, the pre-cloud era could also be labeled as the on-premise era. This meant that organizations typically managed their own IT infrastructure and resources. For example, if you wanted to create an application and make it available to the world in the pre-cloud era, you had to purchase, install and maintain hardware and software in-house.
This arrangement had a couple of big technical implications:
- Management of IT infrastructure such as servers, storage, and networking lay solely on the shoulders of the organization’s workforce. I still vividly remember the anecdote of one of my seniors about the earlier days when he had to even fix network cables when a broken connection brought their application down in the middle of the night and the network vendor was not available.
- The IT systems were not scalable based on demand since organizations were limited by physical resources. If there was an expectation of higher demand, you had to go out and buy more resources. For that to happen, you had to be really good at predicting demand else you would be incurring extra costs for no reason.
Of course, when are higher-ups in organizations worried about tech issues unless there was a threat to the company’s bottom line?
However, in this case, there were threats.
For starters, on-premise computing is a costly business. You need a significant up-front investment in hardware and software to build a data center.
Initially, big companies loved this situation. It was like a huge barrier to entry for smaller players. However, once the genie was out-of-the-bottle and some cloud offerings came on the scene, the huge cost associated with on-premise computing became a liability. Suddenly, the army of engineers hired to just keep the infrastructure running started to look like money-guzzling machines.
In more disruptive industries, startups with a skeleton crew of software engineers were leap-frogging established players by using the initial cloud tools to drive faster innovation and reducing time-to-market. This meant a loss of market share and growth opportunities for the big companies.
Of course, all of this didn’t happen in a single day, a month, or even a year. But slowly and steadily, large organizations also started to steer their ships in the direction of cloud computing.
Once that happened, there was no looking back.
It was like discovering an untapped oil field right next to your front door.
So, Where Are Things Headed?
Predicting the direction of a particular technology can be a fool’s errand. In 2006, not even the creators of AWS would have predicted the kind of growth they have seen.
But, of course, it’s important to make an educated guess so that we are better prepared for what’s coming in the next few years.
Here are a few broad trends I’m tracking:
Hybrid Cloud Adoption
This one’s a biggie as it is driven mostly by the large organizations that run the world. Think of big banks, government organizations, and mega-corporations. The trend is largely driven by the growing regulatory and legal requirements about data and the increase in privacy concerns all across the world.
In a hybrid cloud setup, companies want to keep a mix of capabilities across external cloud platforms as well as in-house setups. The idea is to use the public platforms for new innovative products but keep the core-business capabilities or data on in-house data centers so that they don’t run foul of government regulations.
Since it involves big money, I feel hybrid cloud adoption is only going to grow. Already, big cloud providers are rolling out products to support this vision.
- Red Hat has been offering its flagship OpenShift platform as an on-premise solution for many years now.
- Microsoft has launched Azure Arc to cater to hybrid and multi-cloud requirements.
- Google has launched Anthos - a platform that promises a single and consistent way of managing Kubernetes workloads across the public and on-premises cloud.
“Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.” This adage is so wise that organizations are increasingly exploring the use of a multi-cloud approach.
A large part of the multi-cloud adoption is driven by risk mitigation. For example, fintech organization Form3 was compelled to go for a multi-cloud setup when the regulators questioned them about the portability of their platform in case AWS went down.
However, some of the shift to multi-cloud is also a result of increased competition and service offerings by different cloud vendors. Even beyond the Big 3, there are dozens of other cloud providers providing all manner of cloud services to lure customers with cost or features.
Organizations have been spoiled for choice and are trying to get the best ROI for every piece of their infrastructure.
I feel this trend is going to accelerate in the future.
The difficulties of managing a multi-cloud setup could have curtailed this movement. However, instead of getting bogged down, the demand for multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud setups has spurred a number of new trends such as the rise of infrastructure-as-code tools and the concept of platform engineering. I will discuss more of them in upcoming posts.
One of the main factors that worked in favor of the cloud in the initial days was cost savings. The idea that you could even launch a product with close-to-zero costs was hard to beat and created a tremendous rush for cloud adoption.
In my view, serverless has the potential to make even traditional cloud offerings appear costly. Though a few years have passed since serverless options were launched by most major cloud providers, I feel that we are only at the beginning of the serverless revolution.
Since serverless computing allows companies to run code without even provisioning or managing cloud servers, it is extremely lucrative for organizations that want to save on costs and move faster.
With the tremendous rise in the number of SaaS startups and the existence of an inflationary environment with rising interest rates, the cost of running your system is a big issue.
Organizations are looking to achieve product-market fit without burning through too much cash and serverless computing seems like a good deal with its pay-per-use model and little to no maintenance expenditure.
Apart from cloud computing, the last decade or so has also seen another major trend spread like wildfire - the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
As AI seeps into more and more areas and supports real requirements, it is already promising to augment cloud services in really interesting ways. For example, AI-driven cloud services can potentially make autonomous decisions on when to scale up or down based on an intuitive understanding of demand rather than fixed rules. Again, this boils down to monetary benefits with the promise of better cost utilization.
Of course, we can only hope that one of these services doesn’t turn into Skynet any time soon!
Either way, I’ll be extremely interested in keeping an eye out for this developing trend.
Containers as a Service
Containers on the cloud started off quite early with Amazon launching ECS. Of course, managing a bunch of containers isn’t the easiest thing out there.
However, the surging popularity of Kubernetes has changed the landscape of container orchestration. And within no time, all major and minor cloud providers are offering managed Kubernetes services.
This is one area where big and small organizations are lapping up the opportunity. After all, everyone wants to reap the benefits of containerization without acquiring the headache of managing them.
As developers, it is definitely important to keep abreast of this trend.
That’s It for Now!
In the end, I feel that we are living in interesting times when it comes to cloud computing. The technology is at the right level of maturity where it has become mainstream enough to have a large base of innovation. However, it is also not so dormant that things become boring and static.
To top it off, cloud computing is also producing other trends in areas such as microservices architecture, DevOps, infrastructure-as-code, and platform engineering.
Published at DZone with permission of Saurabh Dashora. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.