Cloud computing in 2020: Looking into that crystal ball

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Recently, @thedodgeretort of Enterprise CIO Forum held a Twitter chat about what cloud computing in 2020 will look like. I decided to write up a quick blog sharing my thoughts on the topic.

Looking into the crystal ball, I see a few things happening with cloud by 2020: call it 5 years out.

First, cloud will transform into more of a utility and a grid of computing power. Second, we’ll see a much deeper manifestation of the core characteristics of cloud computing, especially with regard to flexible capacity, consistent access, and high portability. Third, I anticipate a lot of activity in machine-to-machine transactions and communications (call it IoT if you like). Fourth: superesilient applications. Fifth: compute traded as a commodity. And finally, within 5 years, I think IT and the overall business will come together to actually take advantage of these technologies. Read on for more detail.

Cloud Computing in 2020

1. A utility and computing grid

In 5 years, large companies will still hang on to their datacenters to run some services. However, with security more robust, I think that corporations will make available their own computing resources as much as they consume cloud resources – just like some households generate their own electricity and sell it back to the grid. I think Cisco’s Intercloud concept has an angle on this.

2. Flexible capacity, consistent access, and high portability

A cloud/compute socket just like an electrical socket. Standardized applications and connectors that “plug in” to the grid and are removed just as easily. Virtualization has the first stab at this, encapsulating the OS, data, and applications neatly in a VMX and VMDKs. Containers are the next stab. Redhat has an angle on this with their CloudForms PaaS. Raw compute power becomes more and more of a commodity as portability improves; meaning downward pressure on IaaS prices will remain to some degree (see #4).

3. IoT or machine-to-machine communications/transactions

One machine determines that it needs to acquire more compute power to complete its work. It makes a “deal” to go out and acquire that compute power, uses it, and gives it back to the grid. Or, on the flip side, a machine that knows when it can stand idle and rent its own power. Another angle on this, a virtual machine or application has knowledge of its SLA, and moves to the provider who can deliver on that SLA at the least cost. Love it or hate it, Apple’s Siri has an early angle on this. From what I’ve read about the technology, queries to Siri find their way back to Apple datacenters, not only to obtain answers, but to improve the accuracy of queries for all Siri users.

4. Superesilient applications

As prices for cloud trend downward and portability improves (see #2 and #5), disaster recovery will take a new shape. Instead of running on a 2-site/2-region DR architecture, applications will run on a 5, 10, 20, or 30-site “DR” architecture, with all nodes being active. Does it matter where your application is running at that point? Potentially, it’s running all over the east coast, or all over the country. Some services from AWS already have an angle on this with services that are redundant across regions (a.g., S3, elastic load balancing, etc.), not to mention things like DNS on the Internet. I think it will become cost-effective to do this, in general, within 5 years.

5. Compute traded as a commodity, just like crude oil

This might be a stretch in 5 years, but with the trend of IaaS being more commoditized and portability improving, we’ll see a day when compute power is traded in a commodities market. In the channel, this is already fairly common – IaaS providers are eager to cut favorable deals with resellers who agree to purchase large chunks of infrastructure upfront, only to resell at a later date.

6. IT and the business coming together

DevOps was the first marriage of two groups that had been previously at odds (oftentimes). Within 5 years, I think maturity in IT will improve to the point that they become as focused on the business as any other traditional LOB. IT becomes an Innovation Center — they are focused on the business, and behave proactively. Corporate IT shifts its focus from requirements to possibilities. See my previous posts on the emerging idea of a cloud architect who will be important in this shift.

To sum up… we’re just at the beginning of possibilities in cloud computing.

To hear more from John, you can download his eBook, “The Evolution of the Corporate IT Department

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