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Cloud: The Chicken or the Egg

This is the third post in this series where I have been writing about the drive for new technology. Is need driving innovation or is innovation driving demand? In other words, what came first: the chicken or the egg? In this post, I explore an area of innovation focused on cloud services.

Ever wonder about the size of the cloud services market? Gartner indicates that the worldwide public cloud services market is expected to grow 18 percent in 2017 totaling $246,841 (in millions of dollars)  Gartner expects the market to grow by 64 percent to 383,355 in 2020.

Is Cloud Still Innovating?

Cloud emerged as an innovative technology—pay for what you use, standard software builds and built in management—and it continues to change and grow. Cloud computing popularized as a service (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and BPaaS) models and they are still available and growing. Gartner writes that infrastructure and emerging workloads like artificial intelligence, analytics and Internet of Things will drive future platform services growth. New cloud service models are developing like security as a service (SECaaS ] and mobile “backend” as a service (MBaaS). New models are examples of the inventive changes that are being developed in cloud.

What Came First?

It’s tempting to jump into a discussion about cloud where the focus is what came first—the need or the technology? But consider where cloud came from. Did it just appear out of nowhere? Not really, cloud arose as the next event in a sequence of computing events following:

  1. Centralized computing: In the beginning, the mainframe computer was developed. It made sense that many would share a promising and expensive resource
  2. Client Server: Came about with the emergence of independent, smaller sized computers and the innovation they embodied and promised
  3. Distributed: Client server evolved into a flexible distributed model fueled by web hosting containing servers, firewalls, routers, load balancers and other devices (computers) with a role to play in support of the application
  4. Utility: Starting in the late 1990s, computer and service providers began repackaging computer hardware, software and services to provide on demand computing in a mode like an electric power or gas utility
  5. Cloud: Emerged as an extension of the utility computing that further propagated the idea of computing, application and network as a service

Cloud evolved from utility computing but that simple statement underplays the robustness of its innovation. Today, cloud computing makes extensive use of internet technologies and provides shared computer processing resources as needed. Generally, the shared resources are configurable including computer networks, servers, storage, applications and services. Provisioning, a key feature of cloud, is rapid. When the resources are no longer needed then are easily released.

What Is the Sequence? Chicken or the Egg?

It’s pretty clear that utility and cloud technology planted the seeds to meet existing customer needs. In the late 1990s, IT customers became increasingly aware of the significant underutilization of their distributed computing resources and the tremendous complexity and cost of constantly spinning up new servers, firewalls and load balancers. So, when suppliers offered a technology solution that offered them some relief, customers could easily match the promise of this service to their current needs. The promise of paying for what you used was enough to entice the business community to strong-arm most objections from the technical community buying time for technology companies to develop and harden their model ensuring adequate security and the robustness required by new enterprise applications. The complete story isn’t yet written, but things are moving along to the tune of 383,355 (millions of dollars) predicted by Gartner in 2020. That is $383,355,000,000 paying for and sustaining an array of cloud services.