It seems like everywhere we look someone is talking or writing about "the cloud." The recent Consumer Electronics Show featured everything from 3D televisions to cars connected to the cloud. For someone like me, this is great to see and it's an extremely exciting time to be in the technology field.
While talking to my niece last week, I came to a realization. She asked, "Aunt Lauren, what do you do at work now?" I replied that I help companies use cloud computing and went into details that no young adult should suffer through, which ended with me asking whether she understood.
Her response was, "You mean like the icloud thing from Apple?"
This struck me in two ways. One is that cloud computing has officially permeated outside of the tech world. The second is that, at its core, the idea of cloud computing is simple. We are removing all of the complexity associated with using information technology and giving people access to computing power they would never have had before.
But for some people who have spent a lifetime building all of that complexity in, that's a tough pill to swallow.
In 2003, Nicholas Carr's article in The Harvard Business Review, titled ''IT Doesn't Matter,'' questioned corporate America's faith in the value of technology. He argued that information technology is inevitably headed in the same direction as the railroads, the telegraph, electricity and the internal combustion engine.
At the time, this was considered by many as heresy. Whether you agree with the premise or not, Carr's point wasn't that technology was no longer necessary, it was that the focus should no longer be on the technology itself but on what people and companies can do with it.
Almost a decade later, I feel like we're having this conversation all over again with cloud computing. Does cloud computing truly matter?
According to Forrester Research, cloud computing will grow from the $41 billion business it was in 2010 to $241 billion in 2020. So, the answer is a resounding yes, but not for all the right reasons.
Up until now, in the five-year span of the cloud craze, most corporate leaders and people have relied on their technology suppliers or the media to define the cloud and tell them how this new style of computing will work.
But now that the hype is settling down, the discussion needs to quickly shift to one about outcomes -- often through new business models now made possible by the cloud. What matters next is how business and consumers will use it and I think that is where the fun really begins.
The cloud is already re-shaping industries in new and interesting ways:
- In Italy, at the University of Bari, a team built a cloud that allows local fishermen to auction their catch while still at sea. By creating more demand for the fishermen's product, the cloud has increased income by 25% while reducing time-to-market by 70%. Now the team is scaling the solution to create new business models for the winemaking and transportation industries.
- Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin are creating better methods for analyzing human blood proteins as a means of detecting diseases earlier than was previously possible. By working closely with mathematicians and other collaborators, computer scientists at the university created a cloud that enables scientists to analyze 12,000 patient records in real time -- each comprising roughly 2.5 gigabytes of data -- at a rate approximately 250 times faster than they had before.
Changing retail markets, medicine, consumer electronics and media are all possible with cloud computing. Fundamental changes in computing models don't come around very often, but if we focus on what we can do rather than how we do it, we're already making progress.
To learn more on how cloud computing is transforming industries, click here.