Cloud computing reached new heights in 2020 and 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic and our responses to it made remote, virtual work and education the new status quo.
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The need for digital services to replace or bolster previous ways of working led to increased demand for cloud platforms, and this period of wide adoption is likely to continue. Further, technology and platform innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) and no code development will come to define a new generation of cloud computing.
Market Forecast: Cloudy
Market analysts estimate the world market for cloud services to be over $482 billion in 2022, up more than 50% from a pre-pandemic figure of $313 billion in 2020.
Over 85% of organizations are expected to transform operations to be cloud-first by 2025, and 95% of new work is likely to be carried out on business platforms designed for cloud computing first (compared to 30% in 2021).
Indeed, the forecast is good for cloud platforms. Some analysts predict that non-cloud platforms will be considered a legacy technology in the next few years, as revenue from cloud platforms starts to outpace other revenue streams.
Underpinning this rosy forecast is an expected (and already underway) significant investment in infrastructure. Ultrafast data and Wi-Fi networks (5g and Wi-Fi 6E) will transform connectivity, not only making it easier and faster to stream data from the cloud but also opening up new possibilities for the kinds of data that can be streamed in the first place. Gaming, augmented reality, and virtual reality will be accessed in the same way that music and video streaming services work now.
Serverless cloud is a platform concept currently being supported by new products from key players in the technology market (with Amazon’s AWS Lambda, Microsoft's Azure Functions, and IBM’s Cloud Functions leading the way).
Serverless cloud platforms offer storage and bandwidth as a service. This means that organizations only pay for the server space that they are actually using and are not burdened by investment and maintenance in physical server infrastructure.
It will enable cloud platforms to deliver innovative user experiences, as users do not have to interact with the server element of digital services to use them effectively.
Hybrid Cloud Platforms
In the early days of cloud computing, there were two quite distinct types of platforms: public and private.
Public cloud platforms are easily accessible, off-the-shelf services that organizations pay for as a regular service. Google Drive is one example of a public, accessible cloud storage platform that organizations can use.
Private platforms are custom-made, flexible cloud platforms that are specially designed, built, and maintained for one organization. These include internal VPNs (virtual private networks) and enterprise platforms.
Often, private cloud platforms have been necessary for regulatory and security purposes. Medical institutions, for example, have been unable to use regular cloud services due to laws about where and how to store patient information.
Now, the largest cloud computing providers are offering hybrid models. These allow some data to be quickly accessed from public cloud servers, with sensitive and mission-sensitive data isolated on private servers where access is closely watched.
Also driving the development of hybrid cloud platforms is the uneven growth of cloud computing over the last few decades. Many organizations now have multiple cloud services performing a range of discrete but related tasks.
Hybrid cloud platforms can make this less complicated by ensuring the user experience remains smooth and abstracted from the backend stack of technologies and services, making that experience work.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Computing
Cloud computing currently contributes to research and development in AI – artificial intelligence.
AI relies on extensive amounts of computing power to process huge data sets with complicated algorithms designed to make the machine appear intelligent, for example, by learning from the dataset and adapting behaviors as a result of new information (this is what machine learning algorithms do).
Cloud computing contributes to this by providing huge amounts of processing power with minimal investment for researchers.
Machine learning platforms, artificial neural networks (ANNs), and many other examples of AI rely on computers parsing huge amounts of data to “train” or develop the right suite of parameters to behave “intelligently”.
That means they cannot easily fit on local drives and servers.
Everyday AI is all around us, from Google Search results to speech recognition and personal digital assistants like Siri. This is only possible because cloud computing takes care of the processing demands that these products make all the time.
The development of cloud computing will continue to power more advances in AI – for researchers and consumers alike.
No Code Platforms
Another platform innovation that is built on cloud computing is the no code movement. This is the focus on more abstract development tools that enable users to make computer programs without having to write out detailed instructions in a coding language.
No code is used to quickly prototype and test digital products, as well as speeding up development timescales by taking over mundane and repetitive coding tasks from manual coders.
Cloud computing will continue to feature in no code’s evolution. In the same way that AI needs infrequent, impermanent access to huge amounts of processing power and storage to work, so no code platforms need to offer users all of the server space required to make their creations run.
For all but the most enormous corporate technology giants, this processing power requirement can only really be fulfilled with cloud services.
References and Further Reading
Marr, B. (2021) The 5 Biggest Cloud Computing Trends In 2022. [Online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2021/10/25/the-5-biggest-cloud-computing-trends-in-2022/?sh=355c5e0d2267
McLellan, C. (2021) Cloud computing is evolving: Here's where it's going next. [Online] ZDNet. Available at: https://www.zdnet.com/article/cloud-computing-is-evolving-heres-where-its-going-next/
IBM (2021) Cloud’s Big Leap. [Online] IBM. Available at: https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/cloud-transformation.