The Impact of Cloud Computing
The primary driver for cloud computing adoption is shifting from costs to agility.
The cloud is rightly described as another abstraction on top of an already abstracted, virtualized data environment.
And yet those abstractions are resulting in significant consequences to the real IT world that are only beginning to be understood.
At a basic level, the cloud is poised to effect major changes on the way physical infrastructure is developed and deployed. IDC predicts that server shipments destined for public, private and hybrid cloud operations will climb at a 20-plus percent annual pace until at least 2015. For public services, that will put more than 1.2 million cloud servers in operation, valued at approximately $3.6 billion. Private shipments will be smaller in volume but higher in value, topping out at about $5.8 billion.
With that much at stake, it's no wonder top server and processor designers are already shifting their development roadmaps to the cloud. At the Structure 2011 conference in San Francisco last week, top executives from SeaMicro, Tilera and others talked up everything from ARMs to many-core Atom architectures as the driving forces going forward. When you have top-tier enterprises like Google and Facebook designing their own custom hardware to tap into the cloud, it's time to either make a change or close up shop.
These changes will also have an effect farther down the supply chain. As Delphi's Cary Audin pointed out last week on No Jitter, any VAR or system integrator not paying attention to the cloud is likely to get bowled over very soon. Put simply, enterprise contracts are likely to diminish while service providers stand to gain. This is particularly true for the lucrative SMB market, which is very likely to hand over both hardware and service responsibilities to the cloud. At best, enterprise-focused VARs will subsist on workstation and LAN/WAN access, supplemented by monitoring or other services, while those targeting the new service providers will thrive.
Still, it would be a mistake to view all this change as a net negative. In fact, the exact opposite is true given that times of uncertainty also yield the greatest opportunities. As we've seen all too often in the recent past, sometimes the hurricane knocks down the biggest trees, but that only allows the saplings to thrive.