Everyone in IT is anxious to see how the cloud shakes out. When all is said and done, what will the enterprise look like when cloud computing becomes the established model for IT infrastructure?
And some are looking even farther into the future, wondering what, if anything, will come after the cloud?
To be sure, there is no shortage of predictions over how the cloud will evolve over time. IDC’s most recent assessment has hybrid infrastructure heading into 65 percent of enterprises within the year and predicts that by 2017, 20 percent of the industry will be using the public cloud as a strategic resource. As well, more than three quarters of IaaS offerings will be redesigned, rebranded or phased out over the next two years as providers concentrate on more lucrative services higher up the stack.
The utility of the cloud is beyond question at this point, so while most experts can debate the merits of the various architectures, it is hard to imagine IT in the future without a significant cloud presence. NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson told the Australian Financial Review last fall that he believes the cloud to be “the last computing architecture,” because there is no way to improve upon always-on data access from any device anywhere in the world. This may be true, but it was also true in the early 1970s that computer technology was simply too expensive and too complex for the average citizen.
And even if the cloud is highly resistant, or even immune, to disruption, the various consumption models certainly are not, says Silicon Angle’s Maria Deutscher. Already, companies like AppDirect and Actifio are devising new ways for individuals and organizations to tap into the cloud’s vast resources. AppDirect enables self-service provisioning and data migration while still conforming to policy and governance rules, while Actifio promises instance restoration at a fraction of the speed and effort required of traditional data protection platforms. The overarching goal of these and other services is to help the enterprise bridge the gap between cloud flexibility and the need to maintain control over data architectures.
Meanwhile, platforms like Quantum’s Symform are starting to leverage traditional sync and share capabilities to realign the basic cloud distribution model. Rather than simply lease resources from the cloud, Symform has users contribute some of their capacity to a resource pool, which is then used to hold data slices for the entire community. The system provides advanced replication and redundancy, and users are entitled to free cloud storage in proportion to the amount they contribute to the pool. Quantum intends to run the service as is but also leverage its capabilities for the StorNext and Lattus archiving solutions.
Is cloud computing truly the endgame for IT? It is and it isn’t. The cloud is quickly emerging as a fundamental component in the overall data stack, and it is hard to envision a working environment these days without some form of virtualized, distributed architecture.
But key enabling technologies that support the cloud, namely advanced processing architectures and high-speed interconnects, are in a constant state of development – including a steady stream of breakthroughs on the quantum level.
If we get to the point where digital information can reside on a handful of electrons, or even a single one, who knows where we will go from there?
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.