Cloud Computing - Tech Brief

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing. Two words that we are hearing more and more as of late yet there doesn't seem to be any all encompassing definition as to what it REALLY means. When doing research, the geeneral consensus is that Cloud computing is the storing and accessing of data over the internet. This means that data could be anywhere in the world yet we are still able to access it from our machines. However, it's not as simple as it sounds. The 'data' in question here could be anything. It could be just your emails or it could be the whold web application you are using to access those emails. Cloud computing makes it possible for companies to have their entire software online for people anywhere to use without having to worry about downloading, updating, patching, or whatever else the company does no have control over. This simplifies the use of the service for both the company providing the service as well as the consumer using it.

Cloud computing has become such a norm in the more recent years that many people don't realize how some of the most basic things they use are prime examples of cloud computing. Services such as Gmail and the Google Apps suite are service that people use on a daily basis, either personally or for work/education, rather than using a native email client or software such as Microsoft Office installed locally. Even though Microsoft heavily promotes and consistently sells their Office suite, they have also taken Office to the cloud.

The cloud is most used for IaaS and PaaS, or infrastructure as a service and platform as a service respectively. Cloud computing services have made it incredibly cheaper and easier for companies to take their services to the cloud.

History of Cloud Computing

The idea of cloud computing originated way back in the 1960s by J.C.R. Licklider and his idea of a "intergalactic computer network." Licklider was responsible for the development of the ARPANET and his idea of a "intergalactic computer network" is actually very similar to what the internet is today. However, cloud computing has really taken off in the more recent years thanks to the development of new technologies and the general advancement of the internet. One of the first real milestones for cloud computing was Salesforce.com in 1999. Salesforce.com was the first to pioneer the idea of distributing enterprise applications via the internet for people to use. This made it so everything was processed on remote computers rather than local computers so that the Salesforce.com would have full control over the software.

The next major milestone was the creation of Amazon Web Services in 2002. Amazon Web Services is a secure cloud services platform that provides services such as computing power, database storage, and content delivery to allow businesses to scale up as needed. Amazon was one of the first major companies to convert their data centers to the new cloud computing infrastructure and quickly saw how cloud computing could allow them to be much more efficient even with the same amount of capacity. Amazon made it easier and cheaper for companies to have the servers, storage, and processing they needed without having to worry about maintaining it themselves in-house.

The second stage of development of the world wide web, Web 2.0 in 2009, was a milestone that helped kick start cloud computing and it's ease of use. Web 2.0 was the transition of static to dynamic websites and more user generated content as well as an increse in the growth of social media. The major chaneg for cloud computing was the transition of static to disnamic websites. This allowed websites to be much more fluid and used on various devices. the was just two years after the first smartphones has started becoming available to the mass public such as the iPhone and Android phones. During this time, tech giants such as Google and Microsoft had created massive application suites such as Google Apps. The emergence of such services made it unnecessary for people to buy higher end computers or to keep everything on local storage; with these online applications people could create and edit documents online without having to worry about their computer crashing and losing all their data.

Market Share

Nowadays there are only 3 major contenders in the cloud market. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google. Currently, Amazon holds the lead at ~40% of the market share and has kept this lead for a few years. This is not very surprising as Amazon Web Services was one of the earliest contenders to enter the market and also has the idest selection of services. Next up is Microsoft holding the second highest market share with their Azure cloud computing platform. With Gartner estimating that AWS will have $14 billion in revenue this year, Gartner estimates that Microsoft will only do ~$3 billion. Comparatively, this shows how much more business AWS does compared to Microsoft even though Microsoft is right behind them in second place. Compared to AWS, Google lacks some features that are key and therefore Google is third in their share of the market. After Google, the next biggest holders of market share are Alibaba, Oracle, and IBM. This is surprising as Alibaba started and has their primary business in China.

The Future of Cloud Computing

As time goes on, cloud computing has become and will continue becoming key in most companies infrastructures. As cloud computing becomes the norm, consumers will become used to having all the services they consume to be similarly cloud based. This will cause any companies who are not cloud based to either transition to the cloud or create a very similar environment that works well comparatively. For most people, everything will be automated online and the user will never have to worry about doing anything locally. However for developer, the cloud will never completely take over. There are many things that developer have to do locally and things that wouldn't be as efficient online. Therefore the hybrid cloud will become key in the transition to the cloud, keeping everyone in the loop regardless of whether they are developers or users. the hybrid cloud is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of local services and remote services. A problem that arises with this is that companies will have to keep employees who will have to develop and keep track of everything on the local software rather than only developing for the cloud.

New and more powerful processors are always being developed and therefore the cloud will continue to become faster. Within a few years, lower power consuming processors will be able to crunch big workloads into the cloud making upkeep cheaper and faster. Cloud computing is also projected to increase from $67 billion in 2015 to $162 billion in 2020. If that happens, then cloud computing will have a compound annual growth rate of 19%.