The excitement and interest around “Cloud 2.0” confirms the success of cloud computing’s first generation, and the need to parlay it into new, more powerful solutions in order for it to take the next major step.
There are several ways to think about the evolution of cloud computing and the future that it brings. One is to put it in the context of workloads and architectures, which is the way IT generally thinks about the world. In this context it’s clear that we’ve evolved from the simple elastic hosting of traditional enterprise workloads, to delivering purpose built application architectures for scale, agility, and mobility. We can easily think of the past as IaaS and the future as PaaS and SaaS, for example. Or, more specifically, the future as integrated PaaS and SaaS designed from the ground up rather than as hosted workloads on cheap, commodity IaaS.
If we look at the evolution of cloud computing in a more global context however, then we must consider the holistic impact on technology, business, and of course, people. In a few words, if “Cloud 1.0” transformed how we consume compute, storage, and networking services, “Cloud 2.0” is much more broadly about digital transformation itself.
What is Digital Transformation?
More than just the latest buzz phrase, digital transformation is both real and critical to continued innovation in all fields and disciplines. It’s a name for how we’ve used technology to accelerate and revolutionize complex processes into every day realities than enable us to create ever more amazing things. Here are some simple examples of digital transformation in various industries:
- Manufacturing: computer aided design (CAD) and engineering simulation (e.g. CAE) surpasses endless cycles of building, testing, and fixing expensive physical models. Result: less manufacturing/testing cost, safer/more reliable products, and much faster time to market. Bottom line: better, safer, more amazing products in our hands faster and cheaper than ever before.
- Business: big data surpasses structured data. Result: more insight, more customer intimacy, less management, and better/more relevant market response. Bottom line: new ways of doing business where vendors and customers enjoy mutually beneficial, individualized service and long term relationships.
- Life sciences: health management surpasses health care. Result: large scale data analysis in bioinformatics transforms life sciences well beyond treatment and fighting disease, and makes it easier to communicate relevant information to individuals and providers. Bottom line: self-service and guided long term wellness based on informed, holistic decision making.
… and many more.
In all cases, the democratization of large scale computing fuels digital transformation. But to guarantee the future is even bigger than the present, the cloud itself must continue to evolve to enable these amazing trends.
Cloud 2.0 Must Transform Cloud Computing Itself
Just as the monolithic mainframe made way for the nimble microcomputer, the cloud must also adapt to the future of digital transformation. In the past, computers were built for single applications. Then came the general purpose computer, which could run many applications. Then came networks of general purpose computers to fuel collaboration and eventually large-scale distributed applications. Finally, cloud computing introduced self-service, elastic, multi-tenant access to massive amounts of general purpose computing power in an on-demand way. But in order to truly unleash the full power of digital transformation, the cloud must become self-organizing, fluid, and completely application-defined.
Rather than simply enabling orchestration and automation of resources (e.g. software defined everything), Cloud 2.0 must empower applications and workflows to dynamically assemble themselves into large scale data processing entities. It’s true that Cloud 1.0 provides plenty of primitive mechanisms to do this, but without layer upon layer of APIs and frameworks to encapsulate the complexity, developers and end users must pay inordinate amounts of attention to infrastructure rather than the actual problems they are trying to solve. What’s needed are cloud platforms and architectures designed more around workflows than machines, for example. Only then will we truly accelerate and usher in the age of an application-defined world – a world in which computing automatically organizes around the problems we are trying to solve at any given time, rather than us having to assemble and interconnect machines in advance of really being able to focus on what’s important.
If simple to consume large scale compute was truly “just a given”, what world-changing challenge would you tackle right now? What would you digitally transform with the true power of Cloud 2.0?