The Cloud is The Future
Sir Charles Darwin, head of the National Physical Laboratory and grandson of the famous naturalist wrote in 1946 that “it is very possible that one machine would suffice to solve all the problems that are demanded of it from the whole country.” Although Thomas Watson, IBM Chairman and CEO has been credited with the statement that we would only need 5 computers, this has never been proven. To a certain degree this prophecy is not all that far fetched. Processor power is dirt cheap and hand held devices of today yield more computer power than their predecessors of the late 90’s, hooking your hand-held onto the cloud has made them more powerful.
Many experts believe that Moore’s Law no longer holds, processing power just cannot be doubled every 18 months unless we make a giant leap forward in quantum physics. Another ominous signal is that manufacturers, distributors and resellers are fighting in a market where margins have dropped to a point where nobody wants to remain competitive. Five years ago a tablet costing 800 US Dollars can now be purchased for about 200 Dollars. We are not just running out of margin, we are running out of innovation. Government raise serious concerns about the landfills. The very idea of Azure and virtual machines is nothing new. Taking the host of problems mentioned above as a starting point the cloud is starting to become a very attractive alternative. In fact, right now it is the only alternative. In a rather bizarre twist, perhaps IBM and Sir Charles had it right.
Harbingers of doom and gloom will bring out two aspects to hosting service over the internet which although certainly true must be carefully analyzed, one being security and the second, access to the data center. The reality is that in most cases Cloud storage is certainly more secure than how most companies currently secure their data via mag tape, disk, fixed disks etc. This data is almost always either stored off site and as a secondary measure, kept in-house. It’s uncanny that when servers do go down there is almost always an issue in running the backup. Companies always have a UPS at their disposal but only when the power goes down do we realize that the batteries have not been checked for two years and the server crashes, usually spectacularly. Cloud is supposed to be idiot proof in this regard. Backups, encrypted data and redundancies. Which brings us to the number two: data access.
Data access through the internet is almost certainly via some form of fixed line. Losing access is a problem either through copper theft or a glitch at the local exchange. Third world telecommunications is not known to play a significant role in the national budget. This is changing however as optical and wireless becomes a predominant player in connecting users to the exchange. There are limitations however – time and finance. Another big factor, affordability for users. Many providers charge for their services in US Dollars and the Euro. Although we rely on companies such as Microsoft to provide all your security needs how do local cloud providers fair in this market? The argument about trust and data security again although the services are cheaper.
Third world countries have serious limitations when it comes to supply (power) and fast network connections. In South Africa for instance, copper theft is rife, the local power utility is under huge strain due to inept management and lack of maintenance. (as an aside it’s interesting to note that the SA government consult with Indian energy providers where they too have possibly the worst outages of any country globally). SA telecomms giant Telkom recently laid off thousands of their most experienced workers.
The plus side to all this of course is that big business will put pressure on fixed line operators to pull finger and re-evaluate priorities. As most parastatals and private telecomm giants see big business as their main source of revenue this is spilling over to the small to medium business market, many of which are home run. This should cause additional pressure on providers to supply reliable, cheap and fast fixed line installations. In the U.S.A. and many parts of Europe reliable telecommunications and power utility form the backbone of most industries and fixed line operators supply very good value. Anti-collusion and aggressive competition allow for this.
In the mobility sector, hand held devices such as tablets and cell phones are being used more and more in business and having access to big data is just making these devices more indispensable. Besides controlling the largest amount of data centers near globally Microsoft has embraced Linux, testament to their commitment to Cloud computing and open software solutions. Office 365 is becoming a major player with an expected growth factor of about thirty percent through the next fiscal year. Sharepoint has become not just a catch phrase but is the ideal way to manage and share data. Dynamics CRM is possibly the most vital way to keep in touch with your clients requirements. Skype for Business is now not just an add on, it’s an integral part to our daily business lives. Yammer, off the O365 suite is the enterprise social networking platform. It lacks the excitement of Azure, CRM, Sharepoint but as users become more used to the Office 365 suite it will gain in popularity. Microsoft is not known for making things simple, their technical writers should use more fun illustrations – who reads past the first paragraph anyway?
The WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference), July 2015 in Orlando was a sure indicator of the power behind Azure and which direction business worldwide is going.
The cloud may stymie growth in the hardware sector (as is claimed, but not proven) but it will influence the growth in other areas (eTail, commerce, communication, etc). We are now entering the invisible spectrum and hopefully less wastage, which is good for our landfills and great for software engineering. It will increase profitability through efficiency and relationship building, whether on the phone, intranet or internet.
(Ed’s note: For any home based business the most expensive lesson to be learnt here is to do nothing).