Cloud Computing: the Basics, the Major Players & What to Expect Next

If you’re paying attention to the latest trends in the digital world, you’ve surely noticed the irruption of cloud computing as one of the most…

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Business man using cloud computing applications on its smart phone

If you’re paying attention to the latest trends in the digital world, you’ve surely noticed the irruption of cloud computing as one of the most promising ones. The last 10 years have seen this technology skyrocket from a niche audience to the general public – and it continues to grow. But even with that level of popularity, a lot of people are still misinformed about it.

That’s why we feel necessary to review it in detail to understand what lies behind it. What is cloud computing, really? How does it work? What are its common types? What are the reasons behind its exponential growth? And what can we expect from it in the future? The answers to all of these questions, below.

 

What is cloud computing?

Often known simply as “the cloud”, cloud computing is the delivery of computing resources (such as applications and data centers) over the internet, on-demand, and through a pay-as-you-go model. It employs scalable resources depending on the demand, offers metered services for the user to pay only what he uses, and a self-service kind of access.

 

How does cloud computing work?

Companies that offer cloud computing services rent access to their computing resources ranging from online applications to storage space. Basically, they put up their IT infrastructure for rent to a wide range of companies, industries, and end-users. 

This provides two basic benefits, one for each end of the relationship. For the users, it means that they can access a wide variety of services for a minimal cost and without having to invest in their own infrastructure. For cloud computing providers, it gives them a significant source of income (the payment of a vast amount of end-users).

 

What types of cloud computing are there?

There are 3 existing types of cloud computing that differentiate themselves depending on what they offer to their users. Thus, we can find:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): this model provides its users with physical or virtual servers, networking, and storage.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): in addition to what’s provided in the IaaS model, PaaS offers tools and software for developers to use as a basis of their own web-based applications. This includes operating systems, database managers, and development tools, among others.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): the most popular model in the market, SaaS delivers applications in the cloud through a web browser connected to the Internet

There’s also another classification according to the deployment. Thus, you can find public clouds for anyone to access, private clouds for a single organization, hybrid clouds that connect private resources with public ones, and multi-clouds that imply the use of several cloud services simultaneously.

 

Which are the biggest cloud computing providers?

Though 2019 promises big changes in the cloud computing landscape (more on that below), the biggest vendors have more or less remained the same in the last couple of years. Their position as the cloud computing moguls seem unrivaled and they are trying to secure it by investing heavily on the trends that await in the horizon. These are the biggest players today:

 

  • Microsoft Cloud: the tech giant offers two cloud-based solutions, Office 365 and Azure. Their investments on the money transfer world, their partnership with Volkswagen to create smart vehicles, and their integration with blockchain-based identity systems are strong moves that seek to keep the company ahead in the cloud wars.
  • Amazon Web Services: once the dominating player in the cloud-computing industry, Amazon cloud is the backbone of the company’s architecture, the basis for very popular services like the online shop and its virtual assistant. The company is also seeking to expand through a Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) platform for business, and with the STRIDES initiative to provide datasets to help health research in treating and preventing diseases. 
  • IBM Cloud: the big blue’s cloud computing services offer good performance and reliability proven by years in the market. Besides, its new partnerships will expand its offerings through blockchain applied to travelling and food distribution. Additionally, its Multicloud Manager allows users to manage their data on different clouds.
  • Salesforce: the cloud-based CRM solution has made a name of its own over the years and it’s widely used across businesses and industries. Its expansion plans include the acquisition of several small-scale cloud companies to boost Salesforce’s own offering. It also partnered with Apple to improve its integration with iOS.
  • Google Cloud Platform: Google has made a dent in the cloud computing world thanks to its G Suite and its cloud platform’s impressive performance and speed. The tech giant is betting its cloud future on the insights it can provide with its huge data set fed by its countless services. This can be seen in the Google Cloud Robotics Platform that enables collaborative robots that work with Google’s AI and machine learning algorithms for a variety of tasks.

 

Why is cloud computing so popular?

A recent LogicMonitor study estimates that 83% of enterprise workloads will run on the cloud by 2020. That’s an impressive number that speaks volumes of cloud computing’s surging popularity. But what’s driving that kind of adoption in big, medium and small companies? There are several factors at play, but the benefits of the Cloud are the primary driving force. These include:

  • No need to own computing infrastructure: since you’re renting the computing resources from a third party, you don’t need to invest in costly infrastructure to benefit from the services it can provide. This means that you don’t have to worry about maintaining the hardware or software, either.
  • Worldwide access: given that the resources are online, you can access them from everywhere and at any time you want. That’s a big plus for companies with several subsidiaries that must access a central database, or for companies collaborating with remote teams. You only need an Internet connection to access to cloud computing solutions. 
  • Increased security for all data: cloud computing services are always updating its security to meet the latest security standards. The idea is to have robust protection for all the data you store on the cloud. Additionally, periodic backups in different servers seek to ensure that you never lose data because of a server malfunction.
  • Regular updates for the latest tech: cloud computing providers are always working on new features and technologies to bring to their users. Thus, you’ll always have access to the latest tools and possibilities to expand your business and improve your workflow.
  • Elastic resources that fit ever-changing needs: if your workload has fluctuations and shows peaks in its use, but only for specific times of the month or even the year, cloud computing makes perfect sense. It can give you the support you need during busy times without the necessity of your own dedicated resources that will be costing you money in idle times.
  • Projects can be more agile: cloud computing provides you with on-demand resources you can quickly use to test out concepts for your projects. This means cutting up costs in IT procurement, especially when working with new applications that can be scaled up quickly later on.
  • Competitive edge: since you don’t have to worry about maintaining the infrastructure, updating the systems or creating backups, you can focus solely on working with the cloud-based apps. This will bring you a significant advantage over competitors that don’t have the same tech or that have it but have to split their attention into those other tasks to keep the systems running.

The combination of these and other benefits make cloud computing irresistible for companies of all sizes that found in web-based products a solution to fit their needs. That’s why so many of them are embracing these technologies in one way or the other, as cloud computing offers several advantages on demand.

 

What can we expect for the future of cloud computing?

We already said that cloud computing is going to keep getting bigger as more and more companies, organizations and individuals discover how it can serve their particular purposes. But that’s not the only thing in store for this technology. There are other trends that will surely change the way you work with digital tools, including:

  • The rise of the hybrid multi-clouds: though the combination of public and private clouds is already in place within several companies, the near future will close the circle by uniting them to on-premises resources and boost its widespread adoption. According to recent research, only 20% of businesses processes have moved to the cloud. The remaining 80% still haven’t done so because of performance and regulatory requirements that keep workloads and sensitive data in-house. 

 

But as cloud security moves forward, the hybrid multi-cloud will appear like the best alternative, since it’ll bring the power of private and public clouds, resources from different vendors and the on-premises focus into one solution.

  • Strong focus on data security: Data security and privacy are among the main concerns for anyone considering moving to the cloud. That’s why the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might work as a game-changer for cloud computing. With its increased territorial scope and its enforcement of the Privacy by design concept, the EU-backed regulation is seeking to protect sensitive data from the very inception of online systems.

 

And though the regulation is impulsed by the European Union, the reality marks that its effects will be felt on a worldwide scale. That’s because it will reshape the way developers understand security in digital tools and the way they work it into their creations.

  • Edge computing steps into the spotlight: the impressive growth of cloud computing over the last few years has put the big players (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM) in a tough spot. Given that the technology relies on centralizing resources, the cloud providers have already centralized as much as they possibly could. That means that there isn’t much “space” left to grow. The solution for these companies is simple – move to the edge.

 

Thus, edge computing means that the resources will be closer to the source of the data (that means you!). Instead of communicating with the cloud at all times, you’ll be connected to a closer source that will only integrate with the cloud as needed. 

The perfect example of this are self-driving cars that can’t wait for a remote server response to act. They’ll drive themselves by using a centralized software in the car that will only connect to the manufacturer for updates and for feedback. In this model, the bulk of processing will be done closer to the source while some important aspects will be done by the cloud.

  • Cloud-related shifts in businesses: as businesses adopt hybrid multi-clouds, they’ll need to adapt to the multiple challenges posed by the new scenario. One of the most important ones will be filling the roles needed to manage the new cloud models. Jobs like cloud manager, cloud broker, and cloud architect will become increasingly common in that context.

 

Additionally, this will drive shifts in the formation of the new teams. Additions to the IT staff will have to consider people with new skills such as automation, API management, data integration, and cross-platform tool experience, among many others. This also means that the new members will have to fit their new perspectives into companies with well-established cultures.

 

Conclusion

Cloud computing isn’t just the future for many companies – it’s already here and now. Many businesses are making the switch to the cloud thanks to its wide array of benefits: lower infrastructure costs, competitive edge, increased security, elastic resources, and regular updates. Besides, the most popular players provide warranties for users to confidently make the switch.

Additionally, those big companies are reshaping the cloud computing future to bring even more capabilities to the cloud. Smart objects, blockchain-based solutions, AI-powered insights, and improved performance are some of the things that will define those companies in the coming years.

Besides, the rise of hybrid multi-clouds will forever change how we perceive cloud computing. It will bring new roles to organizations, a stronger focus on security and the advent of edge computing that bring new possibilities in and by themselves.

All in all, cloud computing is a strong ally for any company, big or small. The market is ripe for anyone willing to make the jump, as there are several powerful alternatives, constantly growing features and a promising future that marks this year as one of the best to make the switch.

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