Much like the early days of transatlantic cables, when a phone call could be placed between London, Paris and New York, and pretty much nowhere else, the concept of cloud computing is just that – a concept. It may have slipped into everyday business parlance by now, but the cloud so far lacks a ‘killer app’. But it’s just around the corner.
The numbers behind the Internet of Things (IoT) are staggering. Analysts at Gartner predict that around 25 billion devices will be connected by 2025, around half in industrial and business settings. From streetlights, smart bins and vehicles to oil pumps, airlines and other critical infrastructure, billions of devices will collect data from sensors, some of them every second of every day. Where will they put all of that data for sorting, analysis and storage? In to the cloud, of course. For now, it’s a place where Internet-facing websites and web-based applications reside. It’s increasingly a place where high-performance computing, batch processing and business intelligence takes place. And more recently cloud IaaS (infrastructure as a service) has become a place where internal business apps sit, too. But that’s just the beginning.
The next wave
In the next decade, or even before, 95 per cent of companies will likely use cloud computing in some form. If the wave of business computing coming to the cloud is starting to seem unstoppable, it’s about to turn into a tsunami. Global data centre IP traffic will reach 10.4 zettabytes by the end of 2019 (up from 3.4 zettabytes in 2014), much of it accounted for by the increase in the IoT. The result? A cloud infrastructure that is about to explode in size.
Gaining competitive advantage
The new super-charged cloud won’t just feed-off the rise of IoT devices. As well as catching data from an army of sensors around smart cities, industrial sites, factories, transport and even farms, the cloud will be an arena for big data analytics and algorithms on a massive scale. Monitoring and analysing data from multiple sources in near-real time – and generating valuable insight into consumer demand or supply chain efficiencies – will become essential for businesses; in fact, it will likely constitute the only competitive advantage there is to be had.
Part of the reason why cloud-based services have proved so popular in the past decade is the end of the dominance of the Windows OS. While many offices and businesses continue to use Windows-based systems, the spike in popularity of Apple’s OS – in desktops and laptops as well as in iPhones and iPads – alongside the rise of Android hardware, has created a plethora of platforms. How do you get disparate operating systems to talk to each other? Again, it’s the cloud to the rescue, and the IoT will extend this trend; everything with a web connection will be permanently attached to it..
There are now twice the number of connected devices on the planet than humans, and rising fast. What the IoT eventually looks like is anyone’s guess, but such is the vast amount of data its devices are about to generate that we do know one thing; the IoT can only happen through a cloud that grows, and grows, and grows.