Just like sailing the seven seas, in the ever expanding world of computing we can only see to the edge of our own horizon. Whatever is just over the horizon, we don’t know? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? What if it is another ‘game changer’ or possibly some new kind of ‘disruptive technology’, or God forbid what if it is ‘revolutionary’? Whatever is out there, one thing is for certain, we’ll start hearing about it well before it reaches our humble shores.
Take cloud computing for example. Early in the summer of 2010 I was asked by a customer if Secure-24 did cloud computing. Before I answered him I asked a few questions and found out that he was interested in something called a ‘private cloud’ for his own needs, but he also wanted someone to come out to his office and explain to a group of his employees exactly what this concept called cloud-computing meant. He didn’t want any spin or sales jargon, just the bare-bone facts and then they would figure out the rest. So we obliged and trouped out to his office, PowerPoint in hand, to lay bare the essence of cloud computing.
Today, in the early spring of 2013, no one is calling to have us explain cloud-computing. It is now old news and, for the most part, quite well understood. It also lived up to its early billing as a game-changer, disruptive technology and revolutionary. But, in the 3 years or so since I first heard about ‘the cloud’, it has become a commodity, now with all the fanfare and hoopla of a bag of wet sand. Cloud computing has taken its place as just another wave that rolled in from the ocean of technology.
So what comes after cloud computing?
Well, asking what comes after cloud computing is a little bit like asking what comes after television, or the Internet, or even the flush toilet. Some items establish themselves as real breakthroughs, turning points that essentially nothing comes after. Sure, through innovation and refinement most breakthrough items get better, more user-friendly and even help to break new ground, like a doctor who uses a HD television, a robotic arm and the Internet to operate on a patient from one-thousand miles away. But breakthrough items eventually become a commodity and are woven into the fabric of our society. They are used by almost everyone, and evolve from nice-to-have items to essentials.
Even though cloud computing is an offshoot of the Internet, much as television is an offshoot of the electric power grid, the cloud created its own ecosystem and forward momentum. This constant forward thrust pushes cloud computing and all of its associated technologies to the horizon and beyond.
But…there are things on the horizon and many are worth paying attention to.
1. Edge Computing
The cloud facilitates ‘edge computing’. With the plethora of mobile devices that leverage the Internet, the only factor that limits what we can do is our own imagination. From smart phone to smart toys, or device-to-device communications to remote sensors, the types of devices that live and work on the edge is nothing short of amazing. Add to this edge network an ability to converge content from multiple data sources, and we essentially have the whole world in the palm of our hands, anywhere, anytime, on any device.
2. Growth of Complexity
Another thing that is just beginning to show its face on our horizon is not a thing at all, it is complexity. The growth of complexity in the world of technology is at an all time high and it will do nothing but get more complex in the coming months and years. Further, we will have to deal with two kinds of complexity, first is technical complexity, and the second is management complexity.
Technical complexity is actually more familiar to us now that we have 20 plus years of experience dealing with personal computers, cell phones, iPads and even elaborate in-home entertainment systems. Over the years many people gravitated toward technical fields that rewarded them if they had the aptitude to learn how technology works and, more importantly, how to fix it when it breaks. Fortunately we are surrounded by knowledgeable technicians that can help us when our computers go down.
However, the management of complexity is relatively new to many businesses as they transform themselves from supporting their own technical environment, to managing companies that support it for them. Application outsourcing, for instance, is growing in popularity and requires a specific set of skills to manage the outsourcing partner that is supporting the application and ensure that they are maintaining the environment properly.
There are also a whole host of management issues to consider when so many different kinds of mobile devices, some owned by the company, but most owned by individual employees, can attached to the company’s network and utilize company resources. This explosion of devices that people use to connect to and leverage company information opens up serious concerns with security. The question of how to manage the complex array of people and devices that are plugging into a company’s computing assets is now top-of-mind with most CIOs.
3. Specialized Clouds
Beyond the public and private clouds is a huge variety of ‘specialty clouds’ that perform specific tasks for specific audiences. Specialized clouds, like magazines, will appeal to a certain audiences with known demographic characteristics. There will be interactive clouds for transactional systems with ‘get and pull’ computational capabilities. There will also be analytic clouds that can process vast amounts of disparate data and reduce that data down to measurable statistics in mere seconds. Collaborative clouds will help people communicate, work and play together in ways that until recently were simply impossible. Lastly, there will be clouds that are a combination of the clouds just mentioned, creating ‘future’ hybrid clouds that we cannot imagine at this point in time.