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We may have reached a tipping point where artificial “intelligence” and “big data” snap up most of the tech headlines, but make no mistake: Cloud computing is as vital as ever.
And no wonder: It’s the computing paradigm that’s helped to shape nearly all the others in recent years.But where does “the” cloud seem to be headed in 2019 and beyond — and what does that trajectory mean for business? Let’s take a look.
Cloud software providers will continue to compete for new verticals
“Enterprise,” broadly, has been a significant beneficiary of cloud computing’s many benefits. But right now, there are three big names more or less monopolizing a lot of the opportunity in the platform as a service (“PaaS”) and infrastructure as a service (“IaaS”) industries: Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. There are many other household names in this space too, such as Salesforce and Oracle, but every last one of them will need to redouble their efforts to differentiate their services, applications and customer relationship management to suit a wider variety of industries and verticals.
Specifically, expect to see offerings from these companies branch further into controllers for robotics and automation, AI-powered enterprise management systems and more. Using cloud-based enterprise planning and facility management means using time and other resources more effectively and running a leaner operation overall.
The capacity of the world’s data centers will expand almost exponentially (because they have to)
Human beings produce an astonishing amount of data in an average calendar year: as much as 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, according to IBM.
What this means is that worldwide demand for cloud storage capacity will continue to grow at an astonishing rate — including, quite likely, at your own business, if you’re an organizational leader. Whether or not your company’s service offerings are specifically centered on providing telecommunications or connectivity services, you still probably rely on a mixture of any number of the following cloud-centric tasks:
- Backing up mission-critical data
- Storing critical data offsite for redundancy and emergency recovery
- Building or renting computing power to engage in data analysis for business purposes
- Hosting company websites, blogs and other web resources
- Delivering streaming and live video, often on-demand
As the potential applications for cloud computing have expanded, the cost has inevitably fallen, giving rise to even further growth and even faster adoption. We can likely expect 2019 to even further improve on the growth the cloud saw between 2017 and 2018 when our collective storage capacity rose from 600 exabytes to 1.1 zettabytes. In case these are numbers you don’t use a lot at home, that’s double the capacity in one year.
A lot of those far-future-sounding technological breakthroughs for business, such as AI in systems management and advanced analytics, depend in part on how well company leaders make the case to “buy in” and reap the rewards. Increasingly, as costs for cloud infrastructure — and infrastructure services — fall further in 2019 and beyond, that becomes an easier case to make.
The Internet of Things will become even more accessible
We’ve seen an explosion of industrial potential from the IoT in recent years. Consider it a welcome side-effect of cloud infrastructure becoming generally more attractive as an investment with a positive ROI.
Even the smallest machine shops can retrofit their CNC machines with sensors and intranet connectivity for a greater degree of control, far higher tolerances in some cases and more proactive maintenance efforts. The result — thanks to the proliferation of connectivity technologies, especially the cloud — will be a continued convergence of the physical (equipment and tools) with the digital (wireless connectivity and “awareness”), throughout 2019 and beyond.
Of course, you can have all of the sensor-laden fabrication, assembly or product handling equipment in the world, but without a robust company network to run it, and more than likely a software provider who knows the IoT inside and out, it wouldn’t mean much. Many of the names you’ve come to recognize in cloud computing, web hosting, business and enterprise management applications and more are making significant moves in offering IoT-focused services and infrastructure: AWS IoT (Amazon), ARM, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Ayla, Bosch and Fujitsu, among others.
New business models will make business and personal clouds even more configurable
The concept of serverless computing isn’t brand new, but we can expect it to reach new heights of popularity in 2019. Put most simply, serverless computing replaces client-side cloud infrastructure — servers — with collections of APIs and dashboards, provided by IaaS companies, which they can tailor to their business needs and then have the IaaS company seamlessly assemble the required infrastructure on their end as needed.
Companies engaging in this kind of business model going forward will enjoy a number of benefits. Most notably, they’ll be offloading configuration duties to a cloud service provider, and each company won’t need to build or rent its own server facilities anymore and risk needing another update in the future when business needs change or growth happens.
Cloud computing, 5G’s murky future and more
Expect to see even further changes in 2019 that will likely directly impact the way cloud-based services and infrastructure are built, rented and managed. For instance, there’s a full-blown “tech war” going on between the U.S. and China for dominance in the still-nascent 5G industry.
The idea of national and even global 5G networks promises an even faster and more convenient way for enterprises to connect their equipment, workstations and remote workers. But corporations aren’t quite honest about how fast it’s supposed to be, national powers are arresting each others’ representatives to draw political lines in the sand, and the Wi-Fi Alliance is promising we’ll always need Wi-Fi no matter how 5G ends up working out.
The point is, there’s a lot going on — but there’s always going to be a cloud. As we’ve seen here today, the fact that fewer companies will have to build their own cloud infrastructures in the future means there are that many more small businesses who can insulate themselves against changing software and hardware standards, leaving it up to the vendors to compete for dominance instead.
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