Ask any IT professional what the most significant technological development of recent times has been and the answer will invariably be the Internet, as it would be if you asked almost anyone.
This point of view needs no further justification than the world around us, of which there is barely a single corner that has not been affected by the Internet and the worldwide web in some way.
Press them on what the second most important development has been – at least for their working lives – and there is a good chance the answer will be virtualisation. Only in virtualisation, with its ability to break down what previously appeared to be the unavoidable constraints of x86 computing architectures, can we see even a shadow of the all-encompassing impact that IP communications technology has had.
Imagine, then, if these two technologies were to somehow reproduce. What would be the reach and disruptive power of the resultant progeny? Of course, it is not necessary to imagine: this is precisely what is occurring today in the form of cloud computing.
Yes, it is a buzzword that has been overloaded with many, often contradictory, meanings. And yes, there are many other exciting developments under way in information technology that are perhaps being overlooked due to the industry’s current obsession with all things cloud.
But even after the c-word has been banished from the boardroom and marketing materials, the disruptive consequences of combining pervasive network connectivity with the ability for logically consistent systems to move across devices will still be unfolding.
The consequences for technology and systems design, while occasionally complex, can be predicted with some reliability. Every topic covered in this month’s issue bears some relation to cloud computing, whether directly or indirectly. However, as with the Internet, the consequences for business, for government and for society are far more difficult to foresee.
This is a story that has only just begun.