Cloud computing: A brief history, where we are today and what’s next

Looking back over the past decade and considering the technological innovations that have made an immeasurable impact on humanity – from crowdfunding and cryptocurrencies, to streaming services and self-driving cars – chances are, in each case, cloud computing will have been involved.

It’s no secret that the cloud has offered a tremendous breakthrough in enterprise and business transformation, breaking down barriers and bringing a new agility. In the process, such technology has not just revolutionised the lives of consumers, but fundamentally changed workplaces everywhere.

>See also: Cloud computing: myths vs realities

Within this workplace digital transformation, cloud computing has arguably been the most crucial development. This is because cloud-based companies can share information much more easily than their legacy counterparts – between formerly siloed departments, as well as other businesses which they may work with. Distributed databases hosted on the cloud allow users to work in unison without slowing a project down. On top of this, data can be encrypted to ensure that businesses only share what they need to with each other.

What Google Glass can teach you about the cloud

At the same time, however, the cloud hasn’t always seemed so auspicious, so it’s important to map where we are today with the technology, how we got there, and what’s next on the horizon. Although ostensibly unlikely bedfellows, it’s worth considering what the Google Glass can teach us about cloud technology as it matures.

Direct comparisons may seem scant at first, but wearable technology and the cloud both shared promising beginnings. Despite this, there was great difficulty trying to convince the enterprise and SMEs alike about the power of the Cloud. At its advent, people simply struggled to recognise precisely how it functioned or the benefits it would bring to businesses.

Similarly, when Google Glass dominated headlines in 2013 (and later Fashion Week runways), people’s reactions fell unexpectedly flat, switching swiftly to ridicule. Just as cloud proved initially impossible sell, so did Google Glass, despite wearables and augmented reality (AR) still being touted as technologies set to fundamentally alter the workplace.

The similarities cease, however, when we start to look at these two products as they stand today.

>See also: What are the key benefits of cloud computing?

Cloud technology has thrived and grown abundantly; 451 Research found that 90% of organisations use some form of cloud service, and the growth of the market is expected to reach $53.3 billion in 2021 – up from $28.1 billion this year in 2017.

In contrast, Google Glass was abandoned, and wearable technology is still not mainstream for the public, high-end gaming aside. This is because, while the uptake of wearables remains niche, the use cases of Cloud technology are myriad – from blockchain to data protection, immersive technologies to smart cities, the possibilities are truly endless.

AR, VR, and MR – the next frontier for the cloud

Touching on immersive technologies, it’s fascinating to consider the role of cloud computing in relation to AR, virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). At each evolution, technology has pivoted to become more immersive and collaborative. This is a trajectory only set to continue as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold and we start to see AR, VR, and MR become embedded in business operations. Certainly, these technologies will all have a huge impact on the future of business – in some cases, they already are.

From a cloud perspective, AR, VR, and MR will be particularly impactful in ushering in a new era in unified communications. From phone calls and conference lines to Google Hangouts and high resolution virtual conferencing, businesses are consistently looking for ways to bring geographically disparate people closer together. VR could in effect ‘place’ people into virtual meeting rooms in order to discuss projects. Or, on the other hand, AR could place people into the same real-world room; a life-size representation of an employee in another city, country, or continent.

>See also: VR vs AR – the battle of the realities

Of course, there is a wider conversation that must be had surrounding the pervasiveness of this technology and its impact on the employee; an ‘always on’ culture needs to be avoided and the individual privacies of workers protected even when using VR or AR peripherals. But if this careful approach is taken, the cloud-hosted technology could be as significant to the workplace as the advent of the internet.

Laying the foundations for a smart city

When contemplating the cloud, it’s hardly just about version control in Google Docs – but it also means more than business. Instead, thoughts also turn to public infrastructure – smart cities. A smart city isn’t just one that hosts smart businesses (although that remains an undeniable factor); smart cities are inevitably the future, offering endless benefits for businesses, governments and everyday citizens.

These benefits include heightened security, thanks to the likes of HD IoT-enabled CCTV, and parking optimisation through smart lighting. Green initiatives also abound, such as monitoring air quality, which individuals can carry out themselves through their smartphone, adjusting their route through a city accordingly.

It’s easy to forget that all of this is powered by the cloud. This is because being cloud-based does not just mean users have the ability to log on anywhere and at any time. Beyond this, highly diverse infrastructure projects – with work dispersed across multiple organisations, individuals, and locations – are extremely difficult to carry out with a traditional centralised database.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s masterplan

With populations on the rise and new industries constantly growing, cities need to future-proof themselves to accelerate businesses in this digital age. Across the UK, cities are in competition with each other, with the national powerhouse that is London, and with cities around the world. They compete for investment, business formation, government resources, tourists, and residents.

Compared to many other European countries, the UK’s economy is unusually centralised in the London megalopolis. For the UK to maximise its potential as a world leader in both the private and public sectors, we need to capitalise on the collaborative benefits that cloud technology can bring in cities throughout the nation.

Why network conquers all

Of course, whether the agenda is cloud-hosted security protection or blockchain-enabled bitcoin, any use of cloud technology is only ever as good as the network underpinning it. Consequently, when considering digital transformation, it’s paramount that there’s an alignment between IT departments and the rest of the organisation.

As such, CEOs or another designated project head must work in close partnership with a provider that understands the demands faced by IT departments when it comes to the cloud.

This means offering a breadth of services – not just cloud in itself, but also connectivity and network solutions – with seamless integration. When seeking such partnerships, both the CEO and IT department must demand evidence of consistent investment in a provider’s solutions and a culture of driving innovation.

>See also: Making your cloud network your business

Inevitably, change is a challenge; learning new skills and thinking about problems through a fresh approach is hard work. Moreover, it’s natural for people to fear a step into the unknown.

However, business leaders cannot afford to be hesitant if they wish to reap all the benefits that cloud can offer – from safeguarding customer trust through data security, to immersive experiences that will be remembered forever, to smart city excellence. Undoubtedly, cloud-based collaboration must be embraced – and so should the robust and reliable network to power it.


Sourced by Jonathan Bridges, Chief Innovation Officer at Exponential-e

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...