THE BLOG

Cloud Isn't Just for Techies Anymore

27/11/2014 15:36 GMT | Updated 26/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The cloud isn't just for techies anymore. Understanding what's next for cloud computing is crucial for businesses at all levels. Managers are responding to the real opportunities that the cloud offers to develop new business models, forge closer ties with customers and tap into the expertise of employees and partners. From a technology that was initially adopted for efficiency and cost savings, the cloud has emerged into an innovation powerhouse.

So what is next for cloud?

The next generation of cloud computing will deliver value to businesses faster by automating everything from request to deployment and configuration--and it will do so up and down the stack and across the entire infrastructure.

Here are five of the biggest things we see happening in cloud:

1. More hybrid cloud adoption

Hybrid cloud is a combination of the private cloud and public cloud, enabling IT to use on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure seamlessly for cost reduction, bursting, disaster recovery and other use cases. The key to hybrid cloud acceptance in the marketplace is providing this "seamless" capability for all applications, including those production applications that are core to the business.

Analyst house, Gartner, estimates that nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017, but we believe that hybrid cloud is beneficial to all businesses regardless of size.

One example of a hybrid cloud model successfully used is the All England Lawn Tennis Club's (AELTC) Wimbledon.com website and Live @ Wimbledon broadcast channel. Wimbledon.com, the official website of one of the world's biggest annual sporting Championships, is the go-to place for information, match analysis and all the latest Wimbledon news. With over 19 million unique visitors over the Championships' two-week duration and around 430 million page views, AELTC uses the cloud to scale up the website's capacity to withstand vast web and multi-device mobile traffic at peak times, and scale it down again to the capacity of a private tennis club again when the tournament is over.

Furthermore, serving Wimbledon involves handling a lot of multimedia data, whether it's one and a half million video streams for Live @ Wimbledon, or the iPad app, which might see over 350,000 iPads accessing multimedia content at once. AELTC uses a web content management system (CMS) to deal with these heavy workloads, and this is just one case where a hybrid approach pays off. The CMS runs both in a cloud instance and, while the Championships are running, in a physical instance, run on-site. This ensures AELTC is provided with the performance it needs, combined with the scalability and disaster recovery an event of this size requires.

2. More implementation of OpenStack

Software compliant with Openstack delivers a massively scalable cloud operating system. It is an open source infrastructure as a service (IaaS) initiative for creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers in a cloud computing environment. The goals of the OpenStack initiative are to support interoperability between cloud services and allow businesses to build pick and mix composeable business components and apps.

One of the greatest selling points of OpenStack is its incredible flexibility and versatility. For example, a marketing department using OpenStack software would have the ability to use best-of-breed marketing applications for different areas of their work, without having to stick to a single vendor or worry about interoperability issues. This gives them the freedom, agility and flexibility they need to excel and respond or ideally drive in their fast-paced environment.

3. Analytics as a service (AaaS)

Analytics as a service (AaaS) is a term typically used to refer to services that offer analysis of large or complex data sets, using the cloud-hosted services. Similar types of services include software as a service (SaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), where specific AaaS options are used to help businesses handle 'big data', or sophisticated aggregated data sets that provide a lot of commercial insight for today's companies.

It's this type of technology that enables researchers from different fields to analyse the gigantic volumes of data to find patterns for developing new research ideas. For example, medical staff at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and American private healthcare company, Wellpoint, use the IBM Watson supercomputer to absorb and analyse vast quantities of data to better understand matters relating to oncology. According to Sloan-Kettering, just 20% of the knowledge that human doctors use when diagnosing patients and deciding on treatments relies on trial-based evidence. It would take at least 160 hours of reading a week just to keep up with new medical knowledge as it's published, let alone consider its relevance or apply it practically. With AaaS technology which can absorb information faster than any human, the medical facilities aim to improve diagnoses while reducing their costs at the same time.

4. Cloud as the innovation platform for mobile, social, and big data

Cloud technology provides a common platform for mobile, social and big data applications to cross pollinate as well as enhance and extend existing investments. Cloud as an innovation platform will give businesses the agility to respond quickly to new innovations, e.g. wearable technology or speech and gesture interaction with applications.

One example of this is Nationwide's recently launched banking app for smartwatch users. Through the new app, customers can speak to their smartwatch devices to check their balance, make payments, transfer money and manage overdrafts while on the go, giving customers a new way of interacting and engaging with their business.

5. The Internet of Things (IoT) takes off

The Internet of Things (IoT) will start transforming operations in coming years, as solutions combining intelligent machines, big data analytics, and end-user applications begin to roll out across major industries. Cloud computing platforms will play a big role in creating the next generation of intelligent, software-defined machines that are operable and controllable entirely from centralised, remote locations.

As a result, app developers globally now have the chance to develop intelligent apps to address everyday challenges in a short space of time. For example, during a recent Hackathon, an app, entitled Shush, was very quickly created to enable smarter travelling across London for cyclists. The new mobile app is designed to collect noise levels around the city using smartphones as sensors - this data can then be used to recommend alternative quieter and safer cycle routes across London.

More and more businesses in across all industries are reaping the benefits of everything cloud offers, from technology interoperability and scalable data analytics to flexibility and innovation. How do you see your business taking advantage of the next generation of cloud computing?