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The Next Five Years: Four Key Cloud Changes

Published on 25 September 14
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In the last five years, cloud technologies have earned a reputation for being disruptive. The as-a-service model for software, platforms and infrastructure changed the way companies do business and led to host of innovations, but cloud hype finally is starting to settle and more familiar tech trends have emerged. Cloud storage, for example, is rapidly decreasing in price as providers fight for the business of consumers and companies alike, indicating that the technology has become both commonplace and relatively standardized.

The next five years, however, aren't quite so calm - here are four key cloud changes coming your way.

1. Cloud as Security

GigaOm reports that the volume of vulnerability-based attacks is increasing, while the gap between on-premise and cloud attacks rapidly closes. The result? New focus on cloud security that isn't meant to emulate desktop alternatives, but replace them altogether.

Right now, many companies still call out security as their number one reason for delaying cloud adoption. After all, if your data resides in a (potentially) public space, doesn't it naturally come with a larger attack surface and the chance to be stolen along with the data of other cloud tenants? The cloud is uniquely positioned to answer this security challenge, however, not by aping the perimeter-type defenses used by desktops but by re-imagining security controls. Consider the sheer amount of data available in the cloud and the processing power behind it - properly leveraged, this data becomes the ultimate weapon against security threats; rather than trying to find malware, baked-in security could identify miniscule app behaviors correlated with common risk factors, scan the code they carry and then let them execute in isolation.

2. Cloud as Utility

Federal Computing Weekly argues that it's time to retire the cloud and instead start calling the service what it is: utility computing. The benefit? When all necessary components for service are owned by a provider, and users only pay for the service itself - such as electricity, water or natural gas - it's easy to quantify the value and type of services used, and consumers can demand high levels of standardization.

Expect the rise of open-source cloud computing to drive this utility model over the next five years to a point where cloud services are an integral part of any business office infrastructure, and are standardized - at a basic level - by federal or state regulations.

3. Cloud as Automation

Process automation is another cloud change expected over the next half decade. Right now, companies are just testing the water of true cloud automation, allowing certain services access to critical data and giving them room to act based on available information. The rise of learning machines coupled with high-bandwidth access to data centers will enable the development of truly automated, real-time services that can analyze big data and determine the ideal response without the need for human intervention. Human oversight will continue to play a key role, but from a purely technical standpoint the cloud will become indispensable.

4. Cloud as the Backbone

The cloud will also transform into the essential backbone for high-performance computing applications. Video game maker Square Enix, for example, has launched a new venture known as Shinra Technologies, which plans to make cloud computing indispensable for online games. While current cloud technology allows some user data and game analytics to reside outside the desktop, producing high-quality graphics remains the job of internal GPUs. Shinra's aim is to offload that responsibility to cloud servers, allowing any computer to run cutting-edge games without expensive hardware.

Expect the same trend for business, as cloud companies develop ways to deliver high-performance computing off-site to act as the backbone for everything from high frequency trading (HFT) to 3D modeling. Networking, not server throughput, will become the defining factor for performance.