As an IT Professional I have been working with the predecessor to the cloud for many years. The predecessor of course is virtualization. We (IT Pro’s) have been taking advantage of many virtualization technologies including: Server Consolidation, Desktop Virtualization, Application Virtualization, Presentation Virtualization, Storage Virtualization and a number of other technologies. We have been doing this to setup proof of concept (POC) and test environments or labs, lower the carbon footprint, decrease management, decrease cost, improve scalability, decrease time to deploy new servers/services/applications and increase utilization just to name a few advantages. The buzz with the cloud is it is going to allow us to do even more of all of these things. One has to say “Come On, this must just be marketing hyper right?”. With this in mind, I set out to prove or disprove the “real” viability of exponential growth in this space. I wanted to answer the question: “Is the Cloud a Fad or a New Paradigm.”
The first observation was to look at the people and/or companies to answer the question: “did virtualization impact this segment?”. I then looked at the same segment to see “will the Cloud impact this segment?.” I summarize my finding while offering a bit of information on how I came up with the answers to both of these questions. If you prefer to watch the video, you can get to it from How Big Will Cloud Really Be–Virtualization vs Cloud–Which Is Bigger
I looked at their benefit to virtualizing then looked at the benefits of them moving to the next level of virtualization. The next level of course being virtualizing the datacenter. More specifically moving to a private or public cloud. In the case of the Large Enterprise, it was easy. This is where the virtualization wave started. The cloud brings Elasticity (easily expand or contract), Self-Service, Highly Automated Environment with Chargeback proportional to Use. All of these things are very relevant to large enterprise. Some organizations implemented some of the capabilities in their own environments to extend their own virtualization. Now that there are big players like Microsoft putting all of this together and offering the package as a private cloud it is a no brainer. As these large enterprises grow it is very easy to see that they will want to take advantage of other cloud offering to focus more on their own business and limiting some of the headaches associated with hosing services themselves. I see them migrating to the cloud as it becomes time to deploy new workloads or replace existing hardware. Additionally, as justification for large capital expenditures in infrastructure get harder and harder to sell this segment will opt to operationalize some of these costs.
For Medium sized businesses we defiantly saw many organizations virtualizing all aspects of their datacenter. As they deployed new workloads they virtualized them and replaced hardware during normal upgrade cycles to take advantage of all the virtualization had to offer. On the cloud they will have the same capability. These businesses have significantly less servers but they are even more cost conscience and may not have the resources to have dedicated people to manage some services that they now have to outsource to 3rd parties. These services will be among the first to move to the cloud. As workloads need to be upgraded or replaced, an evaluation will be done and they will move to the cloud a service or workload at a time.
Small business was not impacted nearly as much as larger businesses. The only impact on small business was as they needed to replace hardware, they moved to the 64 bit platform and purchased hardware that was “Virtualization Ready” in anticipation of being able to utilize these technologies. In some cases, they did virtualize workloads as they needed to add additional services to minimize the capital expenditure needed for hardware. When it comes to the cloud, small businesses will find HUGE advantages. One of the biggest problems small businesses have is coming up with capital for new infrastructure. Startup businesses for the most part want to give them the best chance of growing while minimizing cost. This means that they purchased virtualization ready hardware and depending on the number of servers needed to start, they would use virtualization during startup. Small & businesses will move to the cloud to minimize or even eliminate capital expenditure, minimize their in-house need for IT Support, expedite 3rd party IT service (they will be able to work on issues from anywhere in the world), take advantage of services (like monitoring and optimizing) that were not too long ago only available to much larger organizations. In this segment, they will likely move services to the cloud even before a hardware upgrade is required. Services like remote capabilities, monitoring, support, and the like will send small businesses very quickly. I expect they will take advantages of online services like Office 365, Email in the cloud, SharePoint in the cloud, integrated IM, and even security and desktop upgrade packages like those delivered with Windows Intune. As new startup businesses are created, they will look to the cloud first. It is the cheapest and most reliable way to get up and running quickly while giving the flexibility for unlimited growth potential. These businesses want to focus on their business, not on technology so moving services to the cloud is a no brainer.
This is a very, very interesting segment. Device manufacturers had very little play in virtualization. The only place they may have been playing in the virtualization space would be in back office operations. Devices themselves did not really use or take advantage of virtualization technologies. However, when we look at the outlook for the cloud that is a whole new world. It is a world where I see a multi-billion dollar industry moving full steam ahead. I would not be a bit surprised to see this as an industry that swells to hundreds of billions of dollars in the next few years. Look at all the new devices like smart phones, slates, gaming consoles (XBox/XBox Live and others), hand-held game and entertainment devices (Zune and thousands more), home automation, and any number of other devices on the horizon. I believe it will not be long before everything that you plugin to power will have a connection to the cloud as well. I know my son who is now 5 years old has a Leapster handheld electronic learning and gaming device. As he advances through the lesson levels for math, reading, logic, geography, or whatever, he is told to connect his device to his computer to download his new rewards! He absolutely loves it. He can download new mods, play with friends online, earn achievements, get access to free games, and a whole bunch of other benefits. Mom loves it because she can configure on the cloud what his lesson plans should be and that is what gets downloaded the next time he connects. The manufacturer is leveraging cloud offerings to do a myriad of things. Reach out to mom, dad and child to promote new or updated offerings, build brand loyalty and learn how the devices are being used to make the products better and to make their ability to grow and expand much easier. This is just one device, look at all the cell phone manufacturers and the thousands of apps they have available to integrate your device with other things on your network, in your home, in the cloud, in retail stores and in your business. Where does this opportunity end? I think it does not. This will change our world forever. I believe it is a never ending opportunity. Device manufacturers are definitely ALL-IN when it comes to cloud. As they dream up new services they can provide and new ways to generate ongoing revenue not tied to device manufacturing they are and will turn to the cloud for services giving them the ability to scale their own infrastructure without limitation and provide new capabilities very quickly.
Some developers used virtualization. In some cases they were programming virtualization products, in other cases, they may have been using virtualization to keep development environments pristine. They used virtualization when archiving development environment with code to insure a future compile works exactly the same as it did with the prior release. They would also use virtualization technologies to test applications on different platforms and in different conditions which are easy to accommodate in a virtualized environment (ie. low memory). Not all developers took advantage of these virtualization practices but some did. As for cloud, most developers see the cloud as a must understand and learn to execute quickly. They see the space exploding and the money flowing for these new technologies. They see the great tools that are put out to allow them to easily develop applications that run on devices like the phone, game consoles, and computers. They see the opportunities for them to make some “side cash” for their own products and they are finding it very easy to sell their prospective customers on the value of developing apps for these devices and the cloud integration. Developers are in a unique position to be able to add value to their employers and their customers by showing them new ways of generating revenue with virtually no capital expenditure. Not only does this create value for their company but it strengthens their own professional value to the organization. Since there is no significant capital needed to take advantage of the cloud services developers are starting their own businesses by creating online services and leveraging cloud providers like Microsoft to manage and deal with all the infrastructure.
No virtualization play for consumers really at all. When it comes to cloud, the exact opposite is true. Consumers are finding the cloud to be a way to save a bunch of money and to expand services to bring them closer to family, friends, and neighbors. They love the social media world and all the features and benefits these online providers give them. (Businesses love them too because they are a very strong marketing engine). Consumers love their devices (as articulated above) and the integration with the cloud on these devices. They seam to love the idea of using application services online instead of paying for them and then having to stick to the version they bought for many years because the upgrades were so expensive. Consumers are driving the application craze on devices, the web and the cloud. They love the pricing model for many of these services (free or very inexpensive).
Some gamers took advantage of virtualization but the number was very, very small. Some hardcore gamers setup servers in their homes so they could host games for themselves, their friends, the neighborhood and even the population at large. While the number of servers was significant, the number of them that deployed virtualization to this end was not. Online gaming has become king. It has brought family and friends from across the country and around the globe together. It has and continues to allow gamers to meet and collaborate with others very easily. Gamers are loving cloud offerings and see it as a clear winner in terms of interest and expandability.
Are there other areas or segments that should be evaluated for cloud? I say absolutely! As the cloud technology improves we will find more and more ways to leverage it. I see special interest groups popping up applications and services all over the cloud. A place to go for dog lovers, cat lovers, bikers, hikers, travelers, sports fans, single moms, expecting moms and dads, support capabilities for those suffering from cancer, diabetes, blindness, are anything else. I can see a time in the very near future where we will see applications on any device talking to other devices through the cloud. I see your camera sending pictures as you take them to an application in the sky and a digital picture frame at grandma’s house automatically downloading those pictures so she can she what you are doing on your vacation. I see a time soon where any and every “group” of people will have an application and a destination regardless of device and the lowest common denominator for all of them is a cloud service.
Cloud is exponentially bigger than the virtualization movement could ever be. I think I have enough information to answer the question I set out to answer… “Is the Cloud a Fad or a New Paradigm.” There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the cloud is a new paradigm that is here to stay. Cloud has reached critical mass. This means, there is no stopping it. Cloud will continue to grow and provide value to all segments of our population. It has already changed the way of thinking of many. It will in the next couple years change the way of thinking for EVERYONE ELSE! As a teacher and mentor to the IT audience I have to strongly recommend that if you are not smart on the cloud now, do not wait. Get started now and pass the word along to others so you can capitalize on the bell curve of the technology while it is still developing. As a result of these findings, I will be posting many new articles in the coming weeks about how we, mostly IT Pro’s but also all technology professionals (project managers, developers, etc), can learn about the cloud and leverage it now to give us the best chance of succeeding in this RACE to the top!
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