The future of cloud

By: Ashish Nanjiani – Vice President of Engineering – Rakuten

A decade back public cloud was the new kid on the block that changed the tech industry forever. Fast forward to today, it is the norm and almost all companies have adopted some form of cloud either public, private or hybrid. So, what’s next? Where is the cloud industry heading? Here are some trends which will shape the industry in the next few years.

1) There is no free lunch!   –  Many of the companies who went to the public cloud for saving costs are now realizing that they are in a hot soup. The cost of running services on the public cloud is getting so astronomical that it is now impacting the bottom line of many businesses. Unfortunately, with no easy way out, many are realizing that they are like the mouse who went for the cheese only to get trapped! Soon the great repatriation will begin with many companies moving part of the workload back to on-prem and striking a balance with a hybrid approach. While the public cloud continues to be the best bet for startups and small businesses, for matured and large organizations a new balance will unfold in the near future.

2) I want the buffet! – A decade back it was only one public cloud provider to select from the menu, but today we not only have large hyperscalers but also many mid-sized niche cloud providers. Businesses today have a choice to not get locked with a single cloud provider. Applications for tomorrow will scale across the cloud and will be deployable across both on-prem and public cloud(s). New application architecture will allow applications to scale across multiple clouds. Businesses will move their applications to the cloud provider that will provide the lowest cost without impacting SLA. No more locking and no more being hostage to a single cloud provider!

3) I want my own cloud! – While the pandemic made everyone realize the benefit of hosting services on the cloud, the ongoing war has spooked many companies and government agencies to secure their data within the boundaries of their country. The need for a country-based cloud where the data stays within the country’s four walls is not new, but in the next few years, this will only accelerate. Government agencies around the world would not only like to store data in the data centres located within the country boundaries but will also look for a native cloud provider. This will lead to the birth of country-specific cloud providers. In addition, specific industry fraternities will have their own cloud. A specialized industrialized cloud for the health care fraternity, one for the telco, another one for defence, and so forth. The trend has already started, and it will only accelerate in the near future.

4) Beyond the 0’s and 1’s –  From the time computers were invented, we have dealt with only 0’s and 1’s, the next decade(s) will be the world of quantum computing.  While still in the early stages and one cannot really order a quantum computer as a desktop or a laptop, the promise to use quantum bits opens so many possibilities that this will reinvent the industry once again. In the next few years, most cloud providers will offer scalable and cost-effective quantum computers for solving complex problems which will open up new opportunities and dimensions.

5)  Code as a service (COaaS)  – Ongoing trend of low-code or no-code will continue to accelerate and most service providers will make it simple for anyone to use their services without any prior knowledge of coding. Today one can create a website, and create a few applications without knowledge of code. With the help of copilots like chatGPT, one can even generate new code.  This will only get better and better every day.  While this will not eliminate the need for human programmers, this will certainly enable humans to become better. .  Cloud again will power this transformation and will offer code as a service!

6) Hello Skynet! – With billions and in the near future trillions of interconnected devices, it will be impossible for humans to monitor and fix all the failed hardware or software bugs in the interconnected cloud. The future will be of machines fixing other machines. True AI-driven operations will be implemented on a large scale and machines will be able to monitor and remediate any hardware or software issues.  Millions of bots will determine failure points, machine learning algorithms will identify the remediation and instruct other machines to fix the problem. Imagine the world where machines will discover a bug, downloads the patch (if available) from the source (or writes the code to fix the issue), applies the fix, test, and release all without the intervention of humans!

7) I want to breathe! –  Much like taking care of compliance and legal issues, sustainability will be one of the key boardroom discussions which every CEO will undertake. While the current generation is a bit forgiving when it comes to carbon footprint or other environment-related issues, the future generation will be unforgiving. Taking care of the planet will be equally important as taking care of the company. Cloud providers will be the first to adopt sustainability as one of the most important priorities. Companies will prefer cloud providers who have a record of keeping the environment green and safe. 

8) Security as a service (SEaaS) – At the rate at which cyber thefts are occurring today; they will soon become the number one crime in the world and the most lucrative one too. As the world continues to digitize and run everything on interconnect cloud, the complexity of keeping everything secured will increase exponentially. The need to keep applications running on the cloud secured will be the number one priority of each company. Cloud providers will play a critical role in offering security as a service to the companies. By using technologies like blockchain and ML/AI, new security apps will not only monitor and keep an eye on vulnerabilities and attacks but will also implement the fix automatically to keep things secured.

9) Avatar becomes real –  The boundary between the real world and the virtual world will continue to collapse. Soon, each one of us will have a virtual avatar who will interact with others in the meta cloud. In a whole new world, meta cloud will take our experience level to something which we have never seen before. Not only business deals will be done in meta cloud, but meta cloud will be used to hire employees, make new partnerships, discover new friends, and much more. New inventions and discoveries will be done by virtual team members from around the world working together to create fascinating products and services all in the comfort of their homes!

10) Human cloud –  The number one problem any company is facing today is the war on talent. No matter how many graduates education institutes are churning out, there is still a massive shortage of critical talent. But do we still need to look for graduates? In the future, talent will be available across the globe and it will not matter if the person has graduated from a prestigious education institute or a graduate of an online training program,  the human cloud will enable companies to find the right talent at the right price and the right time. Companies will no longer be dependent on local recruiters; machine learning algorithms will scan millions of resumes and connect the right person to the hiring manager! Finding talent will be as good as saying “Hey Alexa, find me a full stack developer with 5 years of experience!”

In summary, if we think the current pace of technology change is fast, the next decade of changes will be 5x-10x faster than what we are seeing today. Cloud will continue to play a critical role in connecting everyone including machines to machines, machines to humans, and humans to humans. It is certainly an exciting future ahead, so tighten up your seat belts and get ready!