Cloud computing: 10 ways it will change by 2020

Summary:What are the issues, challenges and technologies that will frustrate and inspire those working on the cloud in 2020?

...bring super-fast interconnects into the datacentre.

Joseph Reger, chief technology officer of Fujitsu Technology Solutions, predicts that by 2020 we can expect communications in the datacentre to be "running at a speed in the low hundreds of gigabits per second".

Reger says he expects that there will be a "very rapid commodification" of high-end interconnect technologies, leading to a very cheap, very high-performance interconnect. This will let information be passed around datacentres at a greater rate than before, and at a lower cost, letting companies create larger applications that circulate more data through their hardware (known in the industry as 'chatty' apps), potentially allowing developers to build more intelligent, automated and complex programs.

7. Datacentres become ecosystems

Cloud datacentres will "become much like a breathing and living organism with different states", Reger says. The twinned technologies of abstracted software and commodified hardware should combine to make datacentres function much more like ecosystems, with an over-arching system ruling equipment via software, with hardware controlled from a single point, but growing and shrinking according to workloads.

Cloud datacentres will "become much like a breathing and living organism with different states". Image credit: Jack Clark/ZDNet

Automation of basic tasks, such as patching and updating equipment, will mean the datacentre "will become more like a biological system" he says, in the sense that changes and corrections are automatically made.

8. Clouds consolidate

The internet rewards scale, and with the huge capital costs associated with running clouds, it seems likely that there will be a degree of consolidation in the cloud provider market.

Fierce competition between a few large providers could be a good thing, as it would still drive each of them to experiment with radical technologies. For example, in a bid to cut its internal networking costs and boost utilisation, Google has recently moved its entire internal network to the software-defined networking OpenFlow standard, which looks set to shake up the industry as more people adopt it.

Manley of HP argues there will be a variety of clouds that will be suited to specific purposes. "There's going to be diversity," he says. "I think you would only end up with a monopoly if there was an infrastructure around that was sufficiently capable to meet all the non-functional [infrastructure requirements] of those end services."

9. The generational shift

By 2020, a new generation of CIOs will have come into companies, and they will have been raised in a cloudy as-a-service world. There will be an expectation that things are available "as-a-service", Merrill says: "Our consumption model is changing as a generational issue."

And this new generation may lead to a shake-up in how businesses bill themselves for IT, Merrill says. "We have these archaic, tax-based, accounting-based rules that are prohibiting innovation," he adds.

10. Clouds will stratify

Today clouds are differentiated by whether they provide infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service or software-as-a-service capabilities, but by 2020 more specialised clouds will have emerged.

According to Forrester, we can expect things like 'middle virtualisation tools' and 'dynamic BPO services' to appear by 2020, along with a host of other inelegant acronyms. In other words, along with some large providers offering basic technologies like storage and compute, there will also be a broad ecosystem of more specific cloud providers, allowing companies to shift workloads to the cloud that would otherwise be dealt with by very specific (and typically very expensive) on-premise applications.

Merrill says clouds will, like any utility, be differentiated by their infrastructure capabilities into a whole new set of classes. "Just as we have power generation from coal, from natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, there will be differences," he says. "The economics, in my opinion, help us with differentiation and categorisation."

Topics: Cloud, Amazon, Google, Innovation


Jack Clark has spent the past three years writing about the technical and economic principles that are driving the shift to cloud computing. He's visited data centers on two continents, quizzed senior engineers from Google, Intel and Facebook on the technologies they work on and read more technical papers than you care to name on topics f... Full Bio

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