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Cloud computing has won. But we still don't know what that means

The cloud revolution means big changes ahead for jobs and more. And don't expect the rate of change to slow.
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Written by Steve Ranger, Editorial director, ZDNet on

There's little doubt that cloud computing is now the absolutely dominant force across enterprise computing. Most companies have switched from buying their own hardware and software to renting both from vendors who host their services in vast anonymous data centers around the globe.

Tech analysts are predicting that the vast majority of new computing workloads will go straight into the cloud, and most companies will switch to a cloud-first policy in the next couple of years: total cloud spending will soon hit $500 billion.

There are plenty of good reasons for this. The cloud companies – whether that's software-as-a-service or infrastructure-as-a-service or any other as-a-service – are experts at what they do, and can harness the economies of scale that come with delivering the same service to a vast number of customers. Most companies don't need to be experts in running email servers or invoicing systems when it doesn't bring them any real competitive advantage, so it makes sense to hand over these commodity technologies to cloud providers.

SEE: Having a single cloud provider is so last decade

Still, that doesn't mean every consequence of the move to the cloud is resolved.

Renting is often more expensive than buying, so keeping a lid on cloud costs remains a challenge for many businesses. And hybrid cloud – where enterprises pick and choose the best services for their needs and then try to connect them up – is increasingly in vogue. Few companies want to trust their entire infrastructure to one provider; services do go down and everyone needs a backup option. The risk of vendor lock-in in the cloud is something companies increasingly want to avoid.

The impact of cloud computing on skills is more complex. Certainly the shift has seen some tech jobs disappear as companies no longer need to manage basic services themselves. Tech staff will need to shift from maintaining systems to developing new ones, most likely by tying cloud services together. That's going to be important for companies that want to create new services out of the cloud, but it's a significant skills shift for many staff to go from admin to developer and not everyone will want to.

Also, as those administrator jobs vanish, the career path in IT will shift, too: skills around project management, innovation and teamwork will become more important for tech workers that want to move up.

There's no obvious cloud-computing backlash ahead right now. Even a few major outages have done little to shake confidence in the idea that for most applications and most organisations the cloud makes business sense. However, the implications of that decision may take a few years to play out yet.

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