Is a foregone conclusion that the future will be defined by cloud? Or are vendor business decisions and marketing driving this future? And if they are, is there technology that is getting pushed aside as vendors work to shape the market for the next phase of computing?

It’s Always Been About Data

Since the beginning of the digital age, companies have marketed solutions to harnessing data for the good of mankind. Jim Henson made this video for IBM in 1967. It showed IBM’s MT/ST word processor as the solution to the paperwork explosion.

Since then, we’ve seen companies market their products as solutions to solve the problems of the exploding digital universe and more recently how to help people deal with digital transformation.

Even going back 50 years, these campaigns are all about how to harness data and turn it into information to help humans make decisions. As hardware and software became more sophisticated, companies have been able to build solutions that evolved far beyond just business data.

Was all this innovation just leading to a future defined by cloud?

The Promise of a Future Defined by Cloud

How are companies marketing the cloud to solve data problems? Gartner believes that cloud computing will “gain momentum and traditional data centers will loose focus”. Many companies, such as Salesforce, say that the best reason to move to the cloud is flexibility.  The promise is to be able to build applications in a fraction of the time it took to stand up a datacenter, and use them to make sense of the immense amount of data available.

There are also challenges to this future defined by cloud. When someone says cloud what do they mean? Do they mean a public cloud such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or Alibaba? Or do they mean clouds provided by other providers such as VMware?

There’s not a simple way to move data across these clouds yet, let alone applications. Therefore, we see the term hybrid cloud in use. Organizations want the ability to move the data to the cloud that will give their users the best performance. In fact, private clouds are also a term to describe on-premises clouds.

Finally, you have to wonder if vendors have over-indexed on tailoring their marketing to developers. Is there a place for ops in a future defined by cloud?

Application Transformation Isn’t New

We’ve come a long way since I started my career twenty years ago. Back then, it was confusing to figure out if a SAN or a NAS was better than direct attach storage. And there were technical limitations when it came to operating systems and files, so when people started figuring out how to build a beowulf cluster using Linux and lots of nodes. Then when got object storage, and of course cloud computing took that scalable model to a different level.

And that’s just the storage part, networking had quite a few advancements at that time as well. And the advances in hardware spur on advances in software such as virtualization and open-source operating systems and software. Then as those important software advances became adopted, the software pushed hardware innovation.

All these innovations made application transformation possible. The internet is possible because of the transformations, as well as all sorts of other applications we use without thinking today. The chase is on to build not only the essential applications of the future using the public cloud, but also to own the infrastructure components required to run those applications.

Real Talk

If you’re interested to see how a company will market products for a future defined by cloud, VMware has an event at the end of March about App and Cloud Transformation (see here for sign-up details). Only time will tell if it is a foregone conclusion the future is defined by cloud, or if there is a more nuanced future in store for us.