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The Innovation Power of the Cloud
Thoran Rodrigues
AUG 26, 2013 19:30 PM
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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously said in one of his letter to investors that:

“The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity – to pursue their dreams”.

It’s now been about 7 years since AWS was launched (2006), and cloud computing has proven itself not only a major business opportunity, but a true enabler (or, at the very least, a huge facilitator) of creativity and revolution in markets that go way beyond computing and technology.

The impact of cloud computing on the IT market is the most obvious. Not only have we witnessed the rise of Amazon as a technology giant, but also the appearance of many other new companies to challenge the status-quo of the IT market. While a part of this new movement is natural of any new market - cloud service providers in the infrastructure space have appeared by the dozen in the last few years, fueled by the growing demand of businesses for cloud services - a lot of it is simply a reflex of how much cloud computing has enabled new companies to innovate.

By reducing the need of capital investments (CAPEX) to essentially zero, and changing what were once fixed costs - storage, equipment, basic infrastructure - into variable costs that only grow as the business grows, cloud computing has made possible the creation of business models that would simply be impossible before. Today, anyone with a credit card and an email account can have access to a supercomputer for a few dollars per hour, and I believe we are only beginning to see all the incredible things that are made possible by this.

But it isn’t simply the IT market that has changed due to the cloud. We simply need to look at all the changes that Big Data has been generating in every field, from biology and medicine to cultural studies, to see the power of the cloud. The Big Data revolution we are witnessing today is only possible because of cloud computing. Without cheap access to massive computing resources, the large-scale distributed computing algorithms used to process huge datasets would still be the province of academics or very large, very rich corporations. Even the gathering of such enormous amounts of data would be essentially impossible.

Even Big Data, for all its potential impact and all the publicity surrounding it, is only the tip of the cloud iceberg, a small part of this revolution. Look at Netflix (one of Amazon’s top customers), and all the media streaming competitors that have appeared lately. A big part of their business model relies on the scalability and cost-optimization capabilities that cloud computing brings to the table. It’s not that they wouldn’t exist in a cloudless world, but that they would be very different companies.

The same is true for many other businesses. Cloud computing is enabling the transformation of entire industries by providing companies with the ability to innovate and bring new products and services to market at an unprecedented rate. More than that, however it is changing how IT departments operate on all companies, regardless of their size or the market they are in.

In spite of how far we’ve come, however, we are still in the beginning of the story. While usage of cloud infrastructure services has grown significantly over the last couple of years, there is still some way to go before market adoption becomes truly widespread. Furthermore, there is still a lot of innovation waiting to happen, especially in the platform-as-a-service space. This is a market that is still not very well understood by companies, but as awareness (and service offerings) grows, it will only increase. The basic pieces are already coming into place: object storage systems, message queues, even databases. As we see more of these types of services coming online, we will be poised for even more changes.

Given all these changes and the huge potential for innovation, we are witnessing a moment filled with opportunity for all computing professionals. If you work with technology, in any capacity, and haven’t paid attention to cloud computing yet, now is definitely the time; if you are already an advanced user of cloud computing, now is the time to look even harder at what the cloud has to offer. As Intel has been asking in its current cloud-related promotion, “What would YOU do with a supercomputer on your hands?”

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