We are on the cusp of yet another internet based revolution. This time, it’s the cloud – that term we see used so often to denote the ability to process and store data over the internet.
There are several versions of cloud computing, including Software as a Service (SAAS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) among others. The idea is that instead of buying computer equipment or solutions, you rent them over the internet.
For almost ten years now, companies have been jumping onto this bandwagon, most notably in the past few years. The cloud enables them to do more than they ever thought possible, simply because they don’t need to invest in the Infrastructure that would be required if they did everything themselves. Instead of spending millions on new IT systems, purchasing and implementation, they just rent the systems and work with the providers to get what they want.
There are several cloud providers, including Amazon and Google. Amazon’s AWS System is widely used by business. It employs some 450,000 high end servers. Google approximately double that. The computing power thus represented is mind boggling.
Mostly companies have been using such services to provide them with the computing power they need in peak seasons, or to install major new applications, like ERP and CRM, without enduring the costly implementation process that caused so many problems a decade ago.
But there is another aspect of these immensely powerful systems that is only beginning to be felt. That’s the ability to do High Performance Computing or what more often used to be called Massive Scale Computing. That’s where you do things like one start-up company, Climate Corporation, is doing. They serve the crop insurance industry by performing simulations of the weather for the next two years in more than one million locations in the US.
In one way or another, huge amounts of data are available on the internet. The massive scale computer systems are out there in the cloud too. The more we put the two together, the more we can move into a new realm where no job is too large, where virtually anything is possible.
Data is becoming at one time both the most valuable resource in the world and the cheapest. Massive computer systems, and particularly the people to run them, are not cheap. But the cloud removes these barriers and enables us to access and analyze data to an extent we never even dreamed of a few years ago. With the “big data” phenomenon, companies are starting to realize this by, for example, mining social media for customer information. But they have only just scratched the surface.
If you want to prepare a comparative analysis of the performance of all public companies for the past ten years on your laptop at home, nothing to it. The data and the infrastructure are there, just waiting to be pulled together.
Massive scaling in the cloud. It’ll change everything. Again.