A day in the life of the public cloud

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Welcome to life in 2020, where life – and not just your vision – is perfect. You wake up in effortless comfort thanks to Ryse, a decentralised alarm scheduling system which analyses the sleep patterns, commuting information and daily movements of 100 of your peers to wake you up at the perfect time to meet the day’s challenges.

Without blinking you’re fed a perfectly-engineered meal by Nigell, your personal chef, nutritionist and trainer, who has accessed decades of medical records and cutting-edge research, combined with your personal data, to instantly work out how best to start your day. You take a bite – it’s delicious. No rogue coriander here (take note, Pret of the future).

You’re free to play the most incredible, cutting-edge video games without any hardware thanks to the latest streaming service, or access centuries of literature thanks to the UK’s new decentralised library systems, or listen to any song ever recorded in the blink of an eye.

All of this from your clutterless apartment, unencumbered with barbaric wires – remember those? – or, worse still, computer hardware. You remember fondly a time when you owned a PC tower or even a laptop, rather than paper-thin screens and wearable interfaces, moveable at the flick of a wrist.

That is, of course, until one rogue hacker in Minsk locks your front door, empties your bank account and plays the entirety of this season’s Love Island on repeat on every screen in your house just because they’ve had a bad morning.

The coming boom

Is this reality so far away? Well, according to many industry observers, maybe not.

The public cloud is said to be the Next Big Thing when it comes to changing the lives of consumers. Some have likened its advent to the dawning of industrialisation or electricity, in terms of the revolutionary effect it will have on our day-to-day.

Where the private cloud has made computing power and software available to any interested party, the public cloud could offer the same to the public on a huge scale.

A report published by financial powerhouse Morgan Stanley earlier this year outlined what its writers envisioned as a possible “bull case” – or realistic scenario – should the public cloud become a global utility analogous to electricity.

In much the same way that electricity revolutionised private industry first, and home comforts second, Morgan Stanley’s analysis does focus initially on what would happen to the potential valuations for cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google’s Cloud Platform and IBM.

Potential returns

In the bank’s base estimations, the overall  market opportunity for the public cloud could swell by $40 billion in the next three years to be worth $340 billion by 2020. This would, obviously, send cloud valuations for Microsoft and co spiralling by as much as 50 per cent – and the company’s overall stock value by 20 per cent – thanks to widened usage and workload growth.

Such a possibility means that, the report’s authors write, the current value of cloud companies is “widely undervalued”.

That’s not to say that this is a new idea: the concept of “utility computing”, where service providers might charge a flat rate for access to computing resources or infrastructure, has been a well-explored concept since the mid-2000s.

Should Morgan Stanley’s predictions bear fruit, its analysts claim that new use cases and technologies will transform businesses and consumer processes. Even in its “bear case” – where the cloud merely serves as a replacement for existing corporate data centres – the bank still sees enormous growth.

This worst-case scenario is very unlikely, say the report’s authors, save a game-changing disruption like a massive security breach – which seems possible, given high-profile malware appearances in the NHS and other firms this year – or data centre failure to curb growth in the public cloud.

A decentralised computing experience for all is certainly on the horizon, then: it’s just a case of whether the service providers can outsmart the hackers for a few more years.


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