The Direction of Cloud Computing in 2013 and Beyond

Date:   Sunday , March 31, 2013

Headquartered in Santa Clara, Jamcracker is a provider of Cloud Services Brokerage enablement solutions.

One of the great pleasures I have had throughout my career is that I have been on the ground floor of the cloud evolution, or revolution as many see it today. In 1994, I co-founded Exodus Communications, which quickly grew to become an industry defining internet hosting provider. At that time, very few established companies had any substantive web presence, and so we were fortunate enough to capitalize on this untapped opportunity by providing a comprehensive set of enabling services that allowed organizations to build and market themselves on the web.

But what was really exciting for me were all the startups that launched their businesses from Exodus data centers – Google, Yahoo, eBay and Hotmail are a few notable examples. The level of innovation that we saw was incredible, and what was very different was that these companies were completely internet-based. Exodus helped enable them, and in turn their growth helped fuel ours, which led to our IPO in 1998.

I left Exodus in 1999 to start my current passion, Jamcracker, with a vision of creating a central clearinghouse and distribution network for what I viewed would be an explosive growth in the supply and demand of internet-based services. My view at that time, and as it stands today, is that these self-propagating waves of internet-enabled services would continue to drive innovation on many different fronts. Our objective is to help these innovative services get access to market, and more readily accessible and manageable by businesses. Jamcracker's Services Delivery Network (JSDN) now powers dozens of private-labeled cloud marketplaces that are operated globally by telecommunications and service providers, IT distributors, enterprise and government IT organizations, and other "intermediaries" who are now referred to within the industry as Cloud Services Brokerages (CSB). So, similar to what happened in my earlier days at Exodus, again I am fortunate to be at a crossroads where I get to see a lot of new innovation happening on the supply and demand side of the cloud.

In my opinion, the next wave of the current cloud computing foundation that has been evolving over the past two decades will be less around the technology itself but rather the value it enables and its accessibility. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:

• Cloud-based services, in conjunction with the rapid proliferation of network connectivity and computing devices (including mobile), will help emerging markets overcome many of their traditional infrastructure and economic barriers. As one example, the rapid adoption of mobile payments in Nigeria is being driven by the fact that many of its consumers have limited access to basic banking services.

• Small businesses around the world will increasingly leverage SaaS and other internet-based services to compete on the global stage. Achieving this previously would have been prohibitively expensive in a traditional on-premise licensing and operations model.

• Education will become much more accessible, as evidenced by the rise of Massively Open Online Classes (MOOCs), advancing millions of people globally in a cost effective manner. Disruption of many traditional sectors will be the norm going forward.

• Cloud computing's massive scalability will make "Big Data" a reality, which will drive real-time analytics to a whole new level. We are already seeing this happening en masse in the retailing industry, and this trend will continue to accelerate and proliferate across many industries and governments.

I could go on and on, but my point is that cloud computing's future is all about being a catalyst that reduces barriers to innovation, and as a result will drive solutions that fundamentally change how we work, live and play.

Twenty years ago, starting a technology-based company required millions of dollars in funding to provide capital for building out an IT infrastructure, renting office space, building manufacturing facilities and hiring the best employees you could find. There were only a few places in the world that had the critical mass of venture capital, technology and experienced people, which is why much of the innovation stemmed from Silicon Valley and Boston. And once these fortunate few startups built out their offerings, acquiring customers required even larger amounts of money to spend on advertising, building sales forces and getting distribution channels to sell their products.

Today, any smart and driven person, from anywhere in the world, can build their services on open-source "building blocks", infinitely scale their infrastructure using providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), access a global talent pool, and reach new markets via social networks and by distributing through CSBs like JSDN. Start-up capital requirements are now infinitesimal by comparison, access to global talent is virtually unlimited and success is driven less by capital but rather an entrepreneur's imagination and ambition.

On the demand side of the equation, the low cost of accessibility to cloud-based services is not only helping small businesses, but also corporate "intrapreneurs" who are driving bottoms-up transformation and innovation within their own organizations. This is often characterized as the "consumerization" of IT.
Cloud computing as it stands today will continue to spawn new waves of innovation that are limited only by the extent to which we can imagine and execute. I can think of no better time in history to be an innovator, whether you are an entrepreneur building a new company, a small business owner, or an agent of change within a large organization. From a personal perspective, my vision with Jamcracker is to enable the supply and demand networks that will help these innovative services reach new markets, and in turn help businesses leverage others’ innovation to power their own. One of my technology heroes is Thomas Edison – he did not invent electrical power generation, but he helped create the distribution networks that we all use today to power our businesses, our homes and our lifestyles.

So what is the future of "cloud computing?" I believe the term itself may eventually fade from our lexicon because it is a transient descriptor that illustrates a snapshot in time in an on-going evolution of internet-connected people, devices and services. But however we characterize this on-going evolution in the future, it will continue to revolutionize how we work, live and play – just as the past innovations have fundamentally shaped our lives today. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "what's past is prologue" when it comes to cloud computing.