Looking forward, Beyond the Cloud!

Rajesh Dangi / September 05, 2018

Beyond the Cloud

The cloud adoption is now trivial to almost all business verticals, the trends suggest organizations, OEMs and developer communities are looking way beyond cloud in next five years. In the coming months and years, we will see massive reorganization of the "Cloud", the future of cloud will be an augmentation of the technological breakthrough that challenges the very assumptions around the cloud stack and the cloud native applications, devices and technologies truly a transformation of the cloud enabled by cloud!


We can safely see the trends of the cloud transformation unwinding on few major fronts..

  • Everything as a Service,
  • Explosion of data / storage requirements,
  • Expanding perimeters with IoT and 5G..
  • A buzzing AI/ML that is driving almost all technology ecosystems to our augmented intelligence of cloud, so to say!


So, What's the problem?


Any cloud provides on demand resources on compute, storage and memory coupled with interconnected network that ties the resources together, what is current missing is the standard design principle that can tie multiple technologies and vendors together creating a single nimble cohesive "Cloud"... although the applications are getting on the bus with RestAPIs and SaaS models, but the core elements of cloud orchestrators are still native to the cloud thus binding the customer workloads to the orchestrators and abstraction layers that twist the technologies making them highly adverse on interoperability, the migration of one workload from one public cloud to another is difficult and has to undergo interventions and conversions due to lack of interoperability becoming a chore.

There is thus a market segment getting created that just helping to solve this problem and does journaling ( Read, change logs) and migrations between public clouds and hypervisor replication needs thereof. This needs to change for seamless workload migrations and replications since loads of old applications still need the DR via replication and aspire to become "cloud-native".


What does the 'Cloud Native' mean?


"Cloud Native" is an approach of designing, building and running applications, services and eco system of continuous integration, container engines and orchestrators, modern databases etc on top of infrastructure-as-a-service offerings of cloud service providers with an objective is to deliver the services with speed ( read reduced time to market), scalability (Read, Infinite resources on demand / run time) and finally achieve cost benefit.


  • Scale: as business grows, it becomes strategically necessary to support more users, more locations, augmenting capacity on the fly with a range of devices, while maintaining responsiveness, managing costs, and most importantly availability.
  • Cost Benefit: in this world of infrastructure-as-a-service, a strategic goal may be to pay for additional resources only as they're needed - as new customers come online, more and more transactions are happening point in time. Spending moves from up-front payment i.e. CAPEX to OPEX (as operating expenses). But this is not all, being Cloud Native is usually to spend less on hosting than 'owning' the resources.
  • Speed: companies of all sizes now see strategic advantage in being able to move quickly and get ideas to market fast leveraging Cloud. it is about managing risk of time to market if the entire hardware stack was to be owned and built on your own. At its best a Cloud Native approach is about de-risking as well as accelerating change, thus allowing companies to delegate more aggressively and thus become more responsive to their business demands and markets they operate within.


Typically, Cloud Native promotes five architectural principles:

  1. Use infrastructure-as-a-service: run on servers that can be flexibly provisioned on demand is the essence of this principle, in today's dynamic world of changing business priorities and evolving business models making upfront investments on the technology stack and expecting a return over years is not viable option for many organizations, the "As-a-service" model is fast catching up that not only reduces the impact on fiscal objectives but also reduces the chores of managing the in house data center, technology refresh and AMCs on a longer period, the scalability and on demand consumption make this option as viable as it can get.
  2. Design systems using, or evolve them towards, a microservices architecture: individual components are small and decoupled from the monolithic large legacy applications thus requires lesser compute yet supports large userbase or transactions / event handling in the same set of hardware, the reengineered applications now has ability to scale and deploy in real time and scale automatically based on the demand.
  3. Automate and encode: replace manual tasks with scripts or code. DevOps could be the right word to describe the automation of all the tasks that can and should be. This is a productivity leverage over and above other principles being discussed.
  4. Containerize: the granular approach to package processes with their dependencies making them easy to test, move and deploy in run time and achieving scale.
  5. Orchestrate: abstraction of hardware resources and pooling them to be presented to the workloads creating demand in production using off-the-shelf management and orchestration tools ecosystem.


While entire world is going after making their application and data "cloud-native" there are subtle trends that are transforming the cloud itself, let us touch upon few emerging themes that are now trending and we can see their footprints in the applications, data and orchestration engineering efforts by multiple providers. I tried classifying them largely into these Six buckets to make it easy for our understanding and putting forth the context.


  1. Dynamic Abstraction Separating Applications, Hardware and Data, runtime configuration and enablement of resources, there three tenets are connection, consumption and capabilities of the cloud...
    • Connection - the smart devices are claiming their share of the pie, cars, streets, sensors, wearables, thus experiences are getting smarter thanks to IoT, analytics and AI/ML engines all focusing on a better and real time user experience driven by events that in-turn changing the very nature of transaction driven system of records. The devices are connecting to cloud and changing the dynamics of the so-called application driven transactions, the three tier, web tier is legacy, the distributed and event driven interactions.
    • Consumption - the on demand, pay per user and outcome-based resource subscriptions is redefining the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS models into fractions of the experiences typically lead by MobileApps, wearable sensors, smart devices that are driving consumption-based services rather than subscription-based services. The cloud is not limited to storage, compute anymore the code as a service running as Serverless is a new channel that is mobilized by the cloud..
    • Capabilities - the cross stitching of elements that create a dynamic workflow via pooling various resources and run the tiny workloads on containers, codes from on-device, edge or at the core of "Cloud" demand capabilities of resource pools that wakes up, runs the workloads, interoperate and kills itself once the session gets over, truly event driven computing. When the purpose of computing getting serverless and expectations are building up strong about the underlying infrastructure layer remains consistent and available in any adverse condition duly served by different stack or location keeping intact the user experience.
  2. Faster, cheaper and Distributed processing - the evolution of compute is now getting tied up to the evolving data, application and AI/ML architectures that demand for parallel processing for distributed applications, modern databases too have dictated the need. The processor cousins, CPU, GPU, TPU and FPGAs must now coexist and create "processing on demand" ecosystems for modern workloads. The processing is no longer remains a silo and newer ASIC ( Read, Application Specific Integrated Circuits) chips are integrated with deeper integrated application functionalities for serving the purpose to stay ahead of curve, duplication of cores, higher clocking etc are old school stories, few modern processors now vouch for deep learning, neural network processing ready and bridging the gaps between the CPU / GPU terrains of yester years... there is lot happening there!
  3. Distributed Modern Databases and data stores - the modern database systems are mostly open source and already have gigantic testimonials for scalability and availability by design. Gone are the days where databases were supposed to follow sacrosanct procedures just to keep them up and running, tunes and backed up in case of failures, the bigdata revolution kicked in the CAP ready - Consistent, Always Available and Partition tolerant databases extending the data layer from devices, edge and distributed data centers to multiple cloud orchestration layers. They seem to be aware of the dynamic scalability and distributed paradigms of the container / serverless technologies.
  4. Any Cloud Compute - Fundamentally the change in the way resources are now consumed at the edge to the core, the public, private, hybrid clouds must seamlessly interconnect creating cloud as a resource layer that seamlessly extends the perimeter collaborating with different public clouds, orchestrators into a single cohesive governance structure managing varied pool of resources that can will be deployed in a single click with granular governance of policies for security tagged to the workloads running in the instance of time. This itself is an area where multiple startups are pitching in to transforming the metaphor.
  5. Network - Imagine once we have all above charters in place and the cloud start acting global, the onus will still remain on the interconnected networks with SDN / SDWAN capabilities from within datacenter leaf and spine. WIFI networks to 2/3/4G and emerging 5G over the air networks that will ultimately bring devices, datacenter and data together. The rural penetration, fiber networks even the power line networks will play a major part in the future for transforming the seamless experience user demands despite his location and proximity to urban centers where network availability and reach is obvious and taken for granted, just imagine a 100 acre agricultural field un-manned by the devices, robots and sensors strive to remain connected with each other and the mothership algorithms running in the cloud, they all will take the share of bandwidth and speak multi-protocol multi-casts.. the future thus will actually rest on, always on, always connected state. Just this week, the release of Draft National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 now awaits the cabinet approval is promising 5G to 50Mbps broadband connectivity taking India to the next league of Internetworking.
  6. Security and Governance - with recent GDPR enforcement Information security remains the concern for the board, the penalties tied up with the global turnover of the company now draws clearer accountabilities and larger impact on the brand. Less said the better on the awareness and inclination of several large organizations yet to get their acts right on the information security and respecting the obligations on both legal and moral grounds, the new AI tools that are being engaged by the hackers are already seeping into the threat maps. While Srikrishna Committee submitted its initial assessment and recommendations on data privacy and management last week in a 176-page report, as well a draft of the legislation on data protection titled Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. Even the new draft of personal data protection bill framework inviting the public feedback is worth a look, the whitepaper can be referred here. Interesting to see the developments in the upcoming monsoon session of the Indian Parliament for further discussion on this bill advocating for stringent data privacy and protection. In one of the judgements, The Supreme Court of India stated that the "right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution". Given the public and the private sector are collecting and using personal data at an unprecedented scale and for multifarious purposes. While data can be put to beneficial use, the unregulated and arbitrary use of data, especially personal data, has raised concerns regarding the privacy and autonomy of an individual is thus becomes matter of concern.  With rapid ingestion of technology and inferences caused the information security is becoming core issue of the digital transformation and the notion of being in the cloud will continue to raise eyebrows. CSPs and OEMs continue to remain vigilant about the hardening and whitelisting of their technologies and tools via product and services offered whereas cloud consumers keep tab on the people and process aspects balancing best of both worlds, I may say.


In Conclusion, the journey to, within the cloud and beyond remains interesting continues pushing stakeholders on a higher learning curve. Digital transformations, technologies (Read, AI/ML, VR/AR, IoT and BigData) driving industry reforms and governance are the key tenets for Cloud unleashing endless opportunities for the future of IT.


For the first time we are able to see government talking about National Fiber Authority and National Digital Grid towards digital transformation while the business models too are transforming as technology feels tangible, lucrative and within reach of a common man as the computer are now beginning to see, listen, talk, relate and decide within the rationale set forth by its master, the margining lines between the business and technology leaders are evident and may finally evolve into the rainbow, a promising sign of the future indeed!