Cloud Computing in COVID-19

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What is Cloud Computing?

The Cloud can be termed as a library of computing resources. Cloud computing refers to the provision of IT services such as storage, networking, software, or access to IT infrastructure such as servers, databases over the Internet. Through cloud computing, the user has the flexibility to demand IT services from a cloud provider on a pay-as-you-use structure [1]. It releases the user from the obligation to procure, own, and manage IT facilities and thus helps the user save costs. About 94% of the workload is expected to be processed through the cloud by 2021 [2].

Contents

Background

How Cloud Computing Works?

Cloud computing relies on the principles of sharing computing resources through the concept of virtualization. Virtualization helps create an abstraction layer within the computer hardware that allows a single computer to divide its hardware resources and run multiple virtual computers, also known as Virtual Machines (VM). Each individual virtual computer operates its own operating system, storage and database [3].


To understand the concept, the functions of cloud computing can be divided into 2 ends: The front end and the back end. The front end consists of the user side of the cloud, whereas the back end consists of the provider side on the system. The two ends are interlinked through a network, like an internet. The traffic on the networks is managed by a central server which is owned and operated by the cloud service provider [4]. Dominating cloud service providers such as Amazon and Microsoft maintain and operate a massive global network of server warehouses, usually known as data centers, that allows global connections via cloud services.


When a user purchases a particular cloud service from a cloud service provider, the provider deploys the service from the closest available data center to the user through the network and allows virtual on-demand access to IT resources and infrastructure. This technology refers to cloud computing.

History of Cloud Computing

1950s

The need for cloud computing technology and initial concepts date back to the Mainframe days. In the early 50s, computing devices were huge and costly and limited to corporate businesses. To promote work efficiency, users realized the need for a technology that allows 2-3 people to share computing resources on the same device [5]. In 1955, John McCarthy, the computer scientist who is credited for coining the word ‘Artificial Intelligence’ introduced the concept of ‘shared computing’. The basic principles of shared computing resonate with the modern-day cloud [6].


1960s

The theory of cloud computing was further developed in 1963 when DARPA (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initiated Project MAC, an experimental project that found MIT students with $2M to develop upon a technology that allowed 2 or more people to use the same computer simultaneously [7]. Later, in 1969, ARPANet (U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) developed a very primitive network that connected four different university computers with the help of J. C. R. Licklider. Licklider was a computer scientist and psychologist who further popularized the vision of an ‘Intergalactic network of computing devices’ [7].


1970s

In 1972, IBM launched the first-ever virtual mainframe machine VM/370. The device allowed users to run multiple virtual machines in a single system [8].

1980s

Throughout the 80s, communication technology improved, and the market saw a marginal rise in personal computer users. The volume of work being processed and stored on computers increased and users noticed that there was a greater need for a technology that linked computer data through several platforms [8].


1990s
George Favaloro, Former Compaq marketing executive holding the original presentation with the words 'Cloud Computing' in the title[9]
Compaq presentation printouts from 1996[10]


The basis of the hypothesis was several years in the making in the 1990s. However, it is claimed that the word 'Cloud Computing' was first used by Compaq employees. According to them, George Favaloro, a Compaq marketing executive, and Sean O'Sullivan, a young technologist, appear to have used the term in the title of their 1996 presentation - Internet Solutions Division Strategy For Cloud Computing [11].

Later in 1997, a University of Texas professor Ramnath Chellappa used the term in his lecture talk titled – ‘Intermediaries in Cloud-Computing: A New Computing Paradigm’. He defined it as a model of computing in which the limits of computing are defined by economic rationale rather than technological limits alone [12].

In 1999, Salesforce launched Salesforce.com – the first cloud computing software. Salesforce.com dwelled on the idea of accessing software services through the internet. Via storage and data sharing through a web-based interface, they provided shared sales information across the company [13].






2000s

In 2002, Amazon released an internal version of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to allow the quicker rollout of software and effective database setup for new hires as Amazon began to expand exponentially. They built a shared IT-infrastructure open to all Amazon workers that supported IT resource uniformity across multiple departments. Eventually, they realized that other businesses could also benefit from the advantages offered by their internal cloud, and they progressed to launch AWS for the public in 2006 [14].

The first service introduced to the public by AWS the Simple Storage System (S3) model. Elastic Compute Cloud (E2C) and Simple Queue Service (SQS) were later introduced in the same year. Following the success of the first iteration of the cloud platform, Amazon was followed by other competitors like IBM, Microsoft, and Google who presented similar cloud platforms in the subsequent years [15].


2010s

2010 marks the start of what is considered the 'Decade of the Cloud'. The decade witnessed the growth of 3 major cloud computing Giants, AWS, Microsoft and Google [16]. In 2010, the world spent US$24.63B on cloud computing infrastructure [17]. By 2019, gross investment had crossed $107B [18]. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, the cloud computing industry rose by 37% (20) due to COVID19, whereas 94% of the workload is expected to be processed through the cloud by 2021 [19].


Cloud Computing Architecture

To understand better, Cloud Computing can be divided into its individual components:

Hypervisor

A Hypervisor is a software that runs in the back end of one host computer and provides a platform to run multiple virtual machines (VMs). It is also known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM). It enables resource sharing between multiple users [20].

Management Software

The Management Software maintains coordination between individual back end components and enables infrastructure configuration. It acts like a bridge between the front end and back end of cloud computing infrastructure [21].

Server

A Server is a centralized virtual infrastructure with shared resources that is accessible over the internet [20].

Client Infrastructure

The Client Infrastructure is in the front end of the cloud infrastructure. It consists of the computing device and the Graphic User Interface (GUI) that enables connection to cloud resources [22].

Cloud Data Centre

A Cloud Data Centre is a large, highly controlled physical space that stores hundreds of servers and server racks. Cloud data centers are owned and maintained by cloud service providers and are virtually accessible to cloud users [23].

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Cost Effective

Cloud Computing helps the user eliminate expenditure on physical IT equipment and infrastructure such as servers, server room. Users only pay for the computing power, storage or other resources they access from the provider [24]. It allows emerging companies and start-ups to minimise initial IT expenses. The cloud operates on a pay-as-you-go model that allows users to tailor their choice of services and pay only for what they actually use [25]. The responsibility of maintaining and upgrading the applications, software and infrastructure belongs to the service provider.


Flexible

Cloud Computing allows users to scale resources that suit specific needs. Flexibility is provided to consumers in order to tailor their selection of services, make changes when required, and access them globally. This encourages job productivity within workforces [24].


Scalable

Using cloud computing, users can scale-up or scale-down their IT resources instantly [24]. It supports workplaces with fluctuating workloads and offers rapid deployment of services to new employees. As a result, the growth of the company that employs the cloud is perfectly matched and supported by the controlled expansion of its IT resources.


Secure

Cloud computing providers are responsible to monitor security threats that might attach to IT infrastructure. They appoint teams who track breaches regularly and work aggressively to derive remedies. As a result, cloud service providers offer best-in-class security solutions to users, making the cloud the most secure platform. Cloud storage offers data backup and helps prevent data loss caused by hardware failure. The cloud platform, however, works on a shared responsibility model that is frequently confused by consumers, resulting in cloud breaches becoming widespread in the industry despite the strongest security protocols [25].


Increased Collaboration

For large businesses, the cloud offers a common IT infrastructure for virtual storage of data that can be accessed and altered simultaneously by members of the cloud. This benefit offered by the cloud was largely enjoyed throughout 2020 when most businesses were forced to work from home and practice social distancing [24].


Sustainable

Cloud computing saves energy and minimizes e-waste that can otherwise be produced if companies-maintained server rooms and IT infrastructure on-premise. The cloud is believed to be environmentally friendly and an active agent to minimize the carbon footprint as it promotes virtual services rather than physical products and hardware. It also results in reduced paper waste [24].


Efficient

Cloud computing promotes uniformity of resources employed across all departments within a specific company. It helps eliminate work inconsistency and human errors. Moreover, the cloud service providers maintain underlying infrastructure and ensure on-time updates of software and applications [25].

Service Models

The types of services available through cloud computing can be divided into 3 sections:

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

The Infrastructure-as-a-Service model supports users with access to IT infrastructure such as servers, storage, security, firewall, data centers over the internet. Users can access computing, networking, and storage infrastructure virtually by subscribing to a cloud service provider [26]. IaaS is a combination of physical and virtualized services that provide users with the fundamental building blocks required to run apps and workloads in the cloud [27]. With Microsoft Azure and AWS as major providers, the IaaS sector held about 21% of the cloud market segment in 2019 [27]

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Platform-as-a-Service model provides the customers with the platform, such as the hardware (e.g. Servers) development tools, infrastructure, operating systems and software over the internet [28]. While the customers own and hold the responsibility for the data, everything else such as the networks, storage, databases, etc., is managed by the PaaS provider. In 2019, PaaS held a 15.4% market segment within cloud computing whereas Amazon Web Services was the leading provider [27].

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

The Software-as-a-Service model allows the user to access applications and softwares over the internet. Any user with the login credential, an internet connection, and a web-browser can access SaaS applications. This model is the most common of the 3 cloud computing service models and held 63.3% of the cloud market segment in 2019 [27]. Google docs, a platform famous among students serves are a great example SaaS model.

Deployment Models

Cloud computing resources are accessible to users through the following four deployment models:

Public Cloud

The Public Cloud deploys services to the customers through public servers and is open to all for use. This model serves smaller businesses well that need quick to computing resources. However, given the servers are publicly accessible, it is the least secure deployment model [29].

Private Cloud

A Private Cloud holds all characteristics of a public cloud; however, it is owned by a specific company/organization. It allows for the customization of cloud services within the private cloud and offers higher security due to limited and monitored accessibility [30].

Community Cloud

A Community Cloud is a private cloud that is owned by a group of companies/organizations from a specific sector, e.g. Healthcare. This allows for uniformity of services and a customized cloud database and infrastructure throughout the sector [31].

Hybrid Cloud

A Hybrid Cloud connects a private cloud with one or more public clouds while offering the combined benefits of both models. A hybrid cloud enhances flexibility by allowing movement of data between clouds to support fluctuating workload [32].


The Cloud Today

Common Uses of Cloud Computing

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
Hybrid cloud and Multicloud

Multicloud is the use of two or more clouds from different cloud providers. This can be any mix of Infrastructure, Platform, or Software as a Service (IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS). For example, you may consume email as service from one vendor, customer relationship management (CRM) from another, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from yet another.[33]

Test and development

Cloud software testing uses cloud environments and infrastructure to simulate realistic user traffic scenarios to measure software performance, functionality, and security. In cloud testing, someone else owns the hardware, runs the test, and delivers the test results. On-premise testing is limited by budgets, deadlines, and capacity, especially when that capacity may not be needed in the future.[34]

Big data analytics

Big data analytics is the use of advanced analytic techniques against very large, diverse big data sets that include structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, from different sources, and in different sizes from terabytes to zettabytes.[35]

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is a cloud computing model that stores data on the Internet through a cloud computing provider who manages and operates data storage as a service. It’s delivered on-demand with just-in-time capacity and costs and eliminates buying and managing your own data storage infrastructure. This gives you agility, global scale, and durability, with “anytime, anywhere” data access.[36]

Disaster recovery (DR)

A disaster recovery (DR) plan is a formal document created by an organization that contains detailed instructions on how to respond to unplanned incidents such as natural disasters, power outages, cyber-attacks, and any other disruptive events. The plan contains strategies on minimizing the effects of a disaster, so an organization will continue to operate – or quickly resume key operations.[37]

Data backup

A data backup is a result of copying or archiving files and folders for the purpose of being able to restore them in case of data loss. Data loss can be caused by many things ranging from computer viruses to hardware failures to file corruption to fire, flood, or theft (etc).[38]

The Big Cloud Computing Companies

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Azure by Microsoft
  • Snowflake
  • Google Cloud
  • IBM
  • Alibaba Cloud


Contact Tracing Technology For COVID-19

There are two main methods being used to glean the physical proximity of users. The first is the global positioning system (GPS): this uses satellite-based radio-navigation to approximate the individual’s location and the location of other app users. The second, more prominent, solution uses Bluetooth and signal strength to identify other app users’ proximity, allowing the devices to exchange handshakes rather than tracking actual location. There are some solutions that use a mix of both Bluetooth and GPS and some even use network-based location tracking, but these methods have significant location-tracking privacy issues and are fortunately limited to only a few developments.

The primary technology in use by COVID-19 contact-tracing apps is Bluetooth, as it provides a higher level of privacy protection. This technology is proven a successful tool to assist in eradicating other diseases such as smallpox and has been used to control others such as tuberculosis, measles, and HIV.


The Joint Google and Apple Contact Tracing Technology

Joint Google and Apple Contact Tracing Technology Logo[39]

The joint Google and Apple solution, Exposure Notifications API, preserves privacy and provides a method of using Bluetooth Low Energy and cryptography to provide a contact-tracing infrastructure. Use of the API is limited to public health authorities and access is only granted when specific criteria around privacy, security, and data are met. However, this API is only part of a solution that an app needs to deliver the functionality needed. If an app requests personal information, either directly or by other methods, it could render this privacy-friendly solution questionable. The perception of a potential user of a contact-tracing app using this solution may be that the app, due to the Google and Apple solution, has been developed to preserve the privacy of the individual; this could give a false sense of security.[39]


There is also speculation that the use of the Exposure Notification API and Bluetooth for proximity and distance measuring in iOS may not be accurate; this was alluded to by the UK Government when announcing the cessation of the development of its own solution. Some of the potential issues are detailed in an article published by MIT Technology Review: it claims that if a phone is standing up in your pocket in portrait rather than landscape, then this alone can adjust the received power and make it look like someone is across the room as opposed to being next to you. The research also mentions the issue of signals passing through bodies – for example, if two people are standing back to back, the signal may appear weak, and thus record an incorrect distance. The UK Government claims to have developed algorithms that alleviate some of these issues; let’s hope the tech giants at Apple are willing to at least explore the potential solution the NHS team claims to have.[39]


Google and Apple’s solution joins eight other frameworks that have been created since the beginning of the pandemic. The frameworks have been created in parallel by a mix of technology companies, privacy organizations, academia, and governments. If the world adopted one framework there would of course be standardization, but this also adds a single point of failure if the framework is compromised or fails to deliver the expected results. As frameworks have evolved, app development projects have changed course to switch to the most appropriate for their requirements at that moment in time; without doubt, this will continue as the technology for contact tracing matures.[39]

Explanation of Contact Tracing Technology

How Does It Work?

When a contact-tracing app comes into contact with another device running the same app there is a handshake and an exchange of keys. These keys are typically continually changing and are generated on a time basis and unique to the device. When device A meets device B, they share keys based on a predetermined distance and time requirement, for example within 2 meters for 15 minutes. The device either holds on to the keys or passes them to a central server; when users confirm they may be positive for infection then all the keys they have generated are added to a cloud system. All other devices will collect these on a frequent basis to see if there is a match with keys that have been collected or alternatively this match will be processed in the cloud. If there is a match, then those users are warned that they have been in contact with another device that is now reporting positive; they have no clue which device.[39]


If the user is identifiable and all data is held and processed centrally, then there is clearly a privacy issue. If the user is not identifiable and the central cloud is only processing for matches, this could be more efficient than asking the local device to do this processing. Especially if the end device is limited to resources, which could be the case in some areas of the world. This approach also gives the centralized system the ability to identify potential false positives, where some malicious users say they are infected, yet in reality, they are not and are just attempting to create chaos for users, companies, and society in general. Using complex algorithms to identify false positives in a decentralized approach is less realistic due to resource limitations.[39]



Healthcare Cloud Computing Market

Major Market Drivers

  • Increasing expenditure in the healthcare IT sector
  • Growing popularity for SAAS model
  • Speeding up the data or document processing in healthcare facilities


Some restraints on this market are the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, concerns over the security of patient information, and issues related to interoperability & standardization of the cloud.


Data Bridge Market Research has recently added concise research on the Global Healthcare Cloud Computing Market to depict valuable insights related to significant market trends driving the industry. The Global Healthcare Cloud Computing Market report gives the most appropriate and specific information to the decision-makers in the industry which saves their time and results in excellent output. Market analysis and market segmentation have been conducted in terms of markets, geographic scope, years considered for the study, currency and pricing, research methodology, primary interviews with key opinion leaders, DBMR market position grid, DBMR market challenge matrix, secondary sources, and assumptions. This market information of the Global Healthcare Cloud Computing Market report not only aids businesses in making sound and proficient decisions but also helps decide the advertising, promotion, marketing, and sales strategy more gainfully.[40]


Healthcare Cloud Computing Market is expected to reach USD 26.24 billion by 2025, from USD 5.64 billion in 2017 growing at a CAGR of 21.2% during the forecast period of 2018 to 2025. The upcoming market report contains data for historic years 2016, the base year of calculation is 2017 and the forecast period is 2018 to 2025.[41]

Demand for Cloud in COVID-19

Even before the pandemic, customers of tech infrastructure companies were increasingly seeking the ability to transition to a variable cost model for their core computing, storage, and networking capabilities. They were also looking at cloud-style offerings and pay-as-you-go services to enable this transition.

In a recent PwC survey, almost 75% of finance leaders said they were planning for a more agile business environment going forward; the cloud’s flexible cost and scalable service can be an important component of this agility. In that same survey, 83% of CFOs cited plans to scale back capital expenses. [42]

Businesses and government entities alike will likely continue to need greater infrastructure capacity — computing, storage, and networking. However, they are increasingly seeking cloud-centered hybrid architectures to provide those services.

Cut On Investment Type[42]


Cloud Spending in COVID-19

A confluence of existing factors driving cloud transition has been further accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis: Cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020. This trend is likely to persist, as the exodus to virtual work underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology services. In fact, despite the inevitable economic downturn in the wake of the pandemic, cloud spending is estimated to rise 19% for the full year, even as IT spending as a whole is forecast to fall 8%, according to industry analyst Gartner.1 [19]

Worldwide Public Cloud Service Revenue Forecast [19]


The Risk of Excessive Cloud Access Permissions

The 3 Biggest IaaS/PaaS Concerns

  • Security misconfiguration
  • Lack of visibility
  • Improper IAM configuration

Cloud data breaches are on rising. According to a survey from IDC Research, 79% of the companies reported that they had a cloud data breach in the last 1.5 years, and 43% of them have experienced over 10 breaches.[43]

Excessive access permissions are hard to detect and mitigate. Many organizations reported that they are unable to mitigate the risk before data was exposed, which shows a lack of adequate solutions for effectively reducing excessive permissions.[43]

Ways to Mitigate the Risks

[43]
Least Privilege
A typical environment that includes thousands of human and machine identities. Permissions must be managed to ensure that identities can only access the resources they need for legitimate purposes.
Automation
Since there are a large number of identities, resources, and permissions, the process of creating and enforcing least privileges policies must be automatic and scalable for the responsible management teams.
Continuous Lifecycle
Eliminating excessive access is a continuous process of designing least-privilege policies, analyzing usage, reducing the attack surface and flagging risks.

Cloud Computing Limitations for Business Owners

Internet dependence

Everything in the cloud is accessible through the internet only. If the cloud server faces some issues, so will your application. If you use an internet service that fluctuates a lot, cloud computing is not the best choice. Even the biggest service providers face quite long downtimes. In certain scenarios, it’s become a crucial decision to opt for cloud services. [44]

Data incompatibility

Sometimes, a vendor locks in the customer by using proprietary rights so that a customer cannot switch to another vendor. For example, there is a chance that a vendor doesn’t provide compatibility with Google Docs or Google Sheets. You as a business owner, your customers or employees are becoming advanced and your business may be in crucial need of it. Thus, ensure your contract with the provider as per your terms. [44]

Security breach threats

The data transactions happen through the internet only. Though your cloud service provider claims to be one of the best-secured-service providers, accidents happen. If you own a business where a single miss or corruption of data is not at all acceptable, you should think 100 times before going for the cloud, especially for large-scale businesses. For small business owners, you should consider whether you will be able to provide more security levels to your applications than a cloud service provider does.[44]

Various costs

The common mistake business owners make is to invite unrequired expenses in order to be highly-advanced. As per the current scenario and near future analysis, if your current infrastructure is serving the needs, then migrating to the clouds would not be recommended. It may happen that to be compatible with clouds, your business applications need to be re-written. Moreover, if your business demands huge data transfers, every month you would be billed huge as well. It may be better to set up your own infrastructure.[44]

Customer support

Before opting for clouds, check out the query resolving time. With time, service providers are going modern but still check for the best. If your business faces heavy traffic every day and heavier on weekends, then a quick fix is always on top priority. The best cloud service provider must have optimum support for technical difficulties via email, call, chat, or even forums. Choose the one who provides the highest support.[44]


The Future

With cloud technology being popularized and accelerated due to the emergence of COVID-19, what does the future hold for us? With its many applications, we see a future that has cloud technology leading the charge and driving innovative changes that make the world more connected and accessible and ultimately, more equitable.

“If someone asks what cloud computing is… I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business. The cloud is for everyone. The cloud is democracy”

[45]

Marc Benioff, aka the King of Cloud, CEO - Salesforce

At this current point in time, most organizations have already migrated or are beginning to migrate to cloud-based solutions. As more and more organizations, whether it be tech giants or startups, begin to discover new ways to find, organize, process, and present data, cloud computing will become a more and more integral part of our lives.


Market Growth

Cloud computing has seen explosive growth over the past few years mainly driven by organizations looking to restructure their IT strategies to keep up with the demands driven by data storage needs at various levels. With COVID-19 accelerating the need for organizations to shift to mobile, cloud storage, we have seen that growth further accelerated. According to research done by IBM and Microsoft, cloud computing will grow from its current market size of $371.4 billion to $832.1 billion by the year of 2025. This represents a growth of 17.5% CAGR over the next 5 years (Q4 2020 saw a 38% surge). [46]

Growth of Cloud [47]


The main industries driving the growth of cloud are:[46]

IT

We are seeing a large shift from on-premise servers to cloud servers throughout the IT industry that has been one of the main drivers of cloud adoption. The development of cloud technology has also allowed a large shift in various software and applications being able to be hosted on the cloud. Anything from security software to email to production apps is now being hosted on cloud servers[48]

Telecom

The telecom industry is one of the fastest adopters of cloud technology as it has brought along two main solutions: Created a content delivery network and unified communication and collaboration. These two solutions have brought along a suite of benefits such as increasing the efficiency in data centers, new areas or revenue generation, unique value propositions, and promoting IT independence.[49]

Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI)

BFSI organizations were some of the fastest shifters to cloud capabilities when COVID hit as organizations had to quickly find a way for their employees to work from home. We have seen the rapid deployment and it will trickle down from the Investment Banking branches to more retail banking organizations. Organizations can benefit from increased revenue generation, increased customer insights, contain costs, deliver market-relevant products faster, and leverage enterprise-data for monetization. [50]

Media and Entertainment

the Media and Entertainment industries have fully embraced cloud technology as it has helped them adapt to the rapidly changing consumer preferences and allowed organizations to increase their agility and decrease their time to market. Top players such as Comcast, Youtube, Viacom, and Disney have all started to switch to cloud-based systems for their organizations. In addition to these large players making a splash in the cloud, the industry is seeing heavy adoption by small and medium-sized enterprises with a total workforce of 1.6 million people being switched over to cloud technologies. [51]


This growth of cloud computing will only grow as organizations further see the value it brings and how it can provide organizations many benefits from top to bottom. In a recent McKinsey report, it was said that “leaders need to accelerate their journey to the cloud in order to digitize quickly” in order to capitalize on the opportunities presented by COVID-19. We are seeing this in reality as the growth of cloud usage has grown by 38% during Q4 of 2020 representing a more growth rate that is more than double the predicted CAGR. As we continue on into the future, the use of the cloud and its wide applications across industries will be endless and will only continue to reveal its enhanced functionality, ease of use, and agility for adaptations.

Drivers of Cloud Adoption

Recently, Urs Holzle, the SVP Cloud at Google, talked about how cloud computing has brought a new generation of computing and that it is a way of thinking about and doing that creates something new. So here is a further look at the key drivers of cloud computing and what is driving the adoption and use of cloud computing (other than COVID of course). [52]


Business

GrowthDepending on how your organization defines growth, you can utilize the cloud in different ways. Regardless of how you define it, business growth is a large reason why organizations are switching to the cloud. With more and more organizations realizing that as their businesses grow, they need to have a system that can handle the robust changes that come with it, cloud technology will be implemented to meet those needs.

Efficiency

In a recent survey, 71% of organizations globally said that one of their main priorities is to improve efficiency. Cloud technology helps organizations facilitate and improve that efficiency by allowing organizations to become more interconnected internally and externally and finding ways to expedite communication and transfer of information.

Experience

One of the focuses that organizations have been putting emphasis on is user experience and how they can improve the experiences of users when they interact with their organization. Two main ways the cloud is enabling/driving this is through its ability to introduce new channels of engagement as well as its ability to improve workplace productivity.

Agility

With how rapid changes happen in business, socioeconomic, and geopolitics, organizations are now, more than ever, in need of the ability to adapt rapidly and manage change. Cloud computing allows organizations to do that by replacing previously manual tasks as well as provides organizations the ability to rapidly make changes to their IT structures without disrupting their existing operations.

Cost

Organizations are always looking for ways to cut costs but in IT those cut costs are usually redistributed to other parts of the organization to make various improvements. We see that the cloud, it helps reduce the costs organizations spend on certain areas so that they can reallocate those funds to other areas of their business.

Future/Developing Uses of Cloud

With all this development around cloud technology, there will be many use cases that can be developed from mass adoption. Below, we examined some of the key functionalities or uses that are being developed or are already in the process of developing. [53]

Distributed Ledger

Different types of ledgers [54]
Centralized vs. Decentralized [55]
Distributed ledgers are databases that have information and data continuously and continually shared across sites, institutions and geographies in order to be accessible by multiple people. It allows transactions to have a public witness and keep a record of transactions that have occurred. The participant at each node of the network can access the recordings shared across the network and can own an identical copy of it with any changes or additions made to ledgers being shared to all participants within a matter of seconds. Distributed ledgers are safer than the central ledgers most companies currently use as they are less prone to attacks and have more effective measures to protect against attacks.


Cloud computing helps in the distributive part of the distributed ledger since it facilitates the transfer of information from one place to another. This is how cloud computing is democratizing the world and making it more equitable because of the fact it can share information and move ideas all over the world, very rapidly and doing so in a safe manner.
[56]

CryptoCurrency

Cryptocurrency is something we have been hearing about quite a lot lately. From Bitcoin to Ethereum to the plethora of other currencies, some are beginning to see this as our future. Using a decentralized system, people and organizations alike are able to transact across boundaries and borders to facilitate business deals on a daily basis.

Cloud computing was previously seen as too expensive to use in order to “mine” cryptocurrencies but with the development and emergence of new cloud technology, more and more people have begun to leverage the cloud and its capabilities to mine, store and spend their cryptocurrency. [57]

Data Analytics

Cloud process [58]

Data, data, data. We hear about it every day and many people are calling it the new oil because of how valuable it is and how much every organization desires it. In today’s business world, organizations can use data to predict anything and with all this data, there comes a need to store it, report it and be able to present it in a way that enables organizations to make key decisions.

Cloud Vendor Processes[59]

For data analytics, organizations can count on cloud computing to provide all of their storage needs from the software it needs to analyze the data, the tools needed to visualize it, the raw data itself and everything in between. Cloud computing is a key conduit for organizations and enables them to use cloud computing capabilities.

Now different cloud providers process their data through the cloud differently but the general process is the same. First, the data must be "ingested" by the cloud system into its cloud so that the data can begin the process of going from raw data to actually usable analytics. Then it needs to be "processed" where the data is sorted, group, and generally put in a way that can actually derive value for organizations. Lastly, the data is "analyzed" where the data is actually taken out and show graphically or in many different ways to help actually bring value to the data and drive organizational strategies. The 3 key cloud vendors for these processes are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platforms.

Some of the solutions that cloud analytics help provide can include such things as: [60]

Scalability and Agility

Scalability and agility are some of the largest advantages that cloud analytics brings. With cloud computing, it can increase its data storage, data capacity, and data computability almost instantaneously which allows it to scale rapidly to meet the ever-changing needs of organizations. Due to its scalability, it leads to increased agility where organizations can ask more questions and change the questions asked whenever they want in order to meet their organizational needs. In this way, organizations can most efficiently scale the storing, processing, and leveraging their data needs in order to meet the ever changing market demands. [60]

Breaking Down Silos

Organizations that can successfully implement cloud technology are effectively breaking down the data silos within their organization and enhancing the collaboration between the various business units and segments. By leveraging the data from various parts of your organization, you can gain more clarity, better insights that can play a large role in the various decisions an organization may need to make. Having these insights can be a huge competitive advantage for organizations in the hyper-competitive global markets. Additionally, data stored on the cloud can be accessed by any employee, anywhere which makes it a lot easier to use and implement into functions within organizations. [60]

Increased Data Security

One of the greatest challenges organizations face today is the safety and security of the data they possess. Organizations from gigantic companies like Target and Marriott to small mom-and-pop shops have all been targets of data breaches in recent years. Cloud technology helps improve data security by introducing a single, secure point of access for data. In doing so, it makes it more difficult for hackers to breach while also giving your security better alert systems for when a breach is about to happen or is in the process of happening. Additionally, with the cloud, organizations are able to selectively provide access data to only those who need it which helps limit data ending up in the wrong hands. [60]


Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT and the Cloud[61]
Internet of Things is what our future is going to look like and further connects all of the things we use on a day to day basis. It describes the network of physical “things” that we use on a day to day basis that are connected to each other and communicate with each other in order to work collaboratively. An example of this can be how your fridge now has a screen that you can watch news and trade stocks on which is connected to your phone which is connected to your smart home which is connected to Alexa which is connected to your car. All of the “things” you are using are all capable of communicating with each other.

Cloud technology supports and enables IoT. How it does this is in a few different ways. Cloud technology helps provide the underlying infrastructure for IoT, provides the servers and storage for the information as well as the software running the various systems, and facilitates the transfer of information in real-time from device to device. In addition, An IoT cloud also includes the services and standards necessary for connecting, managing, and securing different IoT devices and applications.

IoT Cities

One of the most interesting use cases for cloud technology in the future of IoT is how it can connect entire cities. The birth of CloudIoT introduced a new way of living and its applications for the future are endless. How this works is that IoT devices such as sensors, lights, and meters collect data from around a city. That data is then relayed to the cloud which will process the data and generate usable sequences that can help make decisions. These decisions can be made manually by a human or, one day in the future, be done by a robot through AI algorithms. Some of the benefits of this can include but aren't limited to; a cities ability to predict traffic and how to decrease logjams in cities, building managers finding more efficient ways to power and heat their buildings and maintaining air quality, cities can better plan for various migration patterns and so much more! The possibilities for IoT are truly endless and can impact your own home or globally with entire countries being impacted![62]
IoT Cities[63]

Conclusion

Cloud computing isn't just a fad. From its humble beginnings as just a dream that Jon McCarthy had of shared computers in the 1950s to today where we are seeing the explosive development, adoption, and growth of cloud computing, we have come a long way. But even with all the developments we have had, cloud technology is still miles away from being finished and still has a lot of room to grow before we see cloud being a "mature" technology. With how rapid cloud developments have come, more and more new use cases for cloud technology seem to be popping up on a daily basis.


With Covid-19 playing a central role in organizations transitioning and embracing cloud technology, we can only expect the already rapid developments to occur at an even faster pace. With billions upon billions of dollars being poured into research and development, we truly are only at the beginning phases of seeing what cloud can do for our world. This all begs us to ask us the following question; What can't cloud do and where can cloud take us? This question is critical and only time can provide a definitive answer. For now, all we can say is that the forecast is cloudy and that cloud technology is here to stay and won't be leaving us anytime soon. We look forward to seeing all the innovations and changes that cloud computing helps facilitate and deliver in our world for years to come!


Authors

Chloe Chan Joshua Fang Sanika Raje
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada

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