If you’ve ever heard the term “cloud computing” tossed around and have been confused as to what, exactly, it refers to, then this is a good starting point.
Cloud computing is efficient and much, much better than running your own data centres for, like, 90% of all computing use cases. It’s a big debate in the Day Job as to how much of our existing “bare metal” and “private cloud” infrastructure we can and should outsource to vendors like AWS and Microsoft Azure. Honestly? I think we should do a lot more than we currently do; I’m not convinced that, in 2014, there’s much of a business case for us to be running anything other than the barest infrastructure we’d need to support the internal network in-house. Everything else–particularly traditionally “big-but-low-use” things like long-term data storage, plus shared services like email–should be shifted out.
This view is not necessarily “mainstream”, but I think–given a few years–it will be.
The downside to cloud is the same downside we always see; consolidation of power. As the linked article points out, there really aren’t that many players in the cloud space, and only really two that are aggressive about hitting big corporate markets (AWS and Azure, if you’re wondering).
The bottom line is running data centres is expensive and, if it’s not your core business, usually pointless. There are still issues over cloud adoption–data sovereignty and privacy being the elephants in the room, particularly for non-US organisations trying to leverage US-companies and resources–but they’ll be worked around one way or another. AWS and Azure are, I think, the most mature in this space; AWS because they’ve got the drive (to monopolise the space before Microsoft gets it), Azure because Microsoft is used to working in non-US corporate markets (and can leverage existing contractual arrangements to turf out AWS when it gets there first).
And this is only the corporate/enterprise space. Consumer, start-up, and small-to-medium business is another story entirely… and one where, I think, cloud has an even bigger advantage.
The industry is changing. A lot more than most people realise.