The Third Industrial Revolution - Fueled by The Cloud

 It's so early in the days of cloud computing. Many haven't even started to realize the magnitude what this shift could be.


It's the change from custom to standardized… Yes, there's the often cited analogy to the evolution of power supply. From having your own water wheel to plugging into the electric grid. My current favorite analogy is clothing. People had clothing for the longest time, they still do, but lots of things have changed since a few hundred years ago when people either made their own, or they could afford a tailor to have their clothes tailor made.


Because of that, most people didn't own more than a few pieces of clothing, but the few tailored ones they owned fit very well. With increasing industrialization came clothes in standard sizes. It was more economical for manufacturers to make just a few sizes. Over time, even the number of sizes went down. Some companies only make S, M, L and possibly XL. Why? Because it's even more economical to make as few sizes as possible.


Cloud computing is going to put the world of computing through the same evolution. It takes computing to the industrial age. We're moving past the times where environments were made from scratch and purpose built. In the industrial age, it's about buying mass-market products, manufactured to fit "good enough" for many but not fitting perfectly for just one use.


Clothing brands that have more differentiated sizing today are usually more expensive. They have to pass on the higher manufacturing cost and cater to customers that prefer better fitting clothes over cheap ones. You can also still got to a tailor and get custom made clothes, they fit great, but they are far more expensive than buying a standard size.


The analogy seems to hold when you explore deeper. Custom clothes never went away. Special purpose clothing is still not mass-produced and sold at Walmart. In fact, department stores, high-end boutiques and custom tailors are still around.


Computing will undergo a similar evolution and thus fuel the Third Indstrial Revolution. On-prem computing is not going away, but there are many the cases where "good enough, easy and cheap will do". Those cases will go to the cloud. In the cases where you need something special, you go to Nordstrom for clothes, you'll stay in your own computing environment for computing.


What's uncertain is the mix between on-prem and the cloud? I would think that Kohl's or Target sell a whole lot more clothes than Nordstrom or Saks. Target's price points and the ubiquity of their stores make buying clothes cheap and easy. Overall, Target's annual revenue is about 70x the revenue of Nordstrom. While they're both retailers, the experience and the products don't compare. They address different scenarios. Sometimes cheap and easy is sufficient. In fact, I may sacrifice some nice-to-haves when I get something cheap with a 5 minute trip around the corner.


In the world of cloud computing, I don’t get the same high-performance, highly tuned servers I can put into my own data center - BUT I don't need those in every scenario. In many cases, an IaaS environment with all the constraints of a standardized environment will be good enough. With the right architecture, an cloud environment can still deliver well performing and highly scalable solutions. In some cases however, the cloud doesn't meet performance or scale requirements and then I have the option to engineer and environment that will meet my needs.


If the analogy holds then cloud computing is just as transformational as the introduction of standardized clothing sizes. When S, M and L came around, it wasn't about giving people the ability to express themselves with wearing different styles! It was about meeting the scalability needs of war that needed to put uniforms on soldiers.


It wasn't about starting a fashion industry that has to create new styles every year. It wasn't about lifestyles and creating the job of the super model, but the new means of mass producing clothes gave rise to new business models, new industries and impacted the lifestyle of billions of people. 


Cloud computing started with making computing more affordable and scalable. What's going to happen when computing is cheap, easy and ubiquitous?


It's very early in the days of cloud computing. I don't think I've grasped the magnitude yet, but we're seeing the early signs of transformation. New business models are emerging, new content offerings … new ways to build companies.


It's going to be exciting times.



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