If the 2010s were the decade of the rise of cloud computing, then the 2020s will be the years to cement its position at the top. In fact, predictions estimate that spending on cloud computing will grow more than 6 times the rate of general IT spending through 2020. That means the next few years will see people and companies becoming a cloud-centric society.
In that context, the idea of frictionless cloud computing starts to look a lot more than just a desirable trait. Due to changing habits and expectations, having services work with one another in a platform-agnostic, mobile-friendly environment will become a must. Fortunately, we are at a point in time when reducing friction to a minimum is easily feasible.
That's because of the recent developments in technology such as the growth of XaaS (Anything as a Service), containerization and microservices, and edge computing. We are at arm's reach of true frictionless cloud computing - yet we're not quite there yet. Here's what you need to know about it.
What's Frictionless Cloud Computing?
With the increasing digitalization of our society, it's only natural that so many people are looking at technology as the solution for most (if not all) problems we find daily. The goal is to use all these new devices, services, and platforms to make our lives easier. That can take a lot of forms, from giving us instant access to information to streamlining complicated processes.
As such, technology acts as an enabler that smooths things out. You could say that it removes the friction those daily inconveniences cause us. So, "frictionless" is something (anything) that can make a certain process or activity more straightforward.
With that in mind, we could define frictionless cloud computing as the "on-demand availability of computer system resources that seamlessly integrate with a company's systems without any friction." That's a fancy way of saying that frictionless cloud computing implies online-based tools and platforms that any business can use along to its current digital environment without any adoption problem whatsoever.
In practical terms, this means that if we were in presence of a true frictionless cloud computing model, you'd be able to use different online platforms through different devices and find no issues when connecting all of them. For instance, you should be able to use a CRM, connect it with an email client and a time tracking tool, and use all of them in your smartphone or laptop without having to go through cumbersome setups.
If you've been using Google services or tools like Slack or Jira, you may believe that frictionless cloud computing is already here. After all, integrating all kinds of services with those platforms is a fairly straightforward process. Yet, those tools are exceptions to the rule. Sure, we are on our way to seamless integrations - but we're not quite there yet.
People are Ready for Frictionless Cloud Computing
Some companies are still resisting to make it easy for their products to "talk nicely" with software from other companies. Maybe that's because of proprietary technology, complex programming, or just a business strategy. However, the widespread adoption of frictionless principles for cloud computing seems more like a matter of time rather than a choice.
Why? Because of regular people. We all love for things to be easy. If companies flat out refuse to make it easier for us to connect their services with others, then we'll look for an alternative. How we use cloud-based platforms will eventually redefine them to fit those emerging behavior patterns.
Think about it. We are now working while commuting, coding while on the beach, answering an email while sipping a drink in a bar. We are using smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers for our digital activities. We are combining online services from corporate giants like Microsoft and Amazon with tools from startups like Swiftly and AirGarage.
All of that has an impact. We are now expecting that the things we use on a daily basis don't overcomplicate things for us. We don't want to go through lengthy integration processes. We want to use what we want and need on-demand and without delay. That marked a shift from what happened some years ago when we had to adapt ourselves to what we were offered.
That new cultural paradigm is making itself evident in 2 somewhat new working habits. The first one is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mentality. A lot of us are already using our own devices for work. We are bringing them to the office, taking them with us when we travel, and having them close by when at home. Thus, we want to use cloud-based services that are so simple to set up and connect that we can do it without the need of IT experts.
The second working habit is the increase of remote jobs. The almost-universal internet access, the improvement of its quality, and the increasing digitalization of work-related activities have made it possible for people to work from home, coffee shops, or countries all across the globe. The office as a physical space is becoming something optional by the minute, something evidenced by the many companies that are fully remote already.
The high mobility of today's work and the required flexibility are demanding services that are adaptable to the many potential situations in which we work. We aren't tied to physical spaces or necessarily work next to our IT teams anymore. That's why we don't just want frictionless cloud computing - we are demanding it.
A Few Tech Steps Away
Cultural behavior surrounding frictionless cloud computing adoption is one of the two main aspects needed for it to finally come to fruition. The other one? Technology. Though we've come very far in the last years, we still don't have all the technology we need to live with a true frictionless cloud computing. At least not yet.
Yes, we already have XaaS booming. We already have the possibility to pay for pretty much anything that can be computerized. We can rent hardware, storage space, administrative tools, AI algorithms, and a lot more. What's more - we are preferring those options over in-house alternatives. It's easier to pay a third-party vendor and don't have to worry about updates, security, maintenance, or downtimes.
And yes, we also have containers and microservices. We are now packing the software along with the dependencies, libraries, binaries, and configuration files altogether. This lets us run applications as units, virtually allowing us to use those apps in any environment. Those containers have led us to microservices, independent processes that can communicate through networks to fulfill a goal on-demand.
However, neither XaaS nor containers nor microservices are enough to make frictionless cloud computing a reality. It takes a little extra something that's just hitting the consumer level: edge computing.
Under that name hides a new way of computing that takes computation and data storage closer to where they are being used. This improves the response times, saves bandwidth, and provides a way to keep working even with an unstable connection.
Since edge computing works with a hybrid of local and remote services, a cloud-based tool could still work even if you lose the connection. Since you don't always need to be working with the latest version of everything nor the online version demands to be updated at all times, edge computing focuses on uploading and downloading relevant data. This brings efficiency up since you aren't using all the available resources all the time.
Edge computing is the most underdeveloped technology of the ones we mentioned but will surely make a huge impact. By combining it with XaaS, containers, and microservices, the full cloud environment will be ready to offer users, developers, and companies with a smooth experience that will mostly work online and on-demand.
The Future is in the Clouds
If you've read closely, you've probably noticed that the only thing that's keeping us from having true frictionless cloud computing is the lack of development of edge computing. Culturally, we already are somewhat subconsciously pushing companies to offer us more sophisticated online platforms that are easy to use and simply interconnectable with one another. This comes from our increasingly remote work culture and our device-hopping behavior for our daily tasks.
Technologically speaking, we can now access pretty much everything online, thanks to the XaaS model that has come to rule it all. From infrastructure to complex algorithms, everything that can be rented through the internet is already available.
The adoption of containers and microservices makes it easy for developers to work on comprehensive cloud-based solutions in a simpler way. That's because development is cheaper and the combination of those technologies makes those online tools easier to deploy. And when edge computing finally hits its stride, all of it will come together to bring down the last friction instances we are seeing today.
The best thing about it all? It's all about to happen, as the boost in investments on cloud solutions will finally fill in the gaps and bring the whole cloud computing power to its peak. It's hard to tell what kind of challenges await us there but we can tell one thing for sure: the little inconveniences of today will be just a thing of the past.