Today's cloud companies don't just store data on the cloud. Source: Shutterstock

Today’s cloud companies don’t just store data on the cloud. Source: Shutterstock

The cloud has evolved into a building block of the digital era

CLOUD computing has been around for more than a decade, having first become a topic of discussion at IT conferences and seminars way back in 2006.

Back then, it primarily referred to a new infrastructure that provided on-demand access to data storage and computing power.

Today, it has evolved into an ecosystem of its own that not only supports the digital transformation of most industries, but also serves as the foundation for new-age applications and capabilities.

The recent acquisition of Looker by Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian for a whopping US$2.6 billion is an example that speaks volumes about the cloud “industry”.

According to the press release announcing the intent to acquire Looker, the cloud computing giant says it “offers customers high-scale infrastructure, a digital transformation platform, and industry solutions to enable digital transformation”.

Google says that cloud computing customers today use the services for large-scale data management and to get better, faster insights using real-time streaming and data warehousing.

“By bringing Google Cloud and Looker together, we can help customers accelerate how they analyze data, deliver business intelligence and build data-driven applications.”

Of course, it’s Looker’s data applications and embedded analytics that immediately connect with CIOs as it allows them to quickly deploy HR analytics and sales analytics solutions on their existing data and create interactive data visualizations to effectively deliver insights.

Although Google’s acquisition is the most recent and is making headlines everywhere, competitors such as AWS, Tencent, and Alibaba Cloud are all working on adding layers to their cloud offering in order to build a stronger, more robust portfolio that supports next-generation, data-driven, digital-first business models.

At the Tencent Global Digital Ecosystem Summit in China, for example, company president Martin Lau recognized the need to build an ecosystem of cloud solutions through its own efforts and by joining hands with partners.

The Chinese technology giant believes that an ecosystem-based cloud infrastructure is the only way to support the country’s race to unleash the power of the industrial internet — and expects to help overseas customers with similar capabilities and features in the future.

Tencent has been investing resources and time to improve its cloud portfolio, to not only establish large-scale, stable and robust infrastructure and capabilities, but also offer online security, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, location-based services, and other solutions, to support ecosystem partners across various industries.

Speaking of AI, it’s interesting to see the cloud serve as a platform for the “democratization” of AI — making it accessible to customers who don’t have a strong development team.

For those that do have a strong development team, using cloud-based AI solutions makes it easy to manage data and reduce the cost of churning out insights from it all.

Indonesia’s GoJek, for example, manages up to 5 terabytes of data and supports up to 2 million motorcycle riders every single day. Its data team swears by the intelligent capabilities offered by the cloud.

“The impact on GoJeK is our data scientists can deliver projects faster, our customer experience has improved a lot, we have fewer data scientists per customer as we expand to new markets, and we spend less time and money on infrastructure,” said Go-Jek Data Science Platform Lead Willem Pienaar.

Truth be told, with the cloud becoming such a powerful ecosystem, business leaders often voice out concerns about data security.

However, cloud professionals and IT experts believe that moving to the cloud is often quite secure because the best providers of cloud infrastructure often bundle-in enterprise-grade security that would otherwise be unavailable to companies that don’t engage top-tier security professionals.

All concerns aside, it’s easy to understand why “cloud” has evolved into this great ecosystem that supports all kinds of applications, capabilities, and use cases — fuelling and accelerating tomorrow’s digital transformation era.

Businesses that haven’t committed to it completely must reconsider their choices: migrating to the cloud is now much easier and offers way more benefits than previously advertised.