One thing about the passage of time is that it affords us the ability to look back and see how much has changed. There’s an old Bill Gates quote that says that:

We overestimate how much we can achieve in one year, but underestimate what we can achieve in 10 years

It’s a quote I’m super fond of since it articulates some realities. Change takes time, but tends to be a bit of a snowball when it finally happens. It’s something I’ve noticed more and more, conversations happen, ideas bubble around, then all of a sudden we look back and things have changed.

I was thinking about this fact recently when reading some research that Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently released. Now I’ve been around AWS for about 15 years – I’ve attended their global conferences a bunch of times, have many friends that work there and have even done a bit of consulting stuff for them in the past.

For those of you not aware, AWS is an offshoot of Amazon and it is the business unit that makes gazillions of dollars selling cloud computing services. Now cloud computing is something that pretty much everyone these days is aware of. But if you go back only 15 years, it really was a foreign concept.

Indeed, I have a funny little anecdote about just how arcane the concept of “The Cloud” was a decade or so ago. A friend of mine is a well-connected chap and at some function or other, he introduced me to a chap who was, at the time, a high-ranking MP and minister. Said minister, upon hearing that I was a global Cloud Computing analyst, responded by asking:

Oh, do you work for the meterological service, do you?

I. Kid. You. Not.

Notwithstanding the technological exactitude or otherwise of our elected representatives, it’s worth considering what I see on a day-to-day basis in my role on boards across the public, private, commercial and not-for-profit sectors. Literally every organisation I work with is discussing, on a regular basis, their journey to the cloud, the agility and flexibility that cloud computing delivers, and the need to enhance their cybersecurity posture.

And so it was interesting to get an email in my inbox the other day detailing some analysis relating to the economic and social impacts of cloud technology. While this research was sponsored by AWS, it really relates to the benefits of the cloud regardless of which vendor that comes from – it applies equally to the big players (AWS, Microsoft and Google) as to our local vendors such as Catalyst Cloud.

Of course, I’ve been arm-waving about the cloud for 15 years, but there’s a reason why I’m as bullish today as I was back then. You see cloud computing is all about the democratisation of technology. It’s about making technology available to more people. It means that people with little resources but with passion and ideas can create really impactful change. Things like designing algorithms to allow cheap devices to identify illegal logging in the Amazonian rainforest. Helping create new cancer treatments tailored to an individual’s DNA. Making education more accessible to those otherwise not able to access it.

Of course, there are economic benefits as well – the research suggested that Kiwi small businesses that adopt cloud technology are expected to generate NZ$1.5 billion in productivity gains and support 300,000 jobs in NZ by 2030 but, to be honest, I’m more interested in what cloud can achieve now that we’ve finally accepted, en masse, that it’s the right way to go.

In healthcare, cloud technologies can help provide medical care to isolated communities and help redress the huge skills shortage in the sector. In the education space where cloud can, and already is, helping to deliver more accessible and inclusive education that is more tailored to individuals’ specific situations. In agriculture where cloud is helping to produce more, with lower impacts and less reliance on mass-scale approaches to irrigation and artificial application of pesticides and fertilisers.

The world is facing massive challenges – climate change, economic malaise, rampant inequity and geopolitical tensions. While the cloud won’t solve any of these underlying issues (and we should absolutely be trying to solve those causative factors) technology and specifically cloud technology can help us more effectively respond to these challenges.

15 years ago there were a small bunch of geeky advocates from around the world who, as The Clouderati, spent their time countering the fear and uncertainty that many technologists put up to try and block cloud adoption. It’s nice to look back and see just how far we have come.



Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Ahh… to go back to the early days of cloud in the Clouderati era. Those were good times. Lots of great things to learn over the past 15 years that we can apply to new technology and innovation today. And yet we are still learning about cloud even today.

  • Cloud Love – I work for NeSI (New Zealand eScience Infrastructure) and all I get to do is help NZ researchers use NZ based (important) HPC/Cloud resources. So much cool work gets done in all fields.

  • So sad Strategic Blue was late to the party – only 13 years, but still one of the original FinOps companies!

  • I am proud of the technology advancements the cloud movement gave rise to. But, in many respects, we really only ended up arriving at the same destination as our IT ancestors – a tightly controlled oligopoly of walled garden platforms. We replaced IBM and Microsoft with Google, AWS…. and Microsoft. Cloud was to be the great equalizer – shattering the balance sheet requirements of yesteryear with a brave new world of shared infrastructure, multi-tenancy, and the marriage of development and operations. On some of these fronts, the battle was won. But here we sit, slaves to an AWS that has bloated to over 500 unique services for which the billing and tracking makes the UX of American MNO billing seem rather pleasant and inviting; a nasty web of vagary and hidden costs designed to keep you ensnared. The folly of cloud was not the technology. The folly of cloud was the notion that one could escape the balance sheet problem. Et tu, OpenStack?

    And so here we are, on the precipice of another paradigm. The migration to the the far edge of the network to pursue the dream of AI inference at ultra-low latency, where the bloat of the Cloudogopoly won’t scale beyond point solutions and data ingestion. What will we do differently this time? Will we learn? Will be able to apply what we know? Or maybe we are, and always will be, destined to harbor our natural tribal instincts. The Clouderati are, after all, still only human….

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