From storage to processing – the webs next step?

What is the cloud’s next step?

When speculating about where the cloud is heading next, we often think about extra security layers and how hybrid models might grow in prevalence. However, collaboration on the cloud is becoming more of a consideration as files grow.

Could the cloud’s next big step be from mostly storage to mostly processing?

Cloud computing or PaaS?

As always with commonly misunderstood areas such as the cloud, there are a host of phrases being bandied around which often mean the same thing to some people, and different things to others. When people talk of cloud computing, they could either be talking about ‘the cloud’ in general, or they could be talking about cloud processing – the act of actually collaborating on a file online, for example, through Google Docs (at its most simple). However, PaaS, a variation of SaaS, is closer to this definition.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) can be quite lightweight, but, in fact, delivers environments as a service, helping people build applications on the provider’s infrastructure. What this requires, however, is fast processing, and speedy access to data. As SIRE’s Russell Cook points out, this often doesn’t give a good user experience, and people tend to make local copies that are then uploaded to the cloud in order to save time.

Equally, that provokes cost considerations – high fluctuations in cost due to unknown factors can be detrimental.

The rapid evolution of cloud processing

Basic cloud collaboration has taken off significantly of late, with simple collaboration software providers giving a single point of access for document sharing and collaboration within or outside of the company. Even the age-old Lotus Notes (now IBM Notes) has been transformed into a social collaboration tool worthy of an intranet or external customer-facing piece of software.

This is easy enough with light files such as Word documents, but where it develops in complexity is when heavy files such as raw images are handled over the cloud, requiring significant processing power, as well as a guarantee of up-time during the processing which can be lengthy.

This isn’t too far – Pics.io is one of the first online photo editors in the cloud, allowing photographers to edit their images in a browser. Again, it’s raw (no pun intended), and the technology isn’t yet fully ready, but this shows us the direction cloud computing is going – we’re moving rapidly from storage of files, held locally and uploaded to the cloud – to files exclusively held on the cloud and maintained, evolved and completed on the cloud.

The underlying problem is the processing power and the challenge to come is how to price this reasonably. Once we see these two challenges fade into the distance, the cloud will have taken its next significant step forward – a true collaborative cloud, if you will.

By Gareth Cartman

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